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Department Press Briefing – September 28, 2023

1:21 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. We have a very special guest here today, familiar to some people in this room. The Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center Jamie Rubin is going to give some remarks about a report that they released today. He is also, of course, an alumni of this briefing room – not exactly this room, I think a different room that preceded it, but this podium, so —

QUESTION: Yeah, but he was the one who set this up.

MR MILLER: He has made me aware of that. (Laughter.) My – and I have – and I have expressed my thanks not only on my behalf but on your behalf. So, Jamie.

MR RUBIN: Thanks very much, Matt. Thank you all.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RUBIN: All right, Matt. (Laughter.) Don’t start already. So thank you all for giving me this opportunity to talk about a new report that we’ve just put out. Every day the People’s Republic of China, Russia, other state actors distort the international information environment to their advantage. I believe there’s nothing less than the future integrity of the global information space at risk.

We’re pleased to release this first-of-its-kind report on PRC information manipulation. It’s a comprehensive look at how the PRC and Communist Party of China attempt to distort the global information space to advance its geopolitical objectives. When you look at the pieces of the puzzle and you put it together, you see a breathtaking ambition on the part of the PRC to seek information dominance in key regions of the world.

This report draws on publicly available sources as well as new information to expose the PRC’s tactics, techniques, and processes to pursue that objective. It describes how China – the People’s Republic of China has invested billions of dollars to construct a global information ecosystem to promote propaganda, censorship, and disinformation. It explains the five key elements of that strategy: leveraging propaganda and censorship, promoting digital authoritarianism, exploiting international organizations and bilateral partnerships, and pairing cooptation and pressure, as well as exercising control of Chinese language media.

On issues the Chinese Government deems sensitive, the PRC has employed online and offline intimidation to silence dissent and encourage self-censorship. It’s also taken measures against corporations that challenge its desired narratives on subjects like Xinjiang and Taiwan. On WeChat, the – an application used by so many Chinese-speaking communities outside the PRC – Beijing has censored and harassed individual content producers. As well Chinese corporations have harvested data that has enabled Beijing to target specific individuals and organizations. They’re seeking to create an emerging community of digital authoritarians. It’s exported aspects of its digital surveillance state to the rest of the world and propagated information control tactics with a particular focus on developing countries.

As other countries emulate these tactics, it’s – they are increasingly receptive to Beijing’s propaganda, disinformation, and censorship. Let me be clear: Every country has the right and the – every right to tell its story to the world, but a nation’s narrative should be based on facts and they should rise or fall on its own merits. By contrast, the PRC advances through coercive techniques and increasingly outright lies.

This is not simply a matter of public narrative but a national security subject. Our values and our interests are in jeopardy. Unchecked, the PRC’s information manipulation could in many parts of the world diminish freedom to express views critical of Beijing. These activities could undermine confidence in the objectivity of information, and the PRC could develop a surgical capability to shape the information particular groups and individuals consume. The net result is – of these PRC efforts is to transform the global information landscape and damage the security and stability of the United States, its friends, and partners. International understanding of the PRC information manipulation is the starting point for a future in which the PRC’s ideas, values, and stories must compete on an even playing field.

Just a couple of points as well. I stood here 20-plus years ago, and it was a time when we thought the information age was a benefit to the rise of democracy and freedom of expression. We thought that social media, 24-hour news, the information age was going to spread through globalization a better future. What we’ve learned is that there is a dark side to globalization, and if we don’t allow this information manipulation to be stopped, there’s going to be a slow, steady destruction of democratic values and the secure world of rules and rights we believe of. This is the dark side of globalization. If we don’t change course, steady, often imperceptible changes will occur that poison the information space that is crucial for our societies to function. We don’t want to see an Orwellian mix of fact and fiction in our world and to – that will destroy the secure world of rules and rights that the United States and much of the world relies upon.

With those remarks, I’d be happy to take a few questions before you get to the main event.

MR MILLER: Let’s start in the back.

QUESTION: The main event. Oh, I thought you were the main event.

MR RUBIN: All right, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. So, listen, recognizing that the Chinese do this, and also the Russians, and also other countries – all countries do it, in fact – I’m wondering how you – and granted, the information space has changed remarkably since 20 years ago. But how do you distinguish between what China is doing, as you mention in this report, and what the United States does and has done in the past? And specifically, if you’re going to say that the Chinese are lying and – how do you compare that with the run-up to the Iraq War and what happened here? Obviously, there was no social – the social media landscape was different.

MR RUBIN: I understand the point of the question, Matt, and it’s a legitimate question. Let me repeat: Every country should be able to tell its version of its policies, should be able to promote its policies. We believe the more that countries around the world have an opportunity to share their different views, that’s fine. The difference is when it’s a fact-based narrative versus deceptive practices.

Let me be specific about that. The United States spends most of its foreign assistance money in this area on training journalists, on building a fact-based world, on trying to ensure that freedom of expression is spread around the world so those journalists can hold their governments to account and our government to account. Just the way you’re able to ask that question in the United States distinguishes between the way things work in the rest of the world.

Let me also add that there is a fundamental asymmetry here. There is something called the Chinese wall that prevents people inside of China from getting fact-based narratives from the rest of the world, while in the United States they are free to present their points of view.

Finally, on the Iraq War, we admit it when we make mistakes. That was obviously a terrible mistake. I’ve sat up here as a spokesman – hopefully Matt will never have to do this – and admit when mistakes are made. That’s what you do when you want a fact-based narrative. The difference in this report shows is to create control and domination of the information space —


MR RUBIN: — deceptively. There’s a difference between saying the Chinese Government believes X is true, and having a non-Chinese Government persona in the information space pretending to be someone else saying something is true.

And finally on the Ukraine war, I think it’s demonstrably true that China and Russia have a joint approach to the information about this war. China has repeated in the information space Russian lies about this war: that the United States is the cause of this war, that the United States has biological weapons. Other false narratives are repeated by the Chinese foreign ministry, and then repeated back by the Russians as saying the Chinese have shown that it’s true. So there’s an echo chamber of things that are demonstrably untrue. When you say something that you know to be untrue, or is obviously untrue, to confuse, to manipulate, that’s different than making a mistake. In the United States, I like to think when we make a mistake, and it’s demonstrable, we admit it.

QUESTION: Well, it took several years for you guys to admit that you made a mistake on – not you personally, obviously, but when you talk about fact-based narratives, are you saying that the Bush – the George W. Bush administration was not presenting WMDs in Iraq as a fact, as a – that that was not a fact-based narrative? Or you were trying to present it as something other than that?

MR RUBIN: I know the last thing we all want is to relive the WMD fiasco. But let me just say that at that time – and I’ll be very candid about this – I thought they had WMDs. I read all those intelligence reports. I was wrong. Everyone was wrong.


MR RUBIN: That’s different —

QUESTION: Your belief is that they intentionally —

MR RUBIN: — than consciously knowing that you don’t have —

QUESTION: Wait, so you don’t think that that administration back then knew that it was —

MR RUBIN: I’ll leave it to them to – I’ll leave it to them to make their case.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MR RUBIN: I’m just giving you an example.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR MILLER: Humeyra.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Thanks for doing this. I’m wondering if you are sharing the findings of this report with the Chinese Government, with your Chinese counterpart. If you are, what kind of feedback you’re getting from them. I’m also wondering, given the relationship between these two countries are pretty fraught, is this at a level where the Secretary would raise this with his counterpart when he meets with him? Is this likely to be added to the list of irritants in the relationship?

MR RUBIN: Thank you for that question. I’m not – I don’t expect us to share this particular report, but it’s online publicly right now. So the Chinese Government will see it. As far as the question of whether this will become part of the topics of conversation between the United States and China, we’ll just have to see. The important thing here: The Chinese know what they’re doing. They don’t need us to tell them what our assessment of what they’re doing. What – the point of this report is to ensure that the rest of the world, the people that are the subjects and objects of their information manipulation, have the best chance possible to know when deceptive techniques are being used.

Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago, the GEC put out a report on Russian pillars – pillars of Russian disinformation. As a result of that report, journalistic organizations around the world went to those websites, those portals, and realized that they were getting repeated Russian misrepresentations, and those portals collapsed. So what we were hoping is that with additional – by bringing these tactics and techniques to light – look, you’re journalists. I – journalism is something very important to me. I think all of us believe in a fact-based narrative.

This problem is obviously – in this report about China, we’ve talked about it in Russia. The world that we’re facing, where people will not be able to distinguish between fact and fiction, is something that all of us, I would think – I hesitate to say it because I know there’s a divide between government and journalism, but on this subject, the freedom of expression and living in a fact-based world, the whole of society is at risk. And so we need journalism; we need civic society; we need education systems. We have to build an ecosystem where these deceptive techniques do not take hold.


QUESTION: Yeah, thanks for having me. Thanks for doing this. I was wondering – I apologize, I haven’t read the whole report and —

MR RUBIN: That’s okay. It’s long, and it’s understandable.

QUESTION: But from what I did see, there is a lot of secondhand sources and a lot of things that we know about that’s been reported, done, what-have-you. So I wanted to know to what extent you, as the U.S. Government, has uncovered activities, new activities, that you could pinpoint to or highlight.

MR RUBIN: Yes. By the way, for all of you, obviously, so you can get to the main event, we’re happy during the course of the day to take your questions at the GEC about the report if you have any specific questions. But directly right now, there’s an example of a manufactured persona named Yi Fan who pretends to be an international affairs commentator that’s clearly, in our view, the U.S. Government’s view, operating on behalf of the foreign ministry. That’s an example.

There’s an example in there where they tried to take over the entire Pakistani information space by building a censorship operation in which they could monitor the whole information space so that they could make adjustments and changes.

There are examples where – and this is perhaps the most pernicious that you all would appreciate – look, by and large, the Chinese do not follow the Russians’ example of outright lies. On the occasion of Ukraine, they have. But by and large, Xinhua, their wire service, is largely accurate. But it reports a large number of things that happen badly in the United States – every problem, every hurricane, every crime, every problem – and only wonderful things that happen in China. They take that wire service and provide it to third parties, newspapers in Africa or Asia, but insist that no other wire service gets used.

And think of how pernicious that is as journalists. That means the journalists writing up the news are using a Chinese view of the world but putting it in their own words and their own names. So a Fiji editor is writing for a Fiji audience in a Fiji newspaper with a Chinese view of the world.

So those are examples. There are – when you get to the back section, you’ll see some other examples.

MR MILLER: Olivia.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. The report makes only a few mentions of elections in particular and of the PRC’s intention to target elections. We’ve seen assessments from the likes of Microsoft now saying that the PRC is looking to enhance its ability to do that using things like artificial intelligence. So I’m wondering if GEC has insights into those intentions specifically, whether it’s in the U.S. or abroad. Are you seeing more of an inclination on the part of Beijing to target elections specifically with disinformation?

MR RUBIN: As there still is – are a large number of countries in the world, particularly countries of importance to the Chinese, that are democracies, that have elections, yes, we have seen efforts to provide false narratives in elections. There are some famous cases that have been written about, and we mentioned some of those in this report. As I think you implied, the GEC is extremely careful that we do not operate in the United States; we don’t look at the U.S. information space. That’s something for other agencies to do. It’s become quite controversial. I need to reiterate we only look at international situations.

So with regard to the – any U.S. election, you’d have to go elsewhere. But yes, the more significant the competition arises with the United States, the Chinese Government has sought to provide these narratives. And remember, it’s not so much providing their own narratives that’s the problem. It’s suppressing truths about Xinjiang, about Taiwan, about the South China Sea, and the Philippines and places like that, where they are operating outside the normal bounds of sovereignty and trying to suppress information about it because they know that people in those countries would get quite upset, as they did in the Philippines when news came out about operating inside their territorial waters. So yes, we’ve seen that. That isn’t the focus of this report, per se.

I want to emphasize again this is the first of its kind. We’re looking at the techniques and the tactics, less at the specific narratives. We want people to understand what’s going on around the world so that journalists, media organizations, universities, think tanks, all the people that look at this, that care about this, that know that this is the lifeblood of our democracy, if it’s not working properly, none of us are going to like the world we’re living in. They have to take these techniques and practices, look at it, see whether it’s applying in their area, see if they can identify inauthentic coordinated activity.

Obviously, that’s something for social media companies to act on, but we’re looking to provide them the maximum new look at these deceptive practices, and perhaps most important, to put it all together. We’ve seen these individual stories, but when you look at the content issue, the digital authoritarian issue, the suppression issue, the Chinese language media issue, you can see a breathtaking ambition to have information dominance in certain parts of the world, crucial parts of the world. That’s the threat that affects our national security, that affects the national security of other parties.


QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks so much for doing this. I just wanted to ask – I also haven’t had a chance to read the report yet, but was looking for – given all the interest in Washington and concern about TikTok and ByteDance, I was expecting a big section on that, and maybe just saw a box and a footnote. So was wondering if that TikTok concern is overstated or if there are challenges and problems associated with that (inaudible).

MR RUBIN: There is a section in there. You’ve correctly identified it. It – look, when – this report has been prepared over many, many months. We’ve collected as much information as possible. We’ve had to make judgments of what to include and what not to include. Believe me, in the old days, it was much easier to get things like this cleared in the system, and I’ve been stunned after 20 years to watch how hard it is. So we had to make choices.

We tried to provide sections where we thought we were adding to the knowledge of the world and not – TikTok has been a subject of mega discussion, but we do identify specific efforts by – through TikTok to pick and choose who gets to speak, how they get to speak, and to be able to identify both for purposes of suppression and for purposes of developing tailored narratives individuals through that portal.

MR MILLER: All right. We have time for a few more. Alex.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Olivia’s question? Thank you for doing this. Will recognize that you don’t work inside the United States, but China largely stayed on the sidelines in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Looking at this vast array of different channels and techniques and tactics that you’ve highlighted, have you been able to glean anything about what they might do in 2024, as we go into this presidential election cycle at a time when tensions are so fraught? And can you just speak to this moment, why you’re putting this out now? Is this a particular moment, do you believe?

MR RUBIN: Let me take the second one first. I know there’s always a question of timing and why one does this, one doesn’t do this. I think this was more a case of not not doing it with the government shutting down than it was a question of picking this timing. We have been working on this report for a long time. When I got here nine months ago, it was just starting. Again, as you’ll see from the government information in there, some of this takes a while to work through the interagency process. There is no reason for today as opposed to yesterday or tomorrow, other than we didn’t want to change our schedule because of the prospective government shutdown, because national security doesn’t stop because of government shutdowns, and we wanted to make that absolutely clear. It will, obviously, affect a little bit of posts’ ability to work with it overseas.

On the first one, it’s much easier. I need to reiterate the GEC does not look at the information space in the United States, and that is something I’ve imposed. Even though it was done before, I’ve said it over and over again to our staff it’s been a controversy that’s misunderstood what we do. We do not look at the U.S. information space. We look at what China and Russia and Iran and terrorist groups do in the rest of the world.

I’m less worried about what will happen here, where we have an – elaborate protections for the freedom of the press and abilities in a country where freedom of the press is such an important aspect of our society than I am in – worried about younger, emerging democracies, places where there are fewer outlets, places where – take Honduras, for example. Suddenly they took the entire Honduran press corps and flew them to China to get an indoctrination. That’s where the Chinese tactics and techniques I think will have the greatest impact, so that’s what we focused on. And again, we just don’t look at the U.S. information space, but I appreciate the point.

MR MILLER: All right. Let’s do Abbie and Michel, and then we’ll let you go.

MR RUBIN: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks again for doing this. So you just laid out a pretty stark picture of the dangers of information dominance, a really complicated system. Your reports cites examples of China being the leading provider of digital television services in all of Africa. Has the U.S. invested enough human resources money in trying to counter China in this vast campaign?

MR RUBIN: Boy, that’s a good question. Let’s see how I can dance my way out of that. (Laughter.)

Let me just say that I’ve given some briefings around here in the State Department, and for those of you who have been around a long time you may remember they used to talk about Richard Clarke and George Tenet running around with their hair on fire before 9/11. Some days I feel like my hair is really hot and that people are too often regarding this as a communications problem, as a PR issue, as a public diplomacy issue, when to me – and I think for the reasons I suggested – this is a national security threat.

There are domains in the world. The information space in our modern world is a domain of – we are in an undeclared information war for a long time now, and it’s taken a while for us to appreciate it. I think in the early years, the years when USIA was taken down and money wasn’t spent on public diplomacy, people thought the internet and social media was going to be a solution to this problem. I’ve talked to people who worked here during the 2000s. They thought by spreading Twitter and Facebook and all of these social media that this was a way to spread democracy, and they didn’t think through the dark side of globalization, the dark side of these tools. I think it’s becoming increasingly clear.

Let me just say as – one, the short answer to your question is no. We’re not spending enough money. I think we should spend a lot more. That’s my personal opinion. Two, Secretary Blinken brought me to this job, brought me back to government service after 20 years, because he thinks it’s important. And I’ve seen him seek assistance from the Intelligence Community to begin to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves. Whether that gets translated in funding and us doing a better job, I can’t say.

But I can also tell you that it’s not so much a matter of the U.S. Government spending money promulgating its point of view as it is an understanding in all of society – civil society, businessmen, culture, arts, education. We all have to – who live and thrive in this information environment – have to see how easy it is for foreign actors to destroy and create an Orwellian mix of fact and fiction for us. And we all have to do something about it.

And we can only do so much here in the government. Look, I know. Every day I’m facing this balance between freedom of the press and censorship issues on one hand and trying to deal with the weaponization of information at the other. And that’s – causes us to be careful in what we say and what we do because we don’t want to cross the line into censorship or trying to decide what’s true or not true.

That’s why this report focuses on techniques and tactics rather than trying to pick up every sentence or every statement and say, is this true or is this not true? People can decide that for themselves so long as they know where it comes from. The worst differences between a – in Slovakia or where I’ve been traveling or (inaudible) – sorry to go on so long – Bulgaria, where they’re seeing a report that says the United States has biological weapons in Ukraine, instead of seeing Russia says the United States has biological weapons in Ukraine. Those are two very different statements, and too often they’re seeing the first. That’s what we need to fix. That’s what I’m focused on.

MR MILLER: Last one. Michel.

QUESTION: Other than publishing this report, what is the U.S., and your center specifically, doing to counter the (inaudible)?

MR RUBIN: Thank you for that, and that’s a good place to land. When I got here, I began to study this problem and look at it. And it’s really complicated. It affects every aspect of our society. It affects every agency of our government. And I’ve looked at the different responses that are possible. There’s offensive responsive messaging, what Matt does every day so well and Secretary Blinken does so effectively. And then there’s a question of defense and how do we defend ourselves?

And I’ve chosen – because I think it’s where I can make the biggest impact – to focus on the defense, how to harden our societies to develop interoperability between other countries. So I’ve been traveling to Europe, working on methods and means to have us all have a common operational picture so that we can all understand the problem together and then minimize the danger.

There’s obviously two parts to this: telling the truths, rebutting the lies, and the other part is making – is hardening ourselves against it. I’ve chosen to focus on the latter. I’ve worked very closely with the Intelligence Community on this. There are things that we work on sometimes we can’t talk about, sometimes I maybe will be able to talk about. But I think the most important thing the GEC can do as a small little entity – remember, we’re a couple hundred folks sitting here looking at this horror of the information war, feeling like – I wake up every morning like, what are we going to do about this? But we think it’s better to focus for the moment on the defense and leave the messaging to Matt and Secretary Blinken and all the other ambassadors around the world, who are our best messengers.

MR MILLER: Great. Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you one late – USIA. You mentioned USIA, right?

MR RUBIN: Yeah, I did open myself up there, yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you did. Because under whose administration was USIA abandoned? Or are you saying that was also a mistake?

MR RUBIN: Well, that’s a policy judgment, and I’ll answer that, Matt, and thank you for bringing that up. (Laughter.) It was one of —

QUESTION: You’re trying to get away with —

MR RUBIN: It was the first policy issue I worked on with Secretary Albright, and there was this – the situation that’s worth remembering. Senator Helms, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was holding up the Chemical Weapons Convention, and it was a high priority for President Clinton. He also believed there were too many foreign affairs agencies – the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the USIA, and the Agency for International Development. He wanted all three abolished, and Secretary Albright asked me to work on that.

Now, it’s easy now to go back and say we should have had a USIA and kept a USIA, but the issue then was there was no funding for the programs. At the end —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RUBIN: Let me finish, Matt. Let me finish.

QUESTION: Any program that’s (inaudible).

MR RUBIN: Matt, Matt, let me finish. The —

MR MILLER: You still remember how to do that.

MR RUBIN: Yes. (Laughter.) The funding for the programs had dropped dramatically, just the way the defense budgets had dropped. We were no longer funding these programs, and USIA’s shell, its bureaucratic mechanisms, its having its own legislative affairs office, admin, exec, buildings, coterie – that was costing too much of the money. And the USIA director at the time, Joe Duffey, agreed. And that’s why it was done. In the absence of the Chemical Weapons Convention, would it have happened? Probably not then. But I think the issue was, as I mentioned, we didn’t believe that we had a problem then. We thought at the end of the Cold War – many people – the conventional wisdom was that the spread of information was going to be a net plus, and increasingly we’re finding that, particularly through social media, it’s increasingly a net minus and it’s the dark side that we need to face.

QUESTION: But you think it was – now you think that it might have been a mistake? Or just —

MR RUBIN: Well, as I said, there were good reasons to do it, and you can’t change history. And the Chemical Weapons Treaty was being held up, and I said if it wasn’t – weren’t held up, it might have been a different calculation. But it was.

MR MILLER: All right. Thank you, everyone. Thank you, James. Yeah, thanks for doing that. I enjoyed that. It’s nice to see someone else get up here and dance for a change, and do it so gracefully. Mayble I’ll get Ned in here on Monday, Tuesday.

Time for two more, three more? Just kidding. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: I just want to – I think you probably won’t have a whole lot, if anything, to say more about the Travis King situation, but I just want to know what the latest is.

MR MILLER: I don’t have anything to say. He obviously arrived back in the United States on a Department of Defense plane. It’s now a Department of Defense matter. I don’t – nothing – no further involvement from the State Department, so I’d refer anything to them.

Yes. Alex.

QUESTION: My main (inaudible) ask about Karabakh. Before that, a very quick question. Just speaking on Russian disinformation, Putin today praised sham elections in Ukraine as, quote/unquote, “open, fair, and competitive,” which reminds me that you guys were supposed to come up with sanctions. Are we not too late? Are we chasing the ambulance here?

MR MILLER: Are we – what was the last part of it? What was —

QUESTION: Are you going to chase the ambulance? I mean, it’s —

MR MILLER: Chase – chasing the ambulance? That was – so if the question is, are we going to impose sanctions, I think you know the answer: that we do not impose – or we do not preview our sanction decisions from the podium. But we have been quite clear about our opinions on the so-called elections, the sham elections, the fake elections that President Putin has staged in Ukraine; and we have been quite clear that no one in the world respects those or believes that they are real elections. And I think our record of imposing sanctions on Russia and other measures to hold them accountable for their actions with respect to Ukraine has also been quite clear.

QUESTION: Thank you. Moving to Karabakh, do you have any comment on Karabakh Armenians’ statement today that they will cease to exist next year? They reported the U.S. is trying to announce their own – its own Disaster Assistance Response Team in the region. Do you have anything on that?

MR MILLER: So with respect to a Disaster Assistance Response Team, Ambassador Power announced yesterday that USAID had deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to coordinate the U.S. humanitarian response. That team will assess the situation and identify priority needs to scale up assistance and work with partners to provide urgently needed aid. And if you talk to USAID, they can provide you more details about that.

QUESTION: And on Karabakh Armenians’ statement that they will – it will cease to exist as an entity as of next year, what is the U.S. response to that?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any specific comment on that. I think what I would reiterate with respect to Nagorno-Karabakh is that overall, we think it’s important that the ceasefire be maintained, that the humanitarian needs be addressed, and that an independent international mission to provide transparency, reassurance, and confidence to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh be established as soon as possible. That is our priority for dealing with the immediate situation and one that we are working to get off the ground.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on the Armenia —


QUESTION: I mean, how serious, really, are you on this international mission? I mean, you’ve mentioned it but, I mean, one doesn’t get the sense that it’s going to go anywhere. And would Azerbaijan accept that in any way, shape, or form?

And then second, related to that, the separatists have announced officially they’re disbanding. They will cease to exist. You have tens of thousands of Armenians who fled.

MR MILLER: So we —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR MILLER: So we are quite serious about the international mission. We think the international mission is important because it relates to all of the other questions about humanitarian assistance, about humanitarian needs in the region. We are so serious about the international mission that the Secretary raised it in his call with President Aliyev, pressed him to support an international mission. You may have seen that the Azerbaijani Government came out yesterday and said that they do support an international mission, and in fact in their statement said one of the reasons they are supporting it is because they have been pushed to support it by the United States.

So we are quite clear on it. We’re working with our allies and partners on what the best mechanism to effectuate that is. But we think it’s important to provide transparency and to assure that humanitarian needs are being addressed on the ground.

QUESTION: And the special advisor —

MR MILLER: Let me – let me go – I’m going to go to someone else since you – go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. A follow-up on the international observation mission. Can you specify what countries you’re going to work with and also what their – what role is this mission going to play on the ground?

MR MILLER: Yeah. I can’t preview specifics right now because it is a matter that is ongoing with a number of allies and partners in the region. Both under what auspices that mission would be launched, who would participate, what its scope would be, what it would look like – all those things are under discussion. So I don’t want to make any kind of a – I don’t want to make any kind of announcement before we’ve nailed down the details. But it is a matter we are working on.

QUESTION: In a statement today, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry urged Armenians of Karabakh to become part of the multiethnic Azerbaijani society. This is according to their statement. And Azerbaijani authorities also announced an online portal to register Armenian residents in Karabakh to provide them services. What is your read or assessment on this? Is that a step that is welcomed by the U.S.?

MR MILLER: So I will say that we continue to be greatly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. We think it’s important that residents of Nagorno-Karabakh be able to make the decision to leave if they want to leave and to be able to return if they want to return. It’s a decision that they all have to make as individuals, but we think it’s important that they be able to make that decision for themselves. And we think there ought to be unhindered humanitarian access to the region to make sure that populations in need can get the support that they require.

Again, I’ll go back to the international mission. We think to best effectuate that it is important that an international mission be established to ensure that those humanitarian needs are addressed.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: How soon is the U.S. willing to help Lebanon to do the border line with Israel after demarcation of the sea?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back.


QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to switch topics to the visa waiver, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the previous speaker – I mean, talking about intentional disinformation campaigns by the United States Government causing, in the ’80s and during the Reagan administration, one of your predecessors to actually resign his post, because they said they do that intentionally. But I want to move on.

MR MILLER: I am glad because I am —

QUESTION: Because there’s a lot of things, I mean, I could point out.

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak to things that predecessors of mine in the ’80s may have done. So —

QUESTION: It’s okay. But it – with regards to the visa waiver issue, in the last couple years, few years, the U.S. denied visas at – I guess at Israel’s behest denied visas to Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement; Bassem Tamimi, a nonviolent activist Palestinian, and so on; and Hanan Ashrawi, who was a frequent visitor to Washington and so on, participated in all the talks and Camp David and all these things. And I wonder now, will they be given visas? Will they be allowed to come to the United States?

MR MILLER: So I think you’re aware that visa records by law are confidential, and because of that we can’t discuss the details of individual visa cases and that also means that I can’t speculate on whether someone may or may not be eligible for a visa now or in the future.

QUESTION: At least in one case, there is a person with – an Israeli citizen. Will they be allowed to come to the United States?

MR MILLER: Again, I’m not – I cannot speak to any one individual case. Those are determinations that a consular officer makes on a case-by-case basis when they review the facts and determine whether an applicant is eligible for a visa based on U.S. law.

QUESTION: And another question.

MR MILLER: And if there —

QUESTION: Can you speak to the case of a U.S. citizen who is being prevented from leaving the West Bank by Israel to get back to the United States, which is where he is a citizen of?

MR MILLER: I – so, again – so that is obviously a different matter. It’s not a (inaudible) – that’s a different matter.

QUESTION: I – it’s – no, it has nothing to do with visas.

MR MILLER: But – right. So I would be happy to discuss – I’d want to look at the facts of that specific case before I commented on it, but —

QUESTION: The guy’s name is Ubai Aboudi. He lives in Ramallah, and he’s the executive director of a group called the Bisan Center for Research and Development. And the Israelis are not letting him leave.

MR MILLER: Yeah, and I’d be happy to —


MR MILLER: I’m not familiar with the facts.

QUESTION: So how many Israelis are you preventing from leaving the United States right now or will you under this – the VWP program when it goes into effect?

MR MILLER: So we do not prevent people from leaving the United States.

QUESTION: Aha. Okay. Right.

MR MILLER: I have —


MR MILLER: But I cannot – to the details of that specific case, I obviously am not aware of this individual case and can’t speak to the reasons why.

QUESTION: All right. Let me just ask one more question. I mean, this is at least interpreted by the Israelis, by the Americans, by Mr. Netanyahu himself to be really a great victory for Mr. Netanyahu at a time when you have a great deal of differences, especially over the judicial reforms and so on. Do you feel that now he’s far more emboldened to continue despite probably the sentiment of hundreds of thousands of Israelis if not millions of Israelis by really giving them this kind of gift at this particular time, at a time when his government does all kinds of abuses?

MR MILLER: I would say the decisions that we make with respect to Israel are decisions we make about the – in the best interests of United States national security and in the best interests of the security of the region. They are not decisions that we make with respect to any one government. They are decisions we make with respect to the relationships between the United States and Israel. And I should reiterate that President Biden has been a friend of Israel for decades. He has been outspoken about how this relationship transcends U.S. and Israeli administrations because of our shared long-time commitment to democratic interests and values. That does mean there are times when we disagree with things that this – disagree, that things that this Israeli Government does, as we have disagreed with positions that previous Israeli Governments have taken. And when that happens, we express our disagreements openly, we express them privately with them, we at times press them to take different actions; but it doesn’t mean that we don’t take – we don’t take decisions that we believe are in the best interests of the United States and in the best interest of the Israeli people.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that this kind of thing under this kind of prime minister will in any way impact his resolve to continue pushing forward for the judicial reforms? You don’t think that that is totally independent of that?

MR MILLER: I think that it is totally independent, especially when you consider the fact that we have been quite clear about the fact that we think such changes as judicial reform need to be taken with the widest consensus possible. We’ve been quite clear, including in conversations directly between the President and the prime minister.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Let me – I’m going to – you don’t have to shout out questions. I’ve got time. I’m going to come around the room. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. The Iranian IRGC yesterday put the third version of their imaging satellite to the low orbit, and they may use this technology to facilitate their nuclear programs and ballistic missiles. Do you have any reaction and comments on that?

MR MILLER: Yeah, we have seen the reports that Iran launched a satellite. We have long made clear our concerns about Iran’s space launch vehicle programs, that they provide a pathway to expand its longer-range missile systems. Space launch vehicles incorporate technologies virtually identical and interchangeable to – with those used in ballistic missiles.

Iran’s continued advancement of its ballistic missile capabilities poses a serious threat to regional and international security and remains a significant nonproliferation concern. And I will just reiterate, as I’ve said before about a number of activities in this regard, that we continue to use a variety of nonproliferation tools, including sanctions, to counter the further advancement of Iran’s ballistic missile program and its ability to proliferate missiles and related technology to others.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt.

MR MILLER: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: I have one question for Mr. Jamie. Should I ask you that question or no? Should I —

MR MILLER: Why don’t you follow up with the Global Engagement Center after this.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. Thank you.

MR MILLER: As he said, they’ll be happy to discuss further.

QUESTION: Thank you. So I have two questions for you, sir. One of them is that a week or 10 days ago there was a big rally outside the White House by Pakistani Americans. It was probably one of the biggest ones since President Biden has taken his office. Is the State Department aware about the Pakistani American feelings, at least what President Biden has chosen to do in Pakistan by supporting this whole regime change?

MR MILLER: So we do not support regime change, for the hundredth thousandth time – I don’t know how many times we’ve had this exchange – in Pakistan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in America, Pakistani Americans.

MR MILLER: Let me make clear that – what our policy is and that we do not take a position in – with – as it stands, to elections in Pakistan. We support free and fair elections and do not take a position one way or another. And of course we’re aware that in the United States – and it’s one of the things that makes the United States great – is that people can come and express their First Amendment rights.

QUESTION: Exactly. So that’s what I – that’s exactly what I’m trying to come to. Like, so, a lot of the Pakistani Americans are now seriously starting to feel that – how is President Biden making his judgment when on one side you have an ally country who is providing weapons in war against Ukraine – you stand here and you talk about Germany, Belgium, other countries being ally of the U.S. with the war in Ukraine. With Pakistan you don’t talk about it. With Pakistan the biggest rally happens here; you don’t talk about Pakistan. So there needs to be a little clarity with regard to foreign policy at least with regard Pakistan. Otherwise people – like, Pakistani Americans and Pakistani diaspora really feel that it is either something to do with President Biden’s personal – some grudge against Imran Khan or something like that is happening there.

MR MILLER: No. So I would say that you are here almost every day and I take questions and speak about Pakistan almost every day, and I make clear whenever talk about this that we see Pakistan as a valued partner of the United States with whom we work on a number of issues. That hasn’t changed and it will not change.

QUESTION: Okay. Two —

MR MILLER: Humeyra – no, let me – I’m going to give some other people a chance to ask a question. Humeyra, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m wondering about Secretary’s upcoming meeting with his Indian counterpart, Jaishankar, because Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just said he was sure that Blinken would raise the murder of Sikh separatist leader with his Indian counterpart. So will he?

MR MILLER: So one of the practices I’m going to continue to try to adhere to, which is to not speak publicly about what Secretary Blinken or other representatives of this department will say in their meetings before —

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like Mr. Trudeau did not get that —

MR MILLER: Hold on, hold on. Let me – hold on. I will speak for myself – before the Secretary has a chance to say it directly to those counterparts. So what I will say, however, is that we have consistently engaged with the Indian Government on this question and have urged them to cooperate, and that engagement and the urge for them to cooperate will continue.

QUESTION: Right. And in your continuous engagement when you’re urging the Indian Government to cooperate, what kind of feedback are you getting?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to – they can speak for themselves. I’m not going to speak to what they say in private diplomatic conversations. I will speak to what I say or what we say, and that is we urge them to cooperate with the Canadian investigation.

QUESTION: And there was the comments of the U.S. ambassador to Canada I think maybe a week ago. I’m not entirely sure if you were asked about this publicly, but he basically said the intelligence that was provided by Five Eyes led to Justin Trudeau’s – Canadian prime minister’s – assessment. Are you able to confirm that in any way?

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak to intelligence matters from the podium.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: General Hiftar apparently met with President Putin and with a top military official while in Moscow today. What is the U.S.’s assessment of Moscow’s welcoming of General Hiftar? And is there a concern that this might be a potential destabilizing moment for Libya’s future?

MR MILLER: So I would say we have urged every country in the world when they engage with Moscow to look at the destabilizing effect that Russia has had not just in Ukraine but in Africa and all throughout the world, anywhere that they operate. And so we would take – we would urge any country that’s considering engagement with Moscow or that is entering into agreements with Moscow to go into that with very clear eyes about the destabilizing effect of Russia’s activities.

Shannon, go ahead.

QUESTION: We’ve seen some reports from Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that employees are being notified a shutdown might be imminent. Has the State Department sent any kind of communication like that?

MR MILLER: I am not aware of us sending a communication out to employees of that nature. We have had planning going on for a number of days, contingency planning in the case – in case there is a shutdown. We continue to work through that planning in the coming days to make decisions about what functions are essential, what functions are essential to national security that cannot be suspended even in the case of a shutdown, and what functions unfortunately do have to be suspended while a shutdown continues.

That said, we remain hopeful that Congress will do its job and fund the government. But we are making contingency planning in case they don’t.

QUESTION: And can I also briefly ask about the email hack earlier this year that impacted the State Department? Sources from over on Capitol Hill say that some 60,000 emails from the State Department alone were gathered in that hack. Is it still the case that the State Department feels that there were no classified emails that were obtained in the hack? And has the State Department determined through its own investigation who was behind it?

MR MILLER: So a few things. Number one, I will confirm that yes, it was approximately 60,000 unclassified emails that were exfiltrated as a part of that breach. Number two, no, classified systems were not hacked. This only related to the unclassified system. Number three, we have not made an attribution at this point. But as I’ve said before, we have no reason to doubt the attribution that Microsoft has made publicly.

Again, this was a hack of Microsoft systems that the State Department uncovered and notified Microsoft about. We have no reason to doubt their attribution in the case.


QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Yesterday, you mentioned that there were some additional meetings between U.S. and PRC officials, and I’m wondering if those have taken place, are scheduled to take place, whether they’re in Beijing or the United States.

MR MILLER: There was a meeting here yesterday that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Dan Kritenbrink held with the PRC Vice Foreign Minister for Asia Sun Weidong here at the State Department. The two sides held a candid, in-depth, and constructive consultation on regional issues as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication. This is one of the now many follow-up meetings we have had since the Secretary’s trip to Beijing in June, and I expect that we’ll have a readout later today that will provide further details on the meeting.

QUESTION: And since we’re on the topic today, I’m wondering whether in any of these meetings U.S. officials have taken the time to warn Beijing against interfering in elections in 2024. Has that – especially as these reports have come out saying that there’s more of an inclination potentially on the part of the PRC to leverage technologies to intervene in elections around the world, but especially in the United States, has that specific issue been raised?

MR MILLER: So I am not going to speak to whether we have raised that specifically in any one of these meetings. But I will say we have made clear a number of times to a number of actors around the world that we would take interference in United States elections very seriously.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea has adopted a constitutional amendment to enshrine its policy on nuclear force. I’m just wondering from that, the United States try to take additional action because of the recent change of DPRK?

MR MILLER: So the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to international peace and security and the global nonproliferation regime. We reiterate that the DPRK should understand that the only viable path forward is through diplomacy. We have made that point clear a number of times; they have continued to reject it. We will do what we have been doing, which is to consult closely with the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other allies and partners about how to best engage the DPRK, deter aggression, and coordinate international responses to their multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. In a TV interview with a local Bangladeshi TV channel, Channel 24, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas expressed his security concern – not only his security concern, even the embassy personnel – in Bangladesh. So his concern is legit, quite legit, because we have seen couple of attacks the U.S. ambassador in Bangladesh recent years under the current regime. Is the Secretary taking these concerns seriously?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to discuss specific details around security at the U.S. embassy or the personnel that work there. I will say that of course the safety and security of our diplomatic personnel is of the utmost importance to us. And per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, every host country must uphold its obligations to ensure the protection of all diplomatic mission premises and take all diplomatic steps to prevent any attack on personnel. The United States values its relationship with Bangladesh, and we expect that the government will take all necessary actions to maintain the safety and security of all foreign missions and personnel in the country, including ours.

QUESTION: One more one. Is U.S. considering to more rounds visa restrictions in Bangladesh, including the pro-government media who helped the regime to be a monster?

MR MILLER: Was the question are we going to impose?

QUESTION: Yeah, does the – we have seen from Dhaka embassy that you are thinking about more rounds of visa restrictions on the media personnel – basically the propaganda machine of —

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to announce specific steps, preview steps that we might take from the podium. We have taken steps to impose restrictions under the Secretary’s authority against members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition who we believe to be responsible for or complicit in undermining free and fair elections in Bangladesh. And as we made clear when we announced this policy on May 24th – that’s when we announced the policy, not the imposition of sanctions on specific individuals – but when we announced that policy, that it could be applied to any Bangladeshi individual who we believe was responsible for or complicit in undermining the democratic process. So we retain the option to impose sanctions on other individuals if and when we believe it’s appropriate.

QUESTION: Follow-up question —

MR MILLER: Go – let me just – I – again, I – we’ve had – I know, but I’m trying to get to as many people as possible. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. So a former Ukrainian armed services spokesperson was recorded in a private conversation, and she had this to say about the Ukrainian military. She said: “I know many of them have very far-right leanings. There are some Nazi groups.” So I – of course, it’s not the entire military, but you do have an official spokesperson raising a concern in a private conversation that they do exist there. And even Time Magazine and Associated Press —

MR MILLER: Where was this? Where was the private conversation reported, just so I know what I’m responding to?

QUESTION: It was reported on a call. There were actually some pranksters who, like, didn’t know – they kind of faked – they actually – it’s kind of unbelievable. They faked being Poroshenko and she somehow believed it and she had a conversation with them. It’s online. And – but regardless of this, Time Magazine, Associated Press, Washington Post, and others before the war did raise this concern about these radical groups in Ukraine. So my question to you is: Are we concerned that, through arming them, the arms are potentially landing in the hands of these radical groups?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to respond specifically to prank calls. That seems like a new one. I haven’t gotten that, first, but seems like probably something I should try to avoid doing, especially when I haven’t seen the full context. But I will say that we have important accountability mechanisms in place for U.S. arms and U.S. military assistance that we supply to Ukraine. We have strict oversight mechanisms that we’ve put in place. That also applies to humanitarian and economic aid that we’ve provided. And we’ve seen no diversion of those arms at this point.

All right. Go —

QUESTION: So you do tell them, like, the Azov Battalion – but we say do not give it to them, yes?

MR MILLER: We have strict oversight mechanisms in place.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on this shutdown. If it would occur, does it affect the missions outside – I mean, the U.S. missions all over the world?

MR MILLER: If what? If —

QUESTION: If the shutdown happens.

MR MILLER: If the shutdown occurs, there are specific functions that we are able to keep in place and others that we have to suspend in the event of the shutdown. I’m not able to preview all those now. We continue to work through it. If there is a shutdown, I’ll be able to provide more detail.

QUESTION: Last one. I’m sorry.

MR MILLER: Let me do one more and then – go ahead.

QUESTION: So Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary, sat with four representatives last week during the UN meeting – with the Qatari, the Egyptians, French, and Saudi – regarding the French initiative to resolve the conflict in Lebanon regarding the election. Do we have the right impression that the U.S. are not happy with the French initiative that has not achieved anything, and now the Qataris are stepping in to continue their own initiative?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to the French initiative. I will say that we continue to support free and fair elections, and leave it at that.

Abbie. You’ll finish, and then we’ll wrap up.

QUESTION: One for me?

QUESTION: The deadline for the next five-year authorization of PEPFAR funding is this Saturday. I wondered if you had any concerns about some of the threats to PEPFAR funding, moving it to a one-year authorization versus five. What impact do you see that having on State Department programs?

MR MILLER: So we have had great concerns that the funding of PEPFAR has even become controversial. It is one of the greatest humanitarian successes that the United States has ever seen. The work it has done has saved millions and millions of lives in Africa, and when you look at the cost that the United States has spent on this program with – compared to the reward in terms of the number of lives saved, it’s really hard to find anything else that we have done as a country that has delivered such benefit. So I will say we, of course, would be concerned with any lapse in funding for the program and would urge Congress to fully fund it, as the administration has requested.

QUESTION: One follow-up to that.


QUESTION: The State Department recently added new languages calling – language calling for PEPFAR to partner with organizations that advocate for institutional reforms in law and policy regarding sexual, reproductive, and economic rights of women. What is your response to conservatives who argue that this is a way to integrate abortion into HIV/AIDS prevention?

MR MILLER: That it – that that is absolutely not the goal of our policy. Thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)

# # #


Department Press Briefing – September 27, 2023

1:23 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. I’ll start with some —

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR MILLER: Start with some brief remarks. The United States has secured the return of Private Travis King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Earlier today, he was transported to the border between North Korea and China, where he was met by our Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Nicholas Burns. He then boarded a State Department OpMed plane and flew from Dandong China to Shenyang China, and then on from Shenyang to Osan Air Force Base in South Korea where he was transferred to the Department of Defense.

We appreciate the professionalism of our diplomats, who worked with their counterparts of the Department of Defense and coordinated with the governments of Sweden and the People’s Republic of China, and we thank Sweden and the People’s Republic of China for their assistance in facilitating that transfer. He is now on his way to the United States, and we expect him to arrive in the coming hours.

With that, questions.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s it?

MR MILLER: That’s it.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, when I woke up this morning, I thought the news of the day was going to be about Israel and the Visa Waiver Program.

MR MILLER: We like to keep you on – we like to keep you on your toes.

QUESTION: But – yes, exactly – but obviously – can I just ask you, on Travis King, sorry, where did you say he – what base in South Korea?

MR MILLER: Osan Air Force Base.

QUESTION: Osan. Okay. And then – and you’re confirming that he has now left Osan and on his way —

MR MILLER: Correct – and is on his way back to the United States.

QUESTION: — back to the U.S. And how did he get from North Korea to China?

MR MILLER: He was – so I don’t know how he got inside North Korea to the border. I’ll let the North Koreans speak to that if they want to.

QUESTION: No, how did he get —

MR MILLER: But then he was transferred —

QUESTION: Today, how did he get —

MR MILLER: He was – I believe he was driven by the North Koreans, but again, I don’t have perfect —

QUESTION: Driven by the North Koreans or by the Swedes?

MR MILLER: Let me just finish. I don’t have perfect fidelity on his movements inside North Korea. But let me just – he was taken to the border at Dandong where he was transferred to U.S. custody.

QUESTION: Yeah. And then where? And that’s where Burns and the other —

MR MILLER: Dandong. That’s where Burns met him – Dandong, China.

QUESTION: Okay. And then he didn’t go anywhere else in China before leaving for Osan?

MR MILLER: The plane – he got onboard an OpMed plane which stopped in Shenyang, China and then continued to Osan.

QUESTION: Okay. And this OpMed plane – I don’t know how many you guys have – but it’s getting a lot of use – or if there’s only one, it’s – is this the same plane that brought back the people from Iran or from Doha?

MR MILLER: I do not know. I don’t know how many we have. I don’t know if it’s the same plane.

QUESTION: What kind of plane are you saying?

MR MILLER: An OpMed plane – State Department OpMed plane.


MR MILLER: Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: Jet plane?

QUESTION: Can I just ask about the – sorry – about the diplomacy regarding this?


QUESTION: What does it mean? I mean, obviously the U.S. wanted Travis King back, but does it mean something broader with North Korea? Could this be an opening for something broader? What does – what were the motivations as far as you could detect for North Korea releasing him?

MR MILLER: So I would not want to speculate on any motivations on the North Korean side, and I don’t know that I would take from this that it heralds some breakthrough in diplomatic relations. Obviously, we’re pleased to have secured his return. We’re very thankful for the Government of Sweden for their work as the protecting power that they did to help facilitate his transfer back to the United States.

I will restate – as I have said from this podium before and as we have said – we are open to diplomacy with North Korea; we would welcome diplomacy with North Korea. They have always rejected that. We tried to reach out to them when Travis King first crossed the border into North Korea. We tried to reach out a number of occasions. They rejected our direct approaches – ended up talking to Sweden, and Sweden talked to us and helped negotiate this transfer. But I would not see this as the sign of some breakthrough. I think it’s a one-off with them being willing to return this private.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on China’s role a little bit? Do you see them more as a transit point in this situation? Did they play any role as a mediator?

MR MILLER: They did not play a role as a mediator, but their role in providing transit or – in facilitating transit is one we very much appreciate. We have always thought that China could play a useful role in any number of issues as it relates to North Korea. The Secretary said that directly to his Chinese counterparts; we’ve said it publicly on a number of occasions. And we do appreciate the role that they played here.

QUESTION: And I mean, your working-level diplomats must have communicated on this. Do you think that these conversations can be described as a set of positive exchanges, or how would you describe these?

MR MILLER: Well, we didn’t have direct exchanges with North Korea so certainly —

QUESTION: Or – sorry.

MR MILLER: — we had positive exchanges with Sweden.

QUESTION: With China.

MR MILLER: With China – yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

QUESTION: And is there – I mean, the relationship’s not in a great place at the moment. Like is there any hope of seeing this as sort of a jumping off point for more communication, for better relations?

MR MILLER: I would say that we have seen an increase in the tempo of our conversations with the Chinese Government across a number of fronts since the Secretary traveled to Beijing in June. Of course, you’ve seen that at the secretary level – not just here but at other departments in the United States Government. You’ve seen that at the assistant secretary level. We have other meetings that we’ll be able to make public in the very near future where we’re exchanging views with China on a number of issues. And we do think there is an opening to work with China – I think you saw that the department of – or the Department of Treasury just announced new working groups on economic issues, and we continue to pursue ways to work with them on stopping the trafficking of fentanyl, on returning United States detainees.

So any time we can work together on areas that advance U.S. interests or that address shared concerns, we see that as a positive and hope that it will lead to more work together.

QUESTION: And in the wake of this and Blinken’s meeting last week in New York, do you see the meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of APEC in San Francisco is more likely now?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t want to say more likely, less likely. It’s always tough to make those assessments from here, really from anywhere with any degree of accuracy, because there are two parties at work here. I will just reiterate what we have said, which is that we think there’s no substitute for leader-to-leader communication. The potential for a meeting between the two leaders is something that Secretary Blinken discussed with the Chinese vice president last week at UNGA in New York. We believe it would be important to have that meeting, and we hope it will take place, but we don’t have anything to announce yet.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR MILLER: Let me go to Alex first.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This all seems rather sort of unilateral on the North Korean side. They let it be known to the south – to the Swedes that they were willing to release King. Understanding that this was the culmination of intense diplomacy, was there anything that the North Koreans asked for or received in exchange? Was there a trade at all?

MR MILLER: I am not aware of them asking for anything. Doesn’t mean they didn’t, but I’m not aware if they did or – I’m just not aware whether they did or – did or did not ask for anything. We did not give them anything. We’ve made no concessions as a part of securing his return.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea why they decided to suddenly expel him?

MR MILLER: I am going to follow my general rule here and not try to get into the heads of foreign governments and certainly not that one.

Janne, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Travis King voluntarily chose the North Korea. What punishment will he face when he comes home?

MR MILLER: I would refer you to the Department of Defense for that question. He is an active member of the military, and that’s a question they’ll have to speak to.

QUESTION: Because it’s violations for —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: He had the violations of U.S. laws. He is active militaries.

MR MILLER: Again, I’m going to refer that to the Defense Department, who would be the agency that would be – that would speak to that question.

Yeah, one more?

QUESTION: One more on North Korea. North Korea’s Ambassador to United Nations Song Kim said that nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula was imminent and blamed the United States and South Korea. How do you comment on this?

MR MILLER: We would obviously find those remarks irresponsible, as we find any number of statements the – that North Korea makes threatening its neighbors or raising tensions in the region. And I will say we will continue to work with our partners in the region – the Republic of Korea, Japan – to ensure their security and prevent North Korea from taking aggressive – such aggressive actions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go to the back – go to the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, so after the release of Travis King, do you think communicate with DPRK is getting more easier to compared to before?

MR MILLER: Do I think what? What was the —

QUESTION: Communication to North Korea getting more easier to compared to before?

MR MILLER: No, I wouldn’t say that, given that, as I just said, they refused all of our attempts to communicate with them over this matter. They have always had communications with other governments, and we found it possible to communicate with them through Sweden, which, as I said, is our protecting power. But I don’t think – as I said, I think in response to an earlier question, I do not see this as a sign of any diplomatic breakthrough that will have implications for other issues, other areas of concern we have with the DPRK regime.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Yeah, Olivia.

QUESTION: Thank you. Private King was described by U.S. officials as being in good spirits and good health. What do you know about his treatment while in the custody of the North Koreans?

MR MILLER: I don’t know anything at this point. It’s possible that people who were on the plane with him have gotten further information. It hasn’t been communicated back here yet. So I don’t have any information other than to confirm that, yes, he was in good spirits. He was in good health. But with respect to his treatment, that’s not something I can read out from the podium today.

QUESTION: So no indications right now that he was interrogated or harshly treated in any way?

MR MILLER: I just – I would certainly imagine that he was interrogated. That was – that would be consistent with past DPRK practice with respect to detainees. But I don’t have any readout from his conversations with the people on the plane with him or the people that he met at Osan Air Force Base.

QUESTION: Okay. And did his release come as the result of an explicit ask by the United States, even if conveyed through Sweden, or do you view this as a sort of voluntary or even benevolent act on the part of Pyongyang, again, conveyed to Sweden?

MR MILLER: I think it could be the result of both an ask and a voluntary decision. It was a request. We made the – we made it clear to North Korea that we wanted to secure his return, and they ultimately decided to do so.

QUESTION: And one more. When did their willingness to release him get conveyed?

MR MILLER: In the past few days, I would say.

QUESTION: In the past few days. And —

MR MILLER: In the past few days – in the past week, past few days, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. And was it the subject of any conversations between the Secretary and other interlocutors while at the UN General Assembly?

MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of. I was in most of those conversations and it didn’t come up. It certainly didn’t come up in our conversation with the Chinese vice president. This was handled more at the working level, not at the – not the secretary level.

QUESTION: Okay. And sorry, but just to put a fine point on it, when did the U.S. become aware that they were going to get Travis King back?

MR MILLER: I don’t have a specific date. We’ve been working on this for some time. But it takes you know, as we’ve seen with the release of other detainees, it can take some time from the time that you get indications that he might be returned until you know it for sure, until you can actually negotiate the specific details of the transfer.

Anything else on North Korea before we – yeah.

QUESTION: Well, did – when the plane stopped in Shenyang, did Nick Burns get off the plane?

MR MILLER: I don’t actually know if he was on the plane to – I don’t know if he was on the plane, the first leg of the plane, or whether he got off. I don’t know. I don’t – just did not – I did not get a briefing on the manifest before coming up here, so —

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, you just said you didn’t know —

MR MILLER: He – he greeted —

QUESTION: You didn’t know of anyone who had spoken to him on the plane. But presumably, if Burns was at the border and met him, and then got on the plane in Dandong and then flew to Shenyang, he was on the plane for —

MR MILLER: Yeah, right.

QUESTION: — however long that flight is.

MR MILLER: Let me say this. I presume he was not on the plane by himself. I don’t know if it was the ambassador or other people. Whoever it was on the plane with him, I haven’t gotten a readout of anything he might have said to them, so – Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: And I have a few topics but let me start with Azerbaijan-Armenia, if you don’t mind. As I understand, senior officials are currently in Azerbaijan. You have eyes and ears on the ground. Give me a sense of what you have been observing there during the past 24 hours. There are calls for international community to prevent ethnic cleansing, something that (inaudible). What exactly is going on? And the sides are talking about also turning back to Brussels. What is being hoped for, actually?

MR MILLER: So I would say a few things. Number one, as you noted, Samantha Power, the USAID administrator, and Acting Assistant Secretary Yuri Kim are in Azerbaijan today, where they stressed a number of things, the same things that the Secretary stressed in his conversation with President Aliyev yesterday and that I reiterated at the podium, which is that, number one, we want to see the ceasefire maintained; number two, we want to see humanitarian needs addressed; that means keeping the Lachin corridor open, it means ensuring that humanitarian supplies can come in, and that it means an international monitoring mission to ensure that humanitarian needs are addressed.

And I will say that we did welcome the comments by the Government of Azerbaijan just a little while ago before I came out to this podium, that they would welcome such an international monitoring mission. That’s something that the Secretary had directly pushed the president for, and we’re glad to see his having agreed to it, and we will work with our allies and partners in the coming days to flesh out exactly what that mission will look like. But then ultimately what we do want to see is a return to the negotiating table, where they can ultimately reach a dignified, lasting peace.

QUESTION: Speaking of the negotiating table, for months and months you had dialogue going on in Washington, in Brussels. Senior officials told us just last month that the sides had agreed to return back to Washington. Who dropped the ball, and when and why?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what – so first of all, I reject the characterization about dropping the ball. We have been pursuing negotiations. The Secretary has been having direct conversations with the president of Azerbaijan, the prime minister of Armenia. We’ve had a number of officials travel to the region – not just in the past week or 10 days since hostilities broke out but going back months and months and months.

We have done everything we can to pursue diplomacy, but ultimately, remember, it’s up to the two parties here who are the parties that have direct disagreements. We can do everything we can to push them but ultimately they have to agree to talk and they have to agree to ultimately come to some resolution. That’s what we’re going to do, is continue to play our part to facilitate that.

QUESTION: And how much of this also can be pointed at Russia? I’m asking because Kremlin loves pointing at the West, and also the fact that Pashinyan chose Western orientation for Armenia. So what is Russia’s role here, and how do you – is it time to come out and call Russia out for what it has been doing?

MR MILLER: I certainly do not think Russia has played a productive role here in the past week. We have seen them at times – there have been times where they facilitated negotiations, and that was something that we welcomed; but certainly in the last week their role has not been productive in this situation.

QUESTION: I have one more on Russia, if you don’t mind.


QUESTION: In the wake of today’s sanctions and also yesterday’s business advisory on Xinjiang, I want to ask you about business advisory on Russia. It has been more than a year and a half that we entered this war. There have been calls from different sides, Ukrainian business community and diaspora. The fact that you guys are still allowing the U.S. companies, business companies, to operate in Russia – some of them have left and returned back and earning money and pay taxes – is not consistent with your policy to isolate Russia, is it?

MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about that. Number one, that since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February of last year, a number of U.S. international companies have looked at the legal, looked at the reputational risk, and decided that those risks were too high to continue involving – to continue operating in Russia. In fact, over a thousand U.S. companies have withdrawn from Russia in that time. In addition, Russia has passed restrictive new laws that I think have discouraged a number of businesses from operating.

I will say this is a decision that every business has to make on its own, looking at the operational and legal and reputational risks of operating in Russia. But I do want to be clear that we have always emphasized that there are certain types of commercial activity that we are not trying to shut down with respect to Russia. All of our sanctions have had exemptions for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian purposes because we do not see the United States in conflict with the Russian people.

So we have not tried to tell businesses that are working to provide food or pharmaceutical goods to the Russian people that they should stop doing business there. We have targeted our sanctions, our export controls, on the sectors of the Russian economy that fuel Russia’s war machine, and we’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up one more on Armenia-Azerbaijan?


QUESTION: One other development is that Azerbaijan says it’s arrested the head of the self-styled republican – the suffragist entity in Nagorno-Karabakh, which of course has fallen on Mr. Vardanian. Does the U.S. have anything to say about that, either the arrest or about what treatment you would expect to —

MR MILLER: We are aware of the arrest. We’re closely monitoring the situation. I don’t have any further comment today.


QUESTION: Thank you. Changing topic to the visa waiver, which – is the – this department and the Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken, completely convinced that Israel has totally fulfilled all its obligations to join the visa program?

MR MILLER: We are convinced that it has met the requirements to join the Visa Waiver Program. It’s a recommendation the Secretary made to the Department of Homeland Security, and it was ultimately decided by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Over the past few months, as we’ve been trialing this program with the Government of Israel, we’ve seen more than a hundred thousand American citizens enter Israel without a visa. That includes tens of thousands of Americans on the Palestinian registry who have travelled into Israel without a visa. And that said, we have ongoing monitoring programs that will be in place for Israel, as they are with every other member of the Visa Waiver Program. We’ll be closely monitoring their compliance as we go forward.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are convinced that Israel is exactly, like all the other countries, the 40 other countries that belong to this program —


QUESTION: — they conduct themselves with the same kind of fidelity in treating all Americans the same?

MR MILLER: I said that they have met the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program. As we have discussed many times from this podium, there are differences, especially with respect to Gaza. We have to remember that Gaza is controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. We would expect there to be different procedures. There are different procedures for entering the United States if you’re coming from a territory controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. So we do understand that there are different procedures, but we have looked at the plans and the policies that Israel has put into place and decided that they meet the Visa Waiver Program. But we will continue to monitor their compliance going forward.

QUESTION: You are not concerned that Israel could use (inaudible) of this caveat that it has special security needs and so on to abuse this – these requirements that you demand of them?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what you mean with respect to taking advantage of, but we will be watching for compliance with the program very carefully.

QUESTION: And what recourse do Americans that are not treated equally upon entry or departure, what recourse do they have?

MR MILLER: They should just – they should report that to the United States embassy.

QUESTION: And in the event that there are repeated incidents, will there be, like, a pullback from that program?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to get into – I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals, other than to say, as I just said, that we monitor ongoing compliance with the program and have ability – have the ability to take steps up to and including excluding people from the – countries from the program going forward if they fail to stay in compliance.

QUESTION: Last question on this. A group of American rights groups – Arab American rights groups – have filed a suit against this. Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER: I don’t. I would refer you to the Department of Justice for comment on that.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the stat you just gave? You said since when more than a hundred thousand Americans have entered Israel without a visa?

MR MILLER: Since we started this trial period, which was July or –

QUESTION: So like, all Americans, right? That, like, includes people like me and you?

MR MILLER: I said over a hundred thousand –

QUESTION: Palestinian Americans?

MR MILLER: No, hold on. Over a hundred thousand American – let me just –

QUESTION: Matt, that means nothing. Americans who get into Israel with – unless they’re Palestinian Americans, with –

MR MILLER: I think you missed the second part of what I said. Over a hundred thousand Americans since we began trialing this program have entered Israel without a visa, and that includes tens of thousands of Americans on the Palestinian registry.

QUESTION: How many – all right. But saying more than a hundred thousand since the trial period began means absolutely nothing, okay?


QUESTION: No, it means nothing. Because you and I could get to Israel without a visa for years. That’s not the issue. So when you say tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans, or tens of thousands of Americans who are on the Palestinian registry, how many?

MR MILLER: I don’t have the exact number. Tens of thousands.

QUESTION: Well – but how do you know that they’re – how do you know it’s reciprocal? How do you know that this is reciprocity if you can’t give an exact number?

MR MILLER: I’m giving you “tens of thousands.” I don’t often – I oftentimes walk out here with numbers that are in a range without the exact number to tell you the – down to the decimal point.

QUESTION: How many was it – how many – well, tell me how many was it before the trial period began?

MR MILLER: I don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Well, then what – the point —

MR MILLER: It – I – I think it is —

QUESTION: It is a meaningless statistic.

MR MILLER: I think it is important information that certainly the – given that the –

QUESTION: Hold on. Okay, no one is –

MR MILLER: Let me just say, given that the criticism –

QUESTION: — claiming that there hasn’t been improvements to the way Palestinian Americans are treated when they go to or through Israel. No one is saying there haven’t been. But the question is the reciprocity issue. So let me ask you something. Will Israeli citizens need to get permission from the U.S. Government to leave the United States if they come in?

MR MILLER: To leave the United States? I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security for that level of specificity.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it correct that Palestinian Americans who are on the Palestinian registration list, who are in Gaza, need to get permission – specific permission; not just checking a box on an ESTA form or whatever – to leave?

MR MILLER: They do have to go through a different –

QUESTION: Well, how is that – how is that reciprocal?

MR MILLER: They do – I said they have to go through a different circumstance because of the unique nature of the fact that they live in a place that’s controlled by a foreign terrorist organization, which is something that we fully understand. So it is different, but we expect –

QUESTION: Okay. But –

MR MILLER: Hold on. We expect them to be —

QUESTION: Okay, and I’m not suggesting that Israel – I’m not trying to say that Israel – that they shouldn’t be in the program for whatever reason, except for the fact that that is not reciprocity right there. That is – that is discriminatory. Whether it is based on sound national security strategy or not, it isn’t reciprocity, it doesn’t meet the requirements of the law, and that’s what this lawsuit that Said was just talking about is about. So how – are you just saying that, okay, it’s all right that some Palestinian Americans are going to be discriminated against and —

MR MILLER: That is not at all what I said. I said that —

QUESTION: But that is what it is.

MR MILLER: I’ve said that Palestinian Americans coming from Gaza have to go through different procedures because they’re coming from a place that’s controlled by a foreign terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MR MILLER: But – but —

QUESTION: But wait a second. But those Palestinian Americans do not have – they all – this is just to leave Gaza, to leave Israel, to get back to – to get back to the United States, presumably. It is not a U.S. requirement that they have to do this. It is an Israeli requirement, and that means that it is – that the treatment is not reciprocal.

MR MILLER: We believe that under the procedures that the Government of Israel is —

QUESTION: I know you believe.

MR MILLER: — hold on – is putting – is putting into place —

QUESTION: You can spin this all you want to, but it’s not reciprocity.

MR MILLER: — they will – they will be able to travel – Americans on the Palestinian registry in Gaza or any American citizens in Gaza will be able to travel into Israel without a visa. There are different procedures, but ultimately they may have to go —

QUESTION: But then they can’t leave?

MR MILLER: — but ultimately it’s – they —

QUESTION: So reciprocity is only getting in, it doesn’t include getting out? I don’t —

MR MILLER: I’m going to —

QUESTION: This is really just what – because you don’t know.

MR MILLER: No, I’m not – I —

QUESTION: And because it doesn’t make any sense.

MR MILLER: I would disagree with that. We believe that we have set up a program that allows them – first of all, again, is delivering an enormous benefit to —


MR MILLER: — enormous benefit to American citizens, including Palestinian Americans who have not been able to fly into Ben Gurion before now, who have not been able to transit in and out of the West Bank. There are different procedures for Gaza. We understand that. We expect it. We think it’s appropriate for there to be so. But at the end of the day, those American citizens who are in Gaza have the ability to transit with different procedures but without a visa.

QUESTION: But I don’t – I’m not arguing and I don’t think anyone else is arguing that this isn’t a good thing for U.S.-Israeli relations or that Israel should – that Israeli citizens should have those. The question is whether they meet the legal criteria, okay?


QUESTION: And honestly, what you have just said now does not meet the criteria for reciprocity.

MR MILLER: We have made a —

QUESTION: It doesn’t. You – no, it doesn’t.

MR MILLER: So – so I am not a lawyer, but we have looked at it inside the State Department —

QUESTION: I’m not a lawyer either.

MR MILLER: — and come to a different – well, then we’re really in the – we have come to a different determination.

QUESTION: So would you agree that there is a two-tier system of – there is a two-tier – there is a different system for Palestinians? Do you agree with that?

MR MILLER: I don’t know how many – I don’t know how many times I have to say this, which is that there is a —

QUESTION: I understand, but —

MR MILLER: — there is – there are different requirements for people that live in – that live in Gaza, and I think for understandable reasons.

QUESTION: So the issue of reciprocity —

QUESTION: So if an Israeli citizen wants to leave the United States and go back to Israel, and there —

MR MILLER: An Israeli citizen?

QUESTION: Yeah, under the Visa Waiver Program, right, so they can get in without a visa but they (inaudible). So, like, if they’re in Arizona or something —

MR MILLER: So the – so I —

QUESTION: — that they can – that politically you think is suspect.

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to —

QUESTION: Would they have to apply for an exit visa to get out of the U.S.?

MR MILLER: Now you’re – now you are getting beyond my knowledge of immigration law when we start talking about —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR MILLER: — when we start talking about Israeli citizens here.

QUESTION: Because I’ve read the 15-page DHS talking points (inaudible), and they don’t address this question, and not only do they not address the question of the Gaza issue and reciprocity, Israel is not even meeting right now the criteria for the West Bank, for Palestinians who are going – Palestinian Americans who are on the registry who are going into the West Bank. Now, yes, it has improved, no doubt. No one is saying it hasn’t. But they’re not meeting that requirement either. So it’s not an issue of whether Israel should get into the program based on it being a partner of the U.S. and a strategic ally in the Middle East. It’s a question of whether they meet the legal criteria under the law. And they don’t. And what your answers have just said —


QUESTION: — is that they don’t meet the criteria and you’re letting them in anyway.

MR MILLER: I – that is not at all what I have said. I have said we have made the determination that they do, and ultimately we have the ability to monitor this going forward.

All right. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. When Secretary met his Indian counterpart Minister Jaishankar in New York for the Quad meeting, did he raise the issue of Canadian allegations with India?

MR MILLER: Did he raise the issue of what?

QUESTION: The Canadian allegations.

MR MILLER: No, not in that meeting. It was a – that was not a bilateral meeting. It was a meeting of a number of countries and it did not come up in that meeting. But we have engaged with our Indian counterparts on this issue and urged them to fully cooperate with the Canadian investigation.

QUESTION: And the minister is going to be here in the city this week. The Secretary has plans to meet him and raise this issue again?

MR MILLER: Tomorrow. Yeah. And what?

QUESTION: Will he be raising this issue with the – with Minister Jaishankar?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview the comment – the conversations he will have in that meeting, but as we’ve made clear, we’ve raised this; we have engaged with our Indian counterparts on this and encouraged them to cooperate with the Canadian investigation, and we continue to encourage them to cooperate.

QUESTION: So far engagement you had with the Indians, do you see sense of cooperation from them?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to read in – I’m not going to speak to our private diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Se Hoon Kim, Global Strat View. Last week, the visit of President Raisi – President Raisi’s visit to the United Nations actually carried on a lot of conversation in the public sphere. However, there were incidences where journalists from Iran International were harassed and attacked on the streets by Iranian diplomats. Namely, the – Iran International’s journalist Kian Amani was directly attacked and harassed by the protocol officer of Raisi, Reza Naghipour. I’m just wondering what your comment on that is and for – also would like to see your comment regarding the constant harassment and the targeting of Iranian dissidents located in the United States who are U.S. citizens, green card holders, and a lot of times asylees.

MR MILLER: So with respect to the first question, we actually put out a statement on this last week during the UN General Assembly in which we made very clear that we condemn the harassment and intimidation of journalists. And with respect to the harassment and intimidation of Iranian citizens living in the United States, of course we condemn that as well. We condemn transnational repression wherever it happens in the world.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today, Serbia is holding day of mourning after violent clashes in Kosovo on Sunday. The State Department so far didn’t send a message of condolences to the Serbian victims, and while Secretary Blinken expressed condolences for the loss of Kosovo police officer, there has been noticeable absence of any mention of the Serbian victims in his statement. What kind of message does this convey to the Serbs in Kosovo?

MR MILLER: I think we have pretty consistently expressed our condolences to the victims of violence in – both in this situation and around the world, and one of the messages we have had for both sides in this conflict is that they should refrain from violence and return to the EU-facilitated dialogue. That continues to be our message.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in her statement expressed concerns on the allegations of involvement of Indian Government in Canadian citizen killing. She also said that she has requested a briefing on whether there are similar operations in the United States. Any briefings scheduled, or she contacted the State Department?

MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Sir, secondly, how United States see this Khalistan campaign, as all these operations managed by U.S.-based group Sikhs for Justice —

MR MILLER: I missed the first part of the question. Could you just —

QUESTION: So how you – how United States see this Khalistan campaign? Because all their operations are managed by a U.S.-based education group, Sikhs for Justice.

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on that. Sorry.

QUESTION: Sorry, last question, sir. Has India asked United States to ban Khalistan operations in United States?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to read out any private diplomatic conversations.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. What do you have for the tragic fire incident that happened late yesterday in a wedding party in Nineveh Province, Hamdaniya district in Iraq, where more than 100 people killed and many more injured?


QUESTION: So some of the victims are treat in local hospitals and some are in Kurdistan Region’s hospitals, but will you provide any medical assistance? And if needed, will you welcome them in – here in the United States hospitals?

MR MILLER: So first of all, we mourn the loss of life in the horrific fire that took place at a wedding in Hamdaniya in northern Iraq that killed more than – at least a hundred people and, to our understanding, critically injured 150 others. We express, of course, our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and we hope for a speedy recovery for those wounded.

With respect to the second part of your question, we do stand ready to support the Government of Iraq and its people at this tragic time. We have always stood by – we will always stand side by side with the people of Iraq and be ready to talk with the Iraqi Government about what – any assistance that we can provide. And with respect to the last question, I think it’s too early to get into what might occur.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. If you please, comment on the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan scheduled for September 21, which is tomorrow. There is no representative of the U.S. invited. How do you see that? And second, a high-level delegation of the Taliban led by acting Foreign Affair Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has traveled to Russia to participate in the two-days meeting. Does the travel ban on Taliban leaders still exist? Aren’t they in the blacklist?

MR MILLER: So I don’t have much to say about that other than that we’re aware of the Moscow format meeting taking place. We are not members of the Moscow format, so a U.S. representative will not be attending.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mexican media is reporting that Secretary Blinken will be hosting a high-level delegation of Mexican officials on Friday. Given the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, will this be the topic of discussion on Friday?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to get into – two days before the meeting what exactly we will talk about, but certainly migration issues are often issues that we talk about with our Mexican counterparts when we meet with them both here and in Mexico.

QUESTION: Who will be taking part from the U.S. side on this – on this meeting on Friday?

MR MILLER: Stay tuned. We’ll make announcements of that in the coming days.

QUESTION: But you confirm the meeting is happening?

MR MILLER: I’m going to make – we’ll make announcements about that in the very near future.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: All right. Do a few more.

QUESTION: Hi, Matt. Could you talk a little about what may happen if Congress fails to pass the appropriation bills in regards to the compact of free associations for Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands?

MR MILLER: So we are still working through the exact implications. As you can imagine, there are – we have to look at everything that the State Department does and determine what kind of work can continue in a government shutdown, what kind of work would have to be put on hold. We are concerned about the fact that Congress might not do its job and pass appropriations bills to keep the government open, and so we are doing the kind of planning that we have to do to respond to that situation if it occurs. But I’m not at this point ready to talk about what’s – what any specific implications might be.

Go to the back.

QUESTION: After Cambodia’s election in July, the U.S. —

MR MILLER: Whose election?

QUESTION: Cambodia.

MR MILLER: Oh, yeah.

QUESTION: The U.S. cut off $18 million in aid in apparent protest, I guess against the legitimacy of the election. On Friday, Hun Manet, the prime minister of Cambodia, met with the acting deputy secretary, Victoria Nuland, and the Cambodian Government says that that aid has been restored. Can you confirm that? And if so, why was that aid restored?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back, get you an answer.

All right, we’ll do last one. Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you. On Russia, Russian air force plane arrived in Pyongyang this week, and North Korea and Russia are taking steps to realize military cooperations. Any comment on that? Are you concerned about this?

MR MILLER: Sure. We have spoken to this a number of times and warned that arms discussions between Russia and the DPRK almost certainly continued during Kim Jong-un’s trip to Russia, and we believe that they continue as – in the aftermath of that trip. We think a burgeoning military relationship between Russia and the DPRK, including additional transfers of weapons from the DPRK to Russia and technology transfers from the DPRK – from Russia to the DPRK, will further undermine the global nonproliferation regime, would be in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that Russia itself voted for. And so we would urge the DPRK to abide by what it has said publicly and refrain from supplying arms to Russia.

With that, we’ll wrap for today. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)

# # #


Department Press Briefing – September 26, 2023

12:49 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. Full house today. Let me start with some brief comments before coming to questions. Found my pen.

We strongly condemn the September 25th attack carried out by Houthi elements on the Saudi-Yemeni border that killed two Bahraini servicemembers and injured many others. This unprovoked attack threatens the longest period of calm since the war in Yemen began. U.S. officials from across our government have been in touch with Bahraini counterparts since news of the attack broke yesterday. We stand with the Kingdom of Bahrain, a longtime strategic partner of the United States, and we offer our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. We wish those injured in this unprovoked and unacceptable attack a speedy recovery and return to duty.

We have worked tirelessly with our partners to de-escalate, secure a truce, and incentivize the parties to launch a Yemeni-Yemeni peace process. The Secretary discussed peace in Yemen in a number of his engagements with counterparts in the region last week during the United Nations General Assembly and emphasized that only a Yemeni-Yemeni political agreement can durably resolve the conflict and end the humanitarian crisis. We reiterate that call today.

With Matt – start off, and I’ll note that I’m going to —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Let me just –

QUESTION: Yeah, I know.

MR MILLER: One scheduling thing, which is just I’m going to try to wrap by 1:15 so people can make the portrait unveiling.

QUESTION: Yes. I don’t have anything – I don’t have anything that I think that you’ll be able to answer in a newsworthy way, so – (laughter) – I’ll defer.


QUESTION: I have a couple (inaudible).

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Before I – first on Iraq, Iraqi prime minister has said that ISIS no longer represents a threat to Iraq, and Iraq no longer needs the international coalition. Did you receive any letter from Iraq regarding this issue? And what’s your comment on it?

MR MILLER: I won’t speak to any private diplomatic conversations, but I will say that U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government on an advise, assist, and enable mission. In August, we issued a joint statement with our Iraqi partners underlining that we are there at their invitation and that we intend to consult on a future process inclusive of the coalition to determine how the coalition’s military mission will evolve. The Iraqi Security Forces are in the lead on D-ISIS missions within Iraq and have demonstrated increasing capability in countering this threat. And for more specifics on it, I’d refer you to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Second, on Saudi Arabia and Palestinian Authority, a senior Saudi delegation went to the West Bank today, and Saudi Arabia appointed an ambassador to the Palestinian Authority. How do you view this step, and is it the beginning of the reconciliation or normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia?

MR MILLER: So I will say that we recognize – or that we commend increased engagement between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. We see that as a helpful step; we always commend additional engagement in the region. And I would say with respect to normalization, obviously that’s something that we have been working on, the Secretary has spent a good bit of time on, the President has spent a good bit of time on. He spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu about this in New York last week. And one of the things that we have heard in our engagements with the Palestinians, and that we have communicated on their behalf to our Israeli counterparts, is that there will have to be a significant Palestinian component of any final agreement. The Saudi Arabian Government has made that clear publicly, they’ve made it clear to us privately. And so I wouldn’t speak to the outcomes of any meeting today. I’ll let the Palestinian Authority and the Saudi Government speak to that for themselves, but certainly that’s an issue that’s on the table.

QUESTION: And my final – a final question on Iran. Iran’s foreign minister has said today that Japan has proposed an initiative to resume negotiations to revive the nuclear deal. Are you aware of this initiative, and is it coordinated with the U.S.?

MR MILLER: I am not aware of that specific initiative. I’m not sure what those comments reference. I will say, as we’ve said before, we believe diplomacy is the best way to ensure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. That position hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Follow up?

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead, Guita. Follow up.

QUESTION: Thanks. Aside from this comment by Iranian foreign minister, there has been in the past few months a lot of talk of – from Iran about resuming nuclear negotiations, specifically JCPOA, picking up from where they left off last year. They’re talking about – the Qataris saying they want to get involved. They’re taking steps, the Omanis, and also the Japanese, as Michel just referenced. Are the pieces of the puzzle right now in place for any talks on revival of the JCPOA?

MR MILLER: Let me answer it this way, which is as I just said in response to Michel’s question, we have always made clear that we are committed to ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, and we would prefer to address our concerns about Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy.

As the Secretary has said as recently last week, however, Iran must take de-escalatory steps if it wants to reduce tensions and create a space for diplomacy. We have not yet seen indications, despite some of these public comments, that Iran is serious about addressing the concerns that we have, the concerns that other countries have about its nuclear program. I will say just in the last few weeks we’ve seen Iran take steps to undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to do its work. So if Iran really is serious about taking de-escalatory steps, the first thing it could do would be to cooperate with the IAEA. We have not seen them fully do that.

QUESTION: Would the Biden administration be willing – is it – would it be open to holding direct talks?

MR MILLER: We have always said that we are open to diplomacy with Iran. I don’t want to get into what any such talks might or might not look like, but diplomacy, we believe, is the best path to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We would prefer to pursue diplomacy, but as I said, there are a number of de-escalatory steps that we want Iran to take.

QUESTION: And those are specifically nuclear-related, not the ones that – like hostage exchanges?

MR MILLER: There are – there are – I could give you a long list of things we would like to – long list of steps we would like to – Iran to take in terms of changed behavior, but I’m speaking specifically with respect to the nuclear program right now.

QUESTION: Can I just have one follow-up to that?


QUESTION: So are you saying that unless those de-escalatory steps are all taken, you are ruling out having any direct or indirect talks with the Iranians?

MR MILLER: I am not saying that.


MR MILLER: Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Moving to a different —

QUESTION: Wait, can we stay on —

MR MILLER: Oh, yeah – you want to stay on? Yeah, go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask —

MR MILLER: Sorry, I should – that’s my fault. I should have done the —

QUESTION: There’s some reporting today that the Iranians had embarked on this broad influence campaign over its nuclear program, targeting a network of academics, and some either were or became top aides to Rob Malley. Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER: Yeah. I will say I read that story, and from my read of it, it looked like an account of things that happened almost a decade ago, most of which involve people that do not currently work for the government. The one U.S. Government official I did see – the one current U.S. Government official I did see mentioned in that story – has written critically of Iran on a number of occasions before joining the government and underwent a thorough background investigation to obtain a security clearance before joining the State Department. She now works at the Defense Department. I’ll refer to them to to any specific comment about her status, but as I said, it looked like a story about things that Iran was doing almost a decade ago.

QUESTION: Matt, can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: This person who, as you mentioned, is now at State – they were seeking direction and advice directly from Tehran, from someone who was affiliated with the government. As you say, it was almost a decade ago, but do you think it’s appropriate for someone who sought direction from someone who then passed her emails on to the then-foreign minister to then get a security clearance and work on Iran issues at the State Department?

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak to the underlying details when you see emails like this reported and you – from something that happened, like I said, almost a decade ago and are presented – presented in a story where I don’t know the entire context. I will say I know that she has written critically of Iran a number of times in the past, and most importantly, any official who comes to work on sensitive issues and has to obtain a security clearance undergoes a full background check that is conducted by career officials. That’s what happened in that case.

QUESTION: Can I just make sure that we have one thing —


QUESTION: The question said that she now works at State. That’s not correct.

MR MILLER: Oh, yeah. She works at – she did work at State, now works at the Pentagon, right.

QUESTION: Yes, exactly. But she was hired by State originally.

MR MILLER: Correct. Yeah, and I said – I —

QUESTION: But she now works – yeah, but that wasn’t what the question was, and you didn’t —

MR MILLER: Correct. She works —

QUESTION: And you didn’t correct it. The question that I have about this is whether any of this plays any role in the investigation into Rob Malley.

MR MILLER: I am reluctant to say anything at all about the investigation. As I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into ruling what’s – into speaking at all about that investigation, and even ruling out – even taking the step of ruling something out by – might by implication rule other things in. I don’t think it’d be appropriate for me to do so.

QUESTION: Is there —

MR MILLER: Anything else on Iran?



QUESTION: It’s on Malley. Is there an update as to his status, whether there’s an end in sight to the investigation or his return to his role? Is he expected to return to his role?

MR MILLER: There has been no change in his status. I don’t have an update on the investigation, and because I don’t have an update on the investigation, I wouldn’t have any update on his return to the department.

QUESTION: And have congressional overseers been briefed, to your knowledge, about – adequately about the circumstances surrounding his leave?

MR MILLER: We believe they have been briefed adequately. There have been – you may recall back before the congressional recess we had a number of engagements with them and made clear there are things that we can brief them about, about his time here and about the policy work he’s done, as well as his leave status. And then there were other pieces with respect to the investigation that is – because it is a ongoing law enforcement matter, it’s not something we can get into even with members on the Hill.

Let me just – anyone else —



MR MILLER: Let me just – I’ll come to you. Let me – you’re the first non-Iran question. We’ll come to you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: There’s – we’re still on Iran, yeah.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. This is not Iran, so —

MR MILLER: Oh. Go ahead. I will – you’ll be the second non —

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: What about me?

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Matt.

MR MILLER: What about you? Alex, you get six questions a day. I’m sure you’ll be covered. Go ahead, sorry.

QUESTION: All right. On Iran, we know that two American Iranians who are Green Card holders are still in Iran and were not part of the deal in the prisoners exchange. Can you just tell us what exactly the process of designating somebody as wrongfully detained – till now – I mean, I asked this question maybe before but didn’t really get an answer to it. How do you decide that he is wrongfully detained?

MR MILLER: There is a careful process that is laid out in the text of the Robert Levinson Act that directs us to look at a number of conditions, including if this person is being specifically targeted because they are an American, because they – connection to an American, if they’re being treated differently than other likeminded detainees. It is a careful process that we undergo with respect to every detainee that’s potentially wrongfully detained overseas.

The way we make that determination – just because we have not made a determination, say, today doesn’t mean that that determination won’t change in the future. That’s happened a number of times in the past because we get new information available to us that allows us to – that leads us to a different conclusion.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that Shahab Dalili, who’s been held since 2014 or ’16, if I remember – you had all this time and you still need more information to make a —

MR MILLER: That’s not what I said. I said that we have not made a wrongful – we have not made a wrongful determination with respect to any other detainees in Iran at this time. It doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future based on new information, but it’s not a determination we’ve made now.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I just confirm?


QUESTION: Are there any actual Iranian American dual citizens still held in Iran? Or any LPRs?

MR MILLER: There are. No, not dual citizens. LPRs. Citizens, LPRs.

QUESTION: Well, I want – I want to – no, because the question is about Iranian Americans.


QUESTION: So are there any U.S. citizens —

MR MILLER: Citizens – there are no – there are not.

QUESTION: — or lawful permanent residents —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Let me finish.

QUESTION: — still held, to your knowledge, in Iran?

MR MILLER: There are not American citizens who are still held. There are still LPRs.


MR MILLER: Go ahead.


QUESTION: Okay. No, Israel.

MR MILLER: No, I’m going to – because we’re under a time crunch today.

QUESTION: Yeah. This weekend is the deadline for the Israel Visa Waiver Program assessment. And I’m not asking you to preview your assessment of it, but I wanted to know how you – the process of how you’re reviewing and assessing the reports you’re getting from Palestinian Americans about how it’s gone for them, in terms of being able to travel freely or not.

MR MILLER: Sure. So along with the Department of Homeland Security, we have had a monitoring mechanism in place since we – since two months ago, when we launched this program to monitor conditions, to ensure that Palestinian Americans are able to travel freely, to make sure that they are not discriminated against. That includes talking to people who have traveled in and out of Israel and understanding their experience. And we take all that data and look at it, and it’s part of the determination by the Secretary and ultimately the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. We look at all that data in making a determination whether Israel is eligible for entry into the program.

QUESTION: And you don’t have a way to characterize it yet at this point?

MR MILLER: I don’t.


MR MILLER: But when we make a final determination, we’ll certainly be able to talk about the information that led us to make that – reach that conclusion.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. On China, Wang Yi said that China is willing to play a constructive role at APEC and said the U.S. should promote cooperation rather that provoke confrontation and show more inclusiveness – quote, “oppose advocating for democracy versus authoritarianism.” What do you make of Wang Yi’s remarks? Do you find them to be aggressive or hopeful that they will cooperate at APEC?

MR MILLER: I would find them largely consistent with what he and other representatives of the Chinese Government have said. I will say, for our part, number one, we will never stop standing up for democracy; we’ll never stop standing up for human rights. But that doesn’t prevent us from having conversations with the Chinese Government where we can both raise our concerns about human rights and talk about areas where we can potentially cooperate together.

The entire reason the Secretary traveled to Beijing this summer was to ensure that we could have open dialogue between our two countries, both about the areas where we have concern about PRC actions and activities, and so we can potentially cooperate on other areas.

So the one thing I would say that – where we would agree is that we would hope that we could have an APEC summit where we can find cooperation on a number of areas. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have candid disagreements on places where we have longstanding areas of concern.

QUESTION: What do you make of him making the comments, period, after Xi Jinping was not at the G20? What does that indicate to you?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t want to try to play pundit up here. It’s – I do think they’re kind of consistent with comments that they have made on a number of occasions.

QUESTION: Could I follow up on a Ukraine question?

MR MILLER: Yeah, of course.

QUESTION: Given this government shutdown battle in Congress and with Ukraine aid at the heart of it – you have Rand Paul in the Senate and a lot in the House debating over Ukraine aid – if Ukraine aid does not make it into a CR, what message does that send to Ukraine and what message does it send to Putin about U.S. commitment to Ukraine?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to get into a hypothetical based on a debate that is still ongoing in Congress. I will say, number one, we have been heightened by the – or we have been encouraged by the bipartisan support that we have gotten from Congress since the beginning of this war. I think it is quite clear, if you look at the debate in Congress, that there are bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress that support continued aid to Ukraine.

Now, look, there’s a process that we have to go through in working with Congress. I think it was important that President Zelenskyy was able to travel to the Hill last week and communicate directly with members of Congress about what is happening on the ground. We have been able to talk to Congress about accountability mechanisms that we have in place for the aid that we’ve provided. We’ve heard them say we want to hear accountability; we’ve made clear we have accountability mechanisms and we’re happy to talk to you more about what those look like.

So we think it is important that Congress continue to show strong support for Ukraine, that Congress continue to deter and repel Russian aggression and make clear that we’re not going to stand by while – when countries try to bully their neighbors. That’s an important message we’ve sent from this administration. We’re glad that Congress has backed it up to date, and we hope they will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Putin’s watching this unfold, this debate.

MR MILLER: He certainly is.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Two topics. Russia. Can I get your sense of where your department stands in terms of Russia’s seeking to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council? They were kicked out of that body last year, last April. They’re campaigning actively to return back. This is happening when evidence is building up about Russian war crimes – murder, rape, just to name —

MR MILLER: I would say I think we’ve been pretty clear about where we stand on Russia’s approach to human rights. The Secretary has been clear that we’ve seen Russia commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. We’ve made clear that there needs to be accountability for those crimes that they have committed, and so certainly I think representation on a body devoted to human rights is not consistent with their actions in Ukraine.

QUESTION: And my second topic, on Nagorno-Karabakh. I want to just revisit what we discussed yesterday about international monitors. Have you been able to test the waters with both Yerevan and Baku? I know delegation is in Yerevan right now. Is there any obvious example that demonstrates what you mean by that?

MR MILLER: I am not going to – again, that is – the exact mechanism is something that remains in discussion with our allies and partners in the region, and so I don’t want to preview what it might look like before we finish those conversations. I will say that the Secretary spoke again to President Aliyev today and underscored the urgency of no further hostilities, that there be unconditional protections and freedom of movement for civilians, that there be unhindered humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh.

And I will say that we note, and the Secretary noted in that call, that the president, President Aliyev, has said there will be no further military action and we expect him to abide by that. He has also said that he would accept an observer mission, and we would expect him to abide by that.

QUESTION: Will Ambassador Kim and Samantha Power – are they planning to go to Azerbaijan —

MR MILLER: I don’t have any further announcements to make about their travel while they’re in the region.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you, Matt. Human Rights Watch in a report says that the U.S. has failed to compensate the tortured victims of its Iraqi prison during 2003 and 2009, which been – 100,000 of Iraqi been imprisoned. Is there any plan to compensate these peoples, and why you haven’t compensated them so far?

MR MILLER: I’ll have to take that one back.

QUESTION: And then one more question, follow-up to Michel’s question. The Iraqi prime minister says that there should be a timeline for the U.S. forces and the foreign forces in Iraq. Are you willing to set out a timeline to leave Iraq?

MR MILLER: I don’t have anything further to add than what I said to Michel’s question, and I would refer you to the Department of Defense for further detail on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. So six months ago I asked Mr. Kirby whether Pakistan was providing any weapons to Ukraine, and he said he was unaware. Now Intercept has reported that Pakistan is providing some sort of artillery. Can you confirm that? And also, if you confirm it, then why has it been kept secret if a country is being an ally in such an important war of the U.S.? Why is it being downplayed?

MR MILLER: So we always let other countries speak to the nature of their assistance to Ukraine. We never confirm it on their behalf before they do. I think that should be for obvious reasons – let countries speak to their own matters – and I will abide by that policy here.

QUESTION: So you don’t —

MR MILLER: I’m going to just move, just because we’re limited in time today.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. It is about the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who’s also the chief coordinator for Khalistan referendum in Canada. So what is the United States official stance on the Khalistan referendum in Khalistan organized by the U.S.-based education group Sikhs for Justice?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back as well.

QUESTION: I have one more. Sir, India has labeled another Khalistani leader, U.S. citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, as a terrorist and a most wanted individual. Do you have any comments or concerns regarding Mr. Pannun’s status and safety while he’s residing in United States? Mr. Pannun has expressed that he feels like the next target of the Indian Government.

MR MILLER: I don’t have any specific comment on that, other than to say, as the Secretary noted in comments he made on Friday, transnational repression would be a concern for us anywhere in the world. That is our policy. We have made it clear over – on a number of occasions.

Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thanks. So on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Canada gave a standing ovation for a former SS Nazi soldier, and I just wonder if the Biden administration has any comment on this.

MR MILLER: I saw that today. The Canadian Government said they were not aware of that individual’s past and expressed regret for it, and that seems like the appropriate step.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to ask you about the India-Canada relationship, what impact this is going to have on U.S.-India relationship.

MR MILLER: So I made comments on this yesterday. I can restate them here, which is that we are obviously quite concerned about the situation in Canada. We’ve cooperated closely with our Canadian counterparts, and we have urged India to cooperate in that investigation and we’ll continue to do so.

And India remains an important partner of the United States. We work with them on a number of issues. But of course we – on this matter, we urge them to cooperate with the Canadian investigation.

QUESTION: So Canada has accused India of being involved in the murder of separatist Sikh leader in Canada. India is saying that Canada is a safe haven of terrorists. You are concerned about both or one of them?

MR MILLER: We – what I said a moment ago is that we have noted the allegations by Prime Minister Trudeau and we are quite concerned by them, and they are such concerning allegations that we think there ought to be a full and fair investigation. Canada has said it’s committed to doing that, and we believe the Indian Government should cooperate with it.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. seen those evidences, those information about those allegations?

MR MILLER: I am not going to comment on law enforcement matters.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Matt, good afternoon. Thanks for taking my question. This involved Jimmy Lai, the Catholic pro-democracy advocate who remains imprisoned in Hong Kong. And he’s now been there 1,000 days. Simple question: What is the State Department’s reaction to knowing that he’s been locked up that long awaiting trial?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back to get you a specific comment on it. I’ve seen – before I comment on a law enforcement matter, I just want to check and make sure I have the exact status of where he stands today.

QUESTION: Along with that The Wall Street Journal wrote, quote, “Everyone in Hong Kong knows he will be found guilty.” This is referring to the national security law imposed by Beijing that he was arrested under. Does the State Department agree with that sad assessment?

MR MILLER: I will say we have expressed serious concerns about the rule of law in China. We have expressed concerns about their treatment of a number of individuals for either speaking out against the government or exercising their freedom of religion. We have very – we have – we will continue to express our very serious concerns about those matters. But as it retains – pertains to a specific matter, I just want to check on the status before I give a specific comment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Western Balkans leaders have called for NATO-led mission KFOR to take on complete responsibility for Northern Kosovo. What is the United States position regarding the proposal for NATO KFOR to assume a more substantial role and take full control of the Northern Kosovo to prevent further escalation?

MR MILLER: I think that I will, with respect to that, say that what we think is important is that all the parties immediately work in coordination with international partners to de-escalate the situation, ensure security and rule of law, and return to the EU-facilitated dialogue.

Let me take one more, and then I am going to have to break it off early today because, if you all aren’t aware, we are unveiling the portrait of Secretary Clinton in a few moments, and I want to make sure to get to that. And I know some of you do as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So it’s been nearly a month since the release of the Fukushima treated water, and China’s seafood ban on Japan continues. Reuters released a report today that Russia’s considering joining China in banning Japanese seafood imports due to the possible risks of radiation contamination. Do you have a comment on that?

MR MILLER: We think that would be unnecessary and inappropriate. Scientific studies have shown quite clearly that there is no danger to marine life based on the release of this treated water, and we see these bans as completely unnecessary and with no grounding in science. And with that, I’ll stop for today. Be back tomorrow, and I’ll stay a little (inaudible).

(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)

# # #

Department Press Briefing – September 25, 2023

1:21 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Afternoon, everyone. Don’t have anything to start. I feel like the room is missing something or someone, so – I don’t know. Oh, here it comes. Should I wait? Should I wait for Matt, or does anyone else want to go first while we wait for —

QUESTION: No, no, no, someone else can go first. Sorry about that. Move on.

MR MILLER: (Laughter.) Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have a quick question on Mr. Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations at UNGA last Friday. He showed a map that completely erases the Palestinians. I wonder if you saw the map and I wonder if you have any comment on it.

MR MILLER: I did see it. I’m not going to get into any discussion about the map that the prime minister chose to use. I will say that the President has been clear, this administration has been clear that the United States will continue to support a two-state solution.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t bother you at all that the map shows the Palestinians just evaporated and so on? I mean, isn’t that like a cause for concern, a cause for saying “that’s our position and we state it very strongly; there will be no normalization without it or anything of such” – or just maybe a mishap on part of the prime minister?

MR MILLER: I did just state what our position is. In addition to my just stating what our position is, that we support a two-state solution, the President made it clear in his meeting with Prime Minister Abbas – I’m sorry, Prime Minister Netanyahu – last week that we continue to support a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Well, you mentioned Abbas. Why wasn’t there any meeting between the Palestinian —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry. What was —

QUESTION: You just spoke of Netanyahu and —

MR MILLER: Of Abbas, yeah.

QUESTION: Why wasn’t there any high-level meeting with the Palestinian Authority president?

MR MILLER: They did not request a meeting with us during the UN General Assembly last week. But we continue to engage with the Palestinian Authority and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: (Inaudible) go —

QUESTION: Oh, if you want to stay on this – I just wonder – go ahead.


MR MILLER: Go ahead – go ahead, Matt. No – Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I just want to know if you have anything to say about this Molotov cocktail at the Cuban embassy if you haven’t done it already. I’m sorry I was late.

MR MILLER: No, no, I haven’t. First of all, attacks and threats against diplomatic facilities are unacceptable. We are in contact with Cuban embassy officials, and consistent with our obligations under the Vienna Conventions, the department is committed to the safety and security of diplomatic facilities and the diplomats who work in them. The – our State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service works closely with law enforcement agencies to protect and maintain the security and safety of foreign missions in the United States, and we are doing that now with respect to this particular attack in coordination with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

QUESTION: Okay. And you don’t really have any more – or do you have any more information about —

MR MILLER: I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: Back on Israel?

MR MILLER: No, go – go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go to Nagorno-Karabakh —


QUESTION: — the situation there? Obviously there have been some statements in recent days from the Secretary and from others. But could you comment on the latest attack? I mean, we’ve seen a stream of people fleeing – like Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh. How concerned are you with the situation and the assurances that Azerbaijan has given about allowing ethnic minorities to stay there? Do you take that at face value? Are you confident that that’s the case?

MR MILLER: We are concerned about the situation. I will say that in terms of what we think is important, it’s, number one, that the ceasefire that exists now be maintained, that there is no further military action; number two, that the humanitarian needs of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are addressed; and number three, that Azerbaijan and Armenia reach a lasting peace agreement.

With regard to the humanitarian situation from the ground, the population of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh should be able to remain in their homes in peace and dignity, with respect for their rights and security if they choose to do so. Those who want to leave and return should be allowed safe passage overseen by a neutral, independent third party. And Azerbaijan has a responsibility to protect civilians and ensure the humane treatment of all, including those it suspects of being combatants.

QUESTION: A couple things. The Armenians have called for some sort of international monitoring, whether it’s through the UN or through other partners. Is that something that the United States supports or would work toward?

MR MILLER: We do believe there should be an international mission to provide transparency, reassurance, and confidence to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and the international community, that the rights and security – their rights and security will be protected consistent with the public statements that Azerbaijan has made.

QUESTION: Just briefly following up on that, an international mission, is that something that’s – are there actual discussions on that? Is the U.S. working on —

MR MILLER: There have been active discussions about it. I don’t have any readout of those discussions, but it is – we do – we have called for such a mission some time, and we are working with our allies and partners to secure one.

QUESTION: Sure. Can I just pursue one other thing on this? The – on the diplomatic side, there’s been a war of words of sorts between Prime Minister Pashinyan and the Russians, with the Armenian prime minister saying that Russia failed to protect Armenia, that Armenia should essentially seek other partners, perhaps. Does the United States have anything to say about this? Is – do you think that there was, in the prime minister’s words, a Russian failure to prevent this?

MR MILLER: I do think that Russia has shown that it is not a security partner that can be relied on.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that and —

MR MILLER: Yeah, Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) just on that? Just to pick up from where Shaun left off, Russia responded to Pashinyan, criticizing Pashinyan over recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Do you have any concern about that?

MR MILLER: Any concern – I don’t have any —

QUESTION: Russia is criticizing Pashinyan for recognizing another country’s territorial integrity.

MR MILLER: I think —

QUESTION: And blaming him for this.

MR MILLER: I see the question you’re – I think it gets to the point I was making a minute ago, that Russia cannot be relied on as an international partner. And as it pertains to Russia’s respect for international territory and – or, I’m sorry, territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries, I think we’ve seen by its own actions that it’s not a principle that it holds itself to.

QUESTION: On that line, the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Pashinyan over the weekend, and he also reaffirmed U.S. support for Armenia’s territorial integrity. Do you have any concern on your end that Armenia’s territorial integrity must be jeopardized or they – something is –must be going on that will require U.S. support for Armenia’s territorial integrity?

MR MILLER: I think I would answer that by saying what we think is important is that Armenia and Azerbaijan reach a lasting peace agreement. It’s something that we have pushed for some time – for some time. It’s something that we have said publicly we believed was in reach if both sides were willing to make difficult compromises. Obviously, we have not seen that happen in the last few months. I do note that President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan have announced that they are going to meet next week. We think it’s important that they meet and ultimately bridge the divide between their two countries.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) meetings, the Secretary told us on Friday that he has been in touch with the leaders, highest level, which is right; he called the president and the prime minister. But it struck me that he was in the same building with the foreign ministers for five days and he did not meet with them. Is it a recognition of state of play in the context (inaudible) Azerbaijan —

MR MILLER: You – so the contention is that the Secretary’s engagement with the leaders of those two countries shows a lack of commitment?

QUESTION: I mean, he was in the same building with the foreign ministers, his counterparts, but he did not meet with them. I mean —

MR MILLER: He was in regular conversation with the leaders of those two countries. I think that shows the depth of his commitment to resolving this issue. In addition, Administrator Power and Assistant Secretary – Acting Assistant Secretary Kim are in the region today. I think it’s a stretch to question the depth of our commitment when you see the diplomatic engagement that we’ve had from the most senior levels over the past week. The fact that he didn’t meet in person when he’s talking to leaders of the foreign – to foreign countries, I – it would be a mistake to read anything into that.

QUESTION: Care to expand a little bit on Assistant Secretary Kim’s trip? She going to be in both countries —

MR MILLER: You said the last one was your last question.

QUESTION: But the – (inaudible) —

MR MILLER: I will answer this one, and then I’m going to move on – I’m going to move on to someone else.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: No, they are there to reaffirm U.S. support for Armenia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and democracy, and of course to help address humanitarian needs stemming from the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. Let me —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) come back —

MR MILLER: Let me – let me go – let me —

QUESTION: Matt, I wonder if you —

MR MILLER: I’m going to hold you to that one being the last.

QUESTION: If you wanted to comment on Turkish President Erdogan going to Azerbaijan, given the situation. He’s arrived in this exclave and there’s discussions about transport links between Türkiye and Azerbaijan, which would go through Armenia. Is that something that the U.S. has a view on?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment on that specifically other than to say we have been engaged with the Turkish Government on this issue. It was one of the issues that Secretary Blinken discussed with his Turkish counterpart when they met in New York on Friday. We continue to hope that all of our allies and partners could play a constructive role in reaching a lasting agreement, and that of course would include Türkiye. But I don’t have a comment on a specific proposal.

QUESTION: You said – it came up in – I mean, can you give any more sort of specific on – it came up as in the Secretary expressed a specific opinion, or —

MR MILLER: I’m not – other than him expressing the same opinion that I’ve just expressed publicly here a moment ago.

Jen, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I switch to Niger?

MR MILLER: Of course.

QUESTION: France announced they would withdraw their military forces by the end of the year. Does this have any impact on the U.S.’s posture there? Any moves forthcoming from us?

MR MILLER: It does not change our posture. I will say that the Secretary did meet on Friday with members – with ECOWAS member states to discuss the political crisis in Niger. We continue to call for the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland to release President Bazoum and his family and all the other members of his government who have been unlawfully detained, and to take steps to restore democracy in the country.

QUESTION: Has there been any engagement with the junta since Toria Nuland’s trip there?

MR MILLER: We have ability to get messages to the junta when it is in our interest to do so, but I don’t have any specific conversations to read out.

QUESTION: When was the last time that message was conveyed to them?

MR MILLER: I don’t have that – I don’t know that.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you have any updates on Bazoum’s well-being? Is he —

MR MILLER: We continue to be concerned about his well-being, the fact that he continues to be under detention and has not been released. It’s been a matter that has concerned us for some time. We do have engagements with President Bazoum and have regular conversations with him. And it is that concern for his well-being – that concern for his well-being is one of the reasons why we call for his immediate release.

Go ahead. Oh – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Ladies first.

MR MILLER: No, go ahead.

QUESTION: After you.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you very much. Back on the on the Cuban embassy attack briefly, Matt, the Cubans have characterized this as a terrorist attack. Does the department have reason to agree with that characterization at this stage?

MR MILLER: There is an ongoing law enforcement investigation into the matter, and I think it would be inappropriate to speculate on motives before we know the outcomes of that investigation.

QUESTION: Would you say you disagree with that characterization?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any reason to either agree or disagree without seeing the evidence from that investigation, which is ongoing.

QUESTION: Okay. And then on a very separate topic, understanding that Secretary Blinken met with Vice President Han during UNGA, is there any clarity now on the timing of an expected visit by a Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States?

MR MILLER: No, only that, as we’ve said previously, we do expect him to visit before the end of the year, and we look forward to hosting him here.


QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have one question and one – something with regard to journalism. My first —

MR MILLER: A something – not a question? You typically do questions, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. So the question – my first question is about this transnational murder that has happened in Canada. We have heard several statements from Mr. Kirby, from the Secretary. But from the same podium, when Mr. Kirby was there, I did ask him when President – when Prime Minister Modi was elected PM for the first time, until now when this incidence had happened. And I have continuously raised this issue that it’s not about India, it’s about his leadership and the kind of things that has developed which has led to transnational murder. And the U.S. has played a vital role in providing intelligence.

If you could just give us some further details, any updates, any new developments that you can share with us?

MR MILLER: What I will say is we are deeply concerned by the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau. We remain in close contact with our Canadian partners, as the Secretary said on Friday. We believe it’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. And we have publicly – and privately – urged the Indian Government to cooperate in the Canadian investigation.

QUESTION: And are you aware that this RSS theory has reached towns like North Carolina, Marshall, town halls where there are official members of RSS meeting the officials? Are you aware of —

MR MILLER: I’m not. I’m not sure what reports you’re referring to. I wouldn’t want to comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay. And sir, just – Matt, one thing about journalism is I want to tell you – and I hope Matt Lee helps me out with this too. But at the White House, sir, you – since last eight years, State Department has shown me so much respect. Every time I’ve come here, they always have honored me with giving me opportunity to ask questions. After encephalitis – I don’t know how aware you are – multiple times at the State Department I went. First I was provided a handicapped stool after Tamara Keith had intervened, and Ms. Karine then called me up that I’m sorry after eight months, she tells me that, oh, I found out that you’re handicapped.

So I just have a humble request to at least talk to the State Department that those journalists who come in health conditions, and then their stool gets stolen too, and they’re sitting on a wooden piece of plank, and then they don’t get opportunity. At least State Department can share their thoughts on those kind of journalists, because in these eight years, beside Benjamin Hall, I have not seen any journalist in worse health condition than me. And I hope that you guys can at least raise this question from a journalism point that, come on, respect at least —

MR MILLER: So I will say I am first of all sorry to hear about the situation. I do not know the details that you’re referring to. I am happy to see you here every day at the briefings —


MR MILLER: — and take your questions, as I think I’ve shown in the time that I’ve been here.

QUESTION: You have always.

MR MILLER: And I’m happy to look into it further.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And you’re also wrong. It’s not just Ben Hall; there are others.


MR MILLER: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. The question is about Mexico and Russia. Is the U.S. State Department concerned that Mexico, one of your closest partners, invited Russian troops to take part in its independence day celebrations on September 16th? The Ukrainian ambassador to Mexico expressed her displeasure immediately, but we haven’t heard from the U.S. administration.

MR MILLER: I will say that we did find that to be an odd decision. I don’t have anything further on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Matt. It’s a judicial matter, but it’s a judicial matter that also concerns the State Department, according to this indictment that was unsealed last week about Senator Menendez. There are some damning allegations that say he took some information from the State Department and gave it away to Egyptian businessmen. So is there any kind of concern or when already ongoing investigation in this State Department that the senator, the indicted senator, might have taken some information from the State Department in the past using his position and, again, allegedly sold those information to other foreign governments? Because he’s been very well known to be favorable towards some specific governments over the past years.

MR MILLER: As you probably anticipated, because that – the indictment to which you reference is an ongoing law enforcement matter, I don’t think it’d be appropriate for me to comment on it.

QUESTION: Is there any kind of measure that’s going to be taken by the State Department, like an internal investigation as to what information might have leaked?

MR MILLER: Again, it just wouldn’t be appropriate to me to comment on what very clearly is an ongoing law enforcement matter.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Last week you announced that United States taking steps to impose visa restrictions under the visa policy on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for undermining the democratic elections in Bangladesh. Bangladesh ruling prime minister responded this decision by saying in case of any move to thwart elections from outside, indicating U.S., Bangladesh will also impose restriction on those who will take such initiative. And joining her, foreign minister has said U.S. has given assurance that there will be no sanction before elections. So is that true, and what is your reaction on that?

MR MILLER: I will say, as we have said previously, as we said when the Secretary announced this new policy in May, that this – the purpose was not to take – to take a side in an election in Bangladesh, but to ensure or to support free, fair, and peaceful national elections in Bangladesh. I will say that, as we noted when we announced these new visa restrictions on Friday, they include – they include both members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.

QUESTION: On Bangladesh.

QUESTION: One more on Bangladesh main opposition party gave a 48-hours ultimatum to the government to release their party chairperson and allow her to go abroad for advanced medical treatment, as her medical condition is very serious, and she is under arrest and hospitalized, this 78-years-old former prime minister. So what is your stance on the releasing of the former prime minister?

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on that.

Was there another Bangladesh one?

QUESTION: I have Bangladesh.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Matt. Just one concern: The U.S. ambassador in Bangladesh mentioned 24th September in Bangladesh of inclusion of media person on new visa restriction raised huge concern. Taking into account the imposition on media person, a member of former editor with credential of working with Western outlets expressed concern that such a move runs contrary to uphold freedom of press. Don’t you think this sanction, if applied to media, would undermine U.S. call for stand for human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of press?

MR MILLER: So let me just be clear, because I missed the first part of the question. This is a reference to the —

QUESTION: U.S. ambassador.

MR MILLER: — to the 3C actions —


MR MILLER: — that we announced on Friday?


MR MILLER: And the question is about whether they —

QUESTION: Whether that – that the U.S. ambassador in Dhaka —


QUESTION: — day before yesterday told that it will – there – yeah, it will be applied also on media person.

MR MILLER: I think what we have said, and we – so we have not announced because visa records are confidential – we have not announced the specific members or the specific individuals to which this will apply, but it made clear that they will apply to members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Gabriel Escobar in an interview with The Pavlovic Today told me that Kurti’s letter to Secretary Blinken in which Kosovo prime minister is accusing Lajcak and Borrell of colluding with Russia to have a biased approach towards Kosovo is factually incorrect, and he said that the president of Kosovo also should condemn those attacks on the partners of the U.S. So will you call on President of Kosovo Osmani to denounce attacks on Lajcak and Borrell?

MR MILLER: So you said the deputy assistant secretary gave you a comment on – spoke to you about this earlier today? I don’t think I have anything further to add to the —


MR MILLER: — to those comments that he gave to you.

QUESTION: But you agree with that, yeah?

MR MILLER: He’s speaking on behalf of the State Department.

QUESTION: Okay. So another urgent matter. Violent clashes yesterday in Kosovo. A Kosovo policeman has been killed as well as four – so far confirmed – Serbian nationals. It has been confirmed that two Serbs were killed by a sniper. Given that Kosovo police is partially funded by the United States, will you call for an investigation into potential excessive use of force and police brutality by the Kosovo police force, especially in light of the reported use of snipers?

MR MILLER: So first of all, we strongly condemn the coordinated violent attacks on the Kosovo police. We express deep condolences to the family of the Kosovo police sergeant who was killed in the line of duty. The perpetrators of this crime must be held accountable via a transparent investigative process, and we call on the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to refrain from any actions or rhetoric which could further inflame tensions and to immediately work in coordination with international partners to de-escalate the situation, ensure security and rule of law, and return to the EU-facilitated dialogue.

QUESTION: And in regards in the – the reported use of snipers?

MR MILLER: I have not seen those reports confirmed. I have seen the reports but I’m not going to speak to them as they have not been confirmed as far as – as far as to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Sorry. Can I also check, what you just said just before was verbatim what the Secretary’s statement on this was —

MR MILLER: Correct. That is – that is —

QUESTION: — this morning. So there hasn’t been any change in any —

MR MILLER: There has not. Correct.


MR MILLER: Shannon.

QUESTION: Thank you. With so much attention on the southern border, I was wondering if you could give an update on the Regional Processing Centers the State Department set up. Are those up and running? What kind of traffic are they getting? And is there still hope that that might alleviate pressure on the border?

MR MILLER: We have set up those – a number of those centers, secure mobility initiatives. I’d be happy to get to you with specifics on numbers. I don’t have them at my fingertips at the podium, but I’d be happy to follow up and get you numbers that we’ve seen.


MR MILLER: Guita, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Iran, it seems like the U.S. and Iran are making an attempt at de-escalating tension. Prisoners and hostages have been exchanged. Iran is reportedly enriching less 60-percent uranium. Now, if a possible further step – could it – could it be that if the – an Iranian official who comes to New York for UNGA, given the travel limitations, if he requests to come to Washington, D.C. – for example, the foreign minister —

MR MILLER: For example; just picking somebody out of thin air. Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. Would the Biden administration consider that maybe in a positive light to – as another step to reduce tension, given that there are also reports that they did make such a request?

MR MILLER: I was about to say, you seem to be framing this as a hypothetical when in fact it’s something that happened. They did make that request and it was denied by the State Department. We do have an obligation to allow Iranian officials and other officials of foreign governments to travel to New York for UN business, but we do not have an obligation to allow them to travel to Washington, D.C. And given Iran’s continued wrongful detention of United – or I – for – not continued anymore, but given Iran’s wrongful detention of U.S. citizens, given Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, we don’t – did not believe it was either appropriate or necessary in this instance to grant that request.

QUESTION: And since you mentioned hostages and prisoners, there’s also a report that a U.S. national died in Iranian prison in the past few days. What do you have – what can you tell us about this person? Is he a U.S. citizen, a Green Card holder, or what?

MR MILLER: We have seen those reports. He is not a U.S. citizen, to our knowledge. We have no records to indicate as well that he was a lawful permanent resident. I will say, however, we are still alarmed by the reports that he was denied medical care by Iranian authorities while they were in – while he was in their custody. And we, of course, express condolences to his family.

QUESTION: Did the administration even know of the existence of this person who was – at some point was here in the United States? And —

MR MILLER: Again, he was – he’s not a U.S. citizen, to our knowledge. We have no records that he was a Green Card holder, a lawful permanent resident. As you might imagine, we are not tracking the status of every person in Iranian custody. We’re aware of American citizens who – to whom we provide consular – or to whom we request and provide consular access around the world, and of course, the wrongful detainees whose release we secured last week. But no, we are not tracking every individual who might have lived in the United States at some point who’s been detained in Iranian prison.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. (Inaudible) from Nikkei. I was just wondering if you could comment on the impact of a potential government shutdown on the State Department’s ability to process arms sales, especially to Taiwan.

MR MILLER: So we do have the ability to – well, let me start by saying I don’t want to get too far down into a hypothetical, something that hasn’t happened yet and we hope will not happen and do not believe should happen in any instance. We do have the ability to continue to provide arms to our allies and partners in the event of a government shutdown. That has been true in the past.

But, of course, when you have people at the State Department and at the Defense Department and other places in the government who are not able to come to work, obviously it could affect the pace of delivery – not speaking with respect to any one country, but overall could affect the pace of delivery of weapons, and that’s something that would be of concern. And you can be certain that our adversaries would be watching. And it’s one of the reasons why we think Congress should take steps to keep the government funded.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. The executive director of D.C.-based Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian, made a social media post yesterday in English, where he criticized Armenian prime minister over the situation in Karabakh and the security officer guarding him. In one of the posts this official said, quote, “the moment an Armenian guarding Pashinyan values his soul more than his paycheck,” unquote, which is sort of an appeal for – or encouraging a security guard to take an elected prime minister out. So is it in line with the U.S. democratic values and the law that a director of a prominent lobbying group based in U.S. making such a call? And is it okay that that same director in the U.S. make efforts through social media to overthrow a government and even asks for a use of armed force for this purpose?

MR MILLER: So I haven’t seen the post to which you’re referring, and I’m always hesitant to comment specifically with respect to things that are read to me for the first time at the podium. I want to see the full context, not that – I can imagine what it would be in this instance. But I will say, speaking generally, of course we always condemn threats against government officials or any attempts to overthrow lawfully elected governments.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Do you have any comments with respect to what happened in Canada, in the Canadian parliament on Friday? And in general, what is the U.S. position on glorification of Waffen SS veterans that’s taken place in Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia every year?

MR MILLER: The position on – what was the – I just missed you.

QUESTION: What – with respect to what happened in the Canadian parliament, in the House of Commons on Friday, with the standing ovation to a Nazi veteran?

MR MILLER: I will admit that I was at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in a full slate of meetings and I’m not sure of the report you’re – to which you’re referring. So —

QUESTION: One more question.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in an interview to a Swiss —

MR MILLER: This will be good.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) He said that he – the U.S. Government obstructed him from taking an interview – interviewing Vladimir Putin. Do you have any comments here? Do you know anything about it?

MR MILLER: I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Question for North Korea. It seems like North Korea has allowed foreigners to enter their country from 25th, and I’m just —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry. Enter from where? From —

QUESTION: So North Korea has allowed foreigners to enter their country from the 25th.

MR MILLER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering: Are you expecting diplomacy to DPRK and the approach get, like, more easier to – compared to before?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t say that. I would say that we have always made clear that we welcome diplomacy with North Korea. That has been the policy of this administration since the beginning of this administration, but North Korea has rejected it at every turn.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: There’s so much discussion going on, potential government shutdown. I’m just wondering if the department is considering an exempt for its Ukraine operations, given – so you don’t want your operations getting uninterrupted?

MR MILLER: So that is a legal question that pertains to who is allowed to work during a shutdown and who is not allowed to work. The same answer that I gave a minute ago would apply with respect to Ukraine, which is we are able to continue to provide assistance – military assistance, security assistance – in the event of a government shutdown. But when you have a number of people who aren’t allowed to come to work, that could affect the pace of any deliveries. It’s why we think a shutdown would be so concerning and why we would urge Congress to fund the government.

QUESTION: Thank you. And my last question: A Moscow court last week rejected an appeal request from Evan Gershkovich. Do you have any reaction to that? I know it’s been long ago, but we haven’t seen you for a long time.

MR MILLER: No, I mean, my reaction is the same as it’s been every – in every turn of this situation, which is that we urge his immediate release. We reject the Russian Government’s characterization of him. He never should have been arrested in the first place. He should be released immediately and allowed to return home and be reunited with his loved ones.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got two brief Middle East ones. One, on the – ever since the latest UN Security Council resolution extending the UNIFIL mandate was adopted, there have been questions about whether the administration is changing the previous administration’s policy on recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Can you once and for all answer the question? Is there – are you – is there a change? Are you changing it? Is the language in the resolution regarding Shebaa Farms an indication that something is in the works?

MR MILLER: The – I would not take the language as any such indication. Our policy on the Golan Heights has not changed.

QUESTION: Okay. If you – you would not take the language – so why did you sign on to it?

MR MILLER: We decided it was the appropriate thing to do in this instance, but our policy has not changed.

QUESTION: Is it going to?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any announcements about steps to take.

QUESTION: Should we get into Western Sahara now?

MR MILLER: (Laughter.) Please. I don’t have any announcements to make about steps that we may or may not take down the road.

QUESTION: All right. And then secondly —

QUESTION: Sorry – what is the policy?

MR MILLER: As the Secretary has said, leaving aside the legalities of the question, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security. And as long as Assad is in power in Syria and as long as Iran is present in Syria, there is a significant threat to Israel and control of the Golan remains real important to Israel’s security.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, wait a second. That again tries to split the – split hairs. Do you recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan or not?

MR MILLER: Our policy on that has not changed.

QUESTION: So you do.

MR MILLER: The United – the United States has had a position —

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re talking about – wait, wait, hold on – you’re talking about the policy of the United States that was enunciated by the Trump administration, and that has not changed?

MR MILLER: It has not changed.

QUESTION: But you won’t say Israel has sovereignty over the Golan.

MR MILLER: I – I would speak to it the way the Secretary spoke to it, which is legalities – leaving aside the legalities of the question —

QUESTION: Yeah, but – but —

MR MILLER: I understand, but —

QUESTION: But recognizing sovereignty from the previous administration is a legal determination.

MR MILLER: I understand. As I just said, our policy on it hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Well, then it has, because you’re saying it’s no longer a legal determination. You’re just saying —

MR MILLER: No, I said leaving aside the legalities of the question —

QUESTION: But leaving – yeah, but you can’t leave them aside.

MR MILLER: I spoke to the practicalities of it, but I also reiterated, as we have in the past, that the policy hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: So the issue of sovereignty is not contingent upon sovereignty itself but contingent upon who rules Syria? Is that what you’re saying?

MR MILLER: I was speaking to the —

QUESTION: As long as the president of Syria —

MR MILLER: I was speaking to the practicalities of the situation as the Secretary has in the past, but as a policy matter the United States policy remains the same.

QUESTION: Well, look, can you go back to the – can you go back to your lawyers and find out what exactly it is? Because, I mean, look, the Trump administration said that it was recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. You guys seem to be doing something short of that by saying leaving aside the legal questions, the practicalities are – well, the practicalities in a lot of places are – if we want to get into the Chagos Islands and – there – people from there are here this week too.

And anyway, my second question on this is: Are you still expecting the Secretary to send his recommendation on Israel and the Visa Waiver Program to Secretary Mayorkas in the next day or two?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into the exact timing other than to say that that is a matter that has to be determined by the end of the fiscal year, which I think is this weekend, if I have it correct, so —

QUESTION: It is. It might also be the end of government operations —

MR MILLER: Let’s hope not, but you’re right about the realities of the situation, so certainly we would need to make a determination in the next week or so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Israel?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Israel?

MR MILLER: Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: That mean I’m not going to get any questions —

MR MILLER: Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you – there’s a human rights report on Abu Ghraib 20 years later, saying that there’s been no compensation for Iraqis who were abused there. It might be more of a DOD thing, but is there anything you have to say about whether there’s any process —

MR MILLER: No. I think as you anticipated, it’s a question I’d refer to DOD.

Okay. With that, thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: So President Biden —

MR MILLER: Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)

# # #


Department Press Briefing – September 14, 2023

1:36 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR MILLER: Since the disappointment in the room yesterday when I didn’t have any opening remarks, so —

QUESTION: Oh, now, you have, like, what, 12?

MR MILLER: I – especially since your disappointment, Matt, so today I came prepared.

QUESTION: Twenty minutes in, we’ll get to questions.

MR MILLER: Something like that. Let me start by making some opening remarks on Russia and our support for Ukraine.

First of all, the United States today imposed sweeping sanctions on over 150 individuals and entities in connection with Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine. This action targeted those engaged in sanctions evasion and those complicit in furthering Russia’s ability to wage its war against Ukraine, among many others.

The Department of State designated over 70 entities and individuals involved in Russia’s future energy production and export capacity, including Russia’s flagship Arctic LNG 2 project. The Department also designated numerous entities producing and repairing Russian weapon systems, including the Kalibr cruise missile used by Russian forces against cities and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, and an individual affiliated with the Wagner Group who was involved in the shipment of munitions from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the Russian Federation.

Concurrently, the Department of Treasury imposed nearly one hundred sanctions on a wide range of targets, including Russian oligarchs, officials, entities that support Russia’s war machine, and two additional banks.

In addition to taking these sanctions against Russia today, we are also taking important steps to support Ukraine’s recovery efforts.

We are pleased to extend a warm welcome to Penny Pritzker, former Secretary of Commerce, who was named by President Biden as the Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery. As Secretary Blinken said when he visited Kyiv last week, we are committed to ensuring that Ukraine not only survives, but thrives, and Secretary Pritzker will work to ensure that is the case.

We welcome Secretary – Special Representative Pritzker to her new role and look forward to working with her.

And finally, shifting to Moscow, I want to speak to the fact that today the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed Ambassador Lynne Tracy of the decision to declare two U.S. diplomats persona non grata.

This unprovoked expulsion of our diplomatic personnel is wholly without merit, as is the case against a former Russian contractor of our embassy who was arrested for the supposedly nefarious task of performing such activities as providing our embassy with media clips.

Yet again, Russia has chosen confrontation and escalation over constructive diplomatic engagement. It continues to harass employees of our embassy, just as it continues to intimidate its own citizens. We regret that Russia has taken this path, and you can certainly expect that we will respond appropriately to their actions.

And with that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. When can we expect to see a response?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview that.


MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview that, but we have acted expeditiously in the past in response to such actions by the Russian Federation.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just going – well, I presume that you don’t have anything more to say about this. I mean —


QUESTION: These two were, as far as the U.S. is concerned, were just doing their jobs and not doing anything nefarious?

MR MILLER: They were just doing their jobs, as was the underlying employee who the Russian – the Russian Government arrested some months ago was doing completely legal tasks there in compliance with Russian law.

QUESTION: Have they left yet, or no?

MR MILLER: No, they have not.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MR MILLER: Anything else on the – I’ll stay with this.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: But go ahead.

QUESTION: Have you already summoned Russian ambassador?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to speak to exactly the steps that we are taking to respond, but you can certainly expect that we will do so.


MR MILLER: I’m not going to say when we’re going to take those steps. We will make those clear to the Russian Government, and we will make them clear to you at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: The sanctions on —

QUESTION: I just wanted to – quickly to the sanctions you guys have announced today. There are five entities that are based in Türkiye, and I’m just wondering if you guys – they are entities in Turkish private sector. None of them are government entities, but I’m just wondering if you have given the Turkish Government a heads up ahead of time.

MR MILLER: We often make those – take those steps. I am not aware whether we did at this – in this instance or not. I’m happy to follow up.

QUESTION: Right. Have you received any feedback from the Turkish Government since the sanctions announcement is out?

MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Right. Is the United States at all worried that these sanctions – because they come at this time when your top priority is for Ankara to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, are you at all concerned that the sanctioning of these entities in NATO Ally Türkiye might derail that process?

MR MILLER: Not at all. We have a constructive, warm relationship with the Turkish Government. They are an important ally of ours. The President met with President Erdogan not too long ago and reiterated that fact after the meeting. We continue to work with them to communicate that NATO accession is important for Sweden and should happen as soon as possible, and we take President Erdogan’s assurances that it will happen at great value. And we don’t see these as any way connected, and we don’t see that in any way these sanctions should have any impact at all on that accession.

QUESTION: Same subject?


QUESTION: Same – thank you very much. On the Turkish companies that are being sanctioned by the State Department, so I just looked at a tweet just before briefing, and you said, and I quote, “We imposed sanctions on…those maintaining Russia’s capacity to continue this war, bolstering its ability to remain a global energy power.” But looking at the statistics since the start of the war, the EU – your biggest partner in the war against Russia, let’s say – they purchased more than $160 billion of fossil fuels since the start of the war.

And would you not say the West, the Western companies, these European Union member states, are actually funding the war against Ukraine? Because it’s great, like well done these five companies that have – that were selling like sensors and measuring objects and like to do some shipping and stuff, servicing regarding shipyards. But when you’re looking at the real picture, would you say to Americans that we’re doing everything we can whilst our biggest partners are basically paying billions and billions of dollars to Russia?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t conclude that at all. I would say we have worked hand in glove with our partners in the EU, with the European countries individually, to impose costs on Russia through sanctions and export controls. We recognize that a number of European countries were importing large amounts of Russian fossil fuels before this war began and they couldn’t just turn those off immediately without having their citizens suffer through cold winters without any access to energy at all.

But as part of – but we have seen two things: one, European countries take important steps, as I said, to impose costs on Russia; and two, to start to take steps to wean themselves from Russia fossil fuels, Russian oil, Russian natural gas. We have worked with them to provide them with access to additional American natural gas to fund that transition, and we think those steps have been important and productive.

QUESTION: Well, it’s a fact, isn’t it, that hundreds of billions are still being – those payments are being made to Russia, like half the Russian oil has been transported by Greek ships. Like this is all happening in real time.

MR MILLER: As I said, it is – you cannot ask a country that was wholly dependent on Russian fossil fuel to go cold turkey if it means their citizens are going to have no access to electricity or heating through a cold winter. What we can ask countries to do and we have asked countries to do and have worked with them to do is to take steps to transition from Russian fossil fuels. And I would remind you that a number of those countries in Europe are members of the G7, which has imposed a price cap on Russian oil to ensure that Russian revenues are greatly reduced. And in fact, we’ve seen Russian revenues greatly reduced as the price – as a result of that price cap.

So while we have not wanted to take Russian oil off the market because of the impact that that could have on energy prices worldwide and the impact it would have on energy prices for American consumers, we have taken steps to ensure that while the Russian oil remains available, the price that they are receiving for it and the profits that they receive for it are greatly diminished.

Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the sanctions too, and if I may ask to have the camera on the questioner who’s asking. That’s the only way how we do the live – thank you so much.

MR MILLER: That’s a new one. Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you. Appreciate it. The department designated today —

MR MILLER: I didn’t know we had a – I didn’t know reporters —

QUESTION: Sometimes we do.

MR MILLER: I didn’t know reporters served as the directors of the camera operations in this room.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I usually ask. Sometimes you guys do it, sometimes you don’t, so that’s the only way how I have poof —

MR MILLER: Makes me wonder. Makes me wonder what question’s coming, so go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Appreciate that. Department designated a Georgian Russian oligarch today as part of one of the designations you mentioned. And the guy is Mr. Partskhaladze and a Russian intelligence service officer for influencing Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia. I remind you that Mr. Partskhaladze, this guy who you sanctioned today, served as a chief prosecutor of Georgia for years and has been accused of oppressing opposition voices in Georgia, and he’s one of the cronies of the major oligarch, Mr. Ivanishvili, who controls the Georgian Government from the shadow.

On this note, today’s designation is sought to find recognition by both State Department and the Treasury, recognizing the fact that FSB has close ties with the Georgian Government and operates freely. How this would influence your relations with Georgian Government?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to jump to that conclusion. I will say that we sanctioned over 150 entities and individuals today, and I’m not going to able to speak to – I would say for full details on any of those sanctions, I would refer you to the information that we released and the information that the Treasury Department released. But with respect to 150 individuals and entities, I’m not able to speak to them in detail from this record.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matthew.

MR MILLER: Okay, let’s —

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. As a broad context, this year this has been the second designation of the Georgian nationals. The first four was the Georgian supreme court judges. So in a broad context, how you see the relations with Georgia? Because this is very unprecedented facts if you look at the 30-plus years of diplomatic relations the U.S. State Department had – I mean the U.S. Government had with Georgia. So has any effects on this relations?

MR MILLER: I don’t believe so. I would say that we have always stood in solidarity with the people of Georgia and their desire to be a free and sovereign country with internationally recognized borders. And over the last 30 years, we have become strategic partners working together on our – towards our shared version of Georgia as a fully integrated member of the Euro-Atlantic family, and no individual sanction determination that we make changes that vision of ours or that relationship.

Shannon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. In regards to the catastrophic flooding in Libya, I was wondering if you could give us an update on what the U.S. is doing to support the country in the wake of that tragedy, more detailed than what the President put out earlier this week promising emergency funding.

MR MILLER: Yeah. So I’ll say that the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, has announced an initial $1 million in humanitarian assistance. That’s just a very initial payment to meet the most immediate needs on the ground as we get a disaster assistance response team on the ground, a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team. We have activated one, who will coordinate with the Libyan Government and with international humanitarian partners to identify priority needs and deliver that assistance. And for further details, I would refer you to USAID, who can talk to them.

But I do want to reiterate – as I think it’s important to do whenever we talk about this situation – that we extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of those devastating floods, especially those who lost loved ones and are dealing with the horrific aftermath today.

Alex – no, actually you’ve already had one. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know if the team is on the ground in Libya?

MR MILLER: I would refer you to USAID to speak to specifics.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s a question about Poland. One of the media outlets in Poland informed earlier today that officers from Overseas Criminal Investigations, which is a program run by Diplomatic Security Service, warned the Polish authorities about a new channel of illegal immigration to the United States from India via Poland and via Mexico. Now, supposedly, there was a corrupt cell at the Polish foreign ministry that operated this channel. And again, this is an information coming from State Department, from the Diplomatic Security Service.

MR MILLER: What – and what – just so I know what I’m talking about, what is the source of this information? A public report from —

QUESTION: It is one of the Polish media outlet called ONET PL. And so do you have any comments on this? Can you confirm this?

MR MILLER: I cannot confirm those reports, and as always, I wouldn’t want to speak to private conversations between our two governments.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Switching topics to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. A couple quick questions on the visa waiver. It seems that Gazan Americans are required to document and prove their residency abroad. To the best of your knowledge, is that required of other Americans?

MR MILLER: What I will say about that – so Israel just in the last few days announced new travel procedures for Gaza. I believe it was on Monday of this week. Those new procedures will allow U.S. citizens who are registered on the Palestinian population registry for Gaza to apply for visa-free admission into Israel. As we have said all along, we recognize that there is a different security situation in Gaza, and so there would be different procedures. I – and what I will say about that is that we are going to monitor the implementation of those procedures and make sure that Americans – all Americans – are treated equally in making any determination about Israel’s potential admission into the Visa Waiver Program.

QUESTION: One more question on this issue. There are reports that the determination of whether Israel enters the Visa Waiver Program sits with the Secretary, with Secretary Blinken, including apparently a planned announcement on October 6th. And according to the statute, it’s supposed to be the Secretary of DHS. Can you clarify this or —

MR MILLER: Well, I think we’ll follow the statute – obviously. No, you’re right about what the statute says. The Secretary doesn’t – the decision does not rest with the Secretary. The Secretary plays an important role, but as this – the procedure, the statute lays out is that the Secretary makes a recommendation to – Secretary Blinken, Secretary of State, makes a recommendation to the Secretary of Homeland Security, who makes the final determination. I can tell you that neither of those steps have happened yet. The Secretary has not made a recommendation, and so obviously without that the Secretary of Homeland Security has not made a final determination.

QUESTION: A couple more quick questions. The Palestinian Authority claims that —

QUESTION: Can we stay on the VWP issue?

QUESTION: Sure, Matt.

MR MILLER: Sure, if Said yields the floor.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but it’s just about this line that you just said, that the new Israeli guidelines allow American citizens who are on the Palestinian registry list in Gaza to apply for visa waiver entry, right? That’s what you said, correct?

MR MILLER: Yeah. Correct.

QUESTION: How is that different than getting a visa?

MR MILLER: There are different – the same as —

QUESTION: No, they’re not.

MR MILLER: No, no. There are. Because the same as – there’s the ESTA Program. For – it’s the same as entering America. I know —

QUESTION: This is not something that you apply for, it’s something you register for, okay? Now, what you just said was that, okay, Palestinian Americans who are from or who have family in Gaza who want to go there can apply for it. That’s the same thing as a – that is exactly the same thing as trying to get a visa.

MR MILLER: The procedures – our understanding – so first of all, Israel just announced these several days ago. Our understanding and our expectation of the procedures is that they will not be the same as getting a visa and that they will be —

QUESTION: Okay, well, they won’t. So it’ll just be a formality?

MR MILLER: It will be – there will be —

QUESTION: It will be like ESTA?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to compare a foreign program to our program. I was using that as an example to say that —

QUESTION: Well, but in fact, that’s what the law says. You have to – it has to be reciprocal, right, which means that —

MR MILLER: That – I just meant —

QUESTION: — the U.S. program – that their program has to be the same as —

MR MILLER: — not the exact same technicalities. I meant not the exact same —

QUESTION: Their program has to be the same as the U.S. program as it relates to American citizens.

MR MILLER: Yes, yes. Though we do recognize that there maybe slightly different procedures for going into Gaza because of the different security situation there.

QUESTION: Well, then that’s not reciprocal. If there are slightly different procedures, then that’s not reciprocal.

MR MILLER: But they still have to allow visa-free travel.

QUESTION: There’s just – and I think that even supporters of Israel will recognize that allowing complete reciprocity – in other words, for them to fulfill the criteria that is mandated under the law, the U.S. law – that they can’t do it without sacrificing their own national security interests. And what you just said is that they’re allowing Palestinian Americans to apply for visa waiver entry. But that is – in what world is that not the same thing as forcing them to apply for a visa?


QUESTION: What world is that in?

MR MILLER: So I’m not able to get into the very technical details of what this will look like.

QUESTION: This is not technical? This is pretty easy.

MR MILLER: No, no, no, hold on. I know but let me finish the answer – that Israel just announced a few days ago and that we have only begun to monitor and they have only begun to implement. But our understanding is that this new process for people traveling to Gaza, for residents of Gaza, will not be the burdensome visa – the burdensome process that is involved in acquiring a visa. And again, as we have said – as we have said a number of times – we will monitor it, and if it doesn’t meet our requirements for entry into the Visa Waiver Program, Israel will not be admitted into the program.

QUESTION: Okay. And they have 16 days to prove that, right?

MR MILLER: Correct.


MR MILLER: Correct.

QUESTION: And if they don’t meet it in 16 days, they have to go back and qualify under the —

MR MILLER: Correct.

QUESTION: — visa rejection rate, the visa overstay rate, and everything else.

MR MILLER: Correct, for a new fiscal year. Right.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the claim of the Palestinian Authority that Israel is withholding about $800 million – I don’t know if you’re aware of it – in their tax revenues? Are you aware of that?

MR MILLER: I’ve seen the reports. I don’t have a response to it.

QUESTION: Okay. Because literally there’s —

MR MILLER: I’m not able to verify them.

QUESTION: — going to be a donors meeting, and I’m sure that the United States will be there in New York and so on, and this issue may come up.

My second question, also related to this: Will there be a meeting with any Palestinian official on the sideline of the UNGA, to the best of your knowledge?

MR MILLER: I have not yet announced any meetings by either the Secretary or other members of this department, and we’ll make those announcements in the coming days.


QUESTION: Follow-up?

MR MILLER: Let me go here.

QUESTION: He has a follow-up, though.

QUESTION: Follow-up for Visa Waiver Program?

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So this follow-up on the Visa Waiver Program – given that Gaza is controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas, what are the reasons for the Biden administration and the State Department insisting Israel give unfettered (inaudible) access to Americans heading into or exiting the Gaza Strip in exchange for Israel being admitted to the Visa Waiver Program? And I have a follow-up to the follow-up.

MR MILLER: Wait, what was the question? That we are – you were asking are we insisting that American citizens be able to —

QUESTION: No, the question is – well, I guess basically (inaudible) response – the Biden administration is insisting Israel give unfettered transit access to Americans heading into or exiting the Gaza Strip in exchange for Israel being admitted to the Visa Waiver Program? And the second follow-up question is about —

MR MILLER: Yeah, we – well, I’d say, as I just said, we do expect that American citizens traveling into or out of Gaza be —

QUESTION: Isn’t it the law?

MR MILLER: — treated reciprocally. Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Okay, but —

MR MILLER: That goes – that —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) had nothing to do with creating the visa waiver criteria; that was Congress.

MR MILLER: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. The second part of that is what responsibility for an attack or attacks will the State Department take if someone headed into or out of Gaza exploits this new access and attacks Israeli citizens and tourists?

MR MILLER: I appreciate you coming and asking questions. I do think that’s a bit of an absurd framing of the question. Again, we are talking about American citizens and their ability to be treated without discrimination, which is something that we expect. That said, we do work with Israel to ensure their security. We are 100 percent committed to the security of the Israeli people, and we work with them on a daily basis to ensure that.

QUESTION: There’s a little confusing about – how can American citizens be living in Gaza? What is the prevalence of that in the first place?

MR MILLER: I don’t have the numbers, but there are American citizens that live in Gaza and all over the world.

QUESTION: Just one more on Israel.


QUESTION: There was a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday or the day before in Israel over the transfer of some armored vehicles to the Palestinian Authority. I asked; I did get a very, well, I’ll say lame response —

MR MILLER: That wasn’t – me, was it?

QUESTION: — about – no, it wasn’t from you.

MR MILLER: I don’t – you’re not – my response wasn’t —

QUESTION: But — no, it was —

MR MILLER: At least in this instance, I hope my response is not characterized as lame.

QUESTION: No, (inaudible) we don’t comment on these transfers. But frankly, this is – this would – a transfer of armored vehicles to the Palestinian Authority, while it may be well intentioned and intended to, like, help the PA police areas of the West Bank, there are no details about it. So how many vehicles were there and how much are they worth?

MR MILLER: I do not have those details. I will give one answer you’ll probably not – you’ll reject as lame and then a follow-up answer. One is that we don’t comment on the details of these transfers, which I guess you’ve already pre-emptively rejected. And the second —

QUESTION: Oh, I’m not rejecting it.

MR MILLER: And the second, though, we do —

QUESTION: I’m just saying that it’s not – it doesn’t have (inaudible).

MR MILLER: No, the second thing I was going to say is – the second thing I’d say, which we do not – but we do not provide weapons to the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION: And no one said they were weapons.

MR MILLER: I – yes. Right.

QUESTION: Like, armored vehicles.

MR MILLER: Sorry. We don’t – yeah.

QUESTION: All right.

MR MILLER: Hold on. Leon gave up the floor a minute ago. Do you want to —

QUESTION: Are you finished going —

MR MILLER: Yeah, I – (laughter) – Leon, I remembered your question. You didn’t have your hand back up. I could have lost —

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Very, very different region. I was wondering whether you have any reaction or comment or how you view the fact that Cuba is heading a Group of 77 summit as of tomorrow for two days in La Habana with leaders such as Lula expected, and 30 of such leaders. What is your view on that? And in that context, of course, could you give us an update or readout of the meetings, apparently, that the deputy Cuban foreign minister had with people in this house and any readout —

MR MILLER: People in his house or —

QUESTION: Well, no, in the – at the Department of State.

MR MILLER: You mean people in the State Department, in the State Department. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: And where – or where in fact, if it was actually here or not? I think he also met somebody at the White House.

MR MILLER: Assistant Secretary Nichols, yeah.

QUESTION: But any readout you can have on that.

MR MILLER: So I don’t have any comment on the first question you asked. I will say with respect to the meeting that involved the State Department that you asked about, on Monday, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols met with the Cuban vice foreign minister. At this meeting, Assistant Secretary Nichols and the vice foreign minister discussed human rights, migration, and other issues of bilateral interest, and it follows a number of meetings. We do routinely meet with officials from the Cuban embassy here in Washington.

QUESTION: But not at that level.

MR MILLER: Not at that level, no. I mean, not always someone here, but we do regularly have discussions about those issues.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. And any progress whatsoever on whether or not Cuba should be lifted from the list of state sponsored of – states that sponsor terrorism?

MR MILLER: We have not made any determination that I can report today.

QUESTION: Can I ask on Niger, Matt? What is the latest on efforts to try to restore democratic rule there, and are you guys going to declare this a coup?

MR MILLER: Look, we continue to monitor the situation there. We continue to engage with partners in the region. Secretary Blinken has had a number of conversations over the past weeks both with partners in the region and other countries around the world around this. One of our first priorities is still to secure the release of President Bazoum, his family, and all the members of his government who were unlawfully detained. And I don’t have any update on a determination by this department.

QUESTION: When was the last time anyone from this building spoke with Bazoum?

MR MILLER: I am not aware – I don’t track all of, like, the assistant secretary calls and others, so there may have been one recently that I don’t have at my fingertips. Happy to (inaudible).

QUESTION: What about the rest of the junta? When was the last engagement, when Toria visited?

MR MILLER: Again, because we have an embassy there that regularly conducts its own engagements and the – of course the Africa Bureau conducts its own engagements, I don’t know of the last engagement (inaudible).

QUESTION: And do you know who will be representing Niger at the United Nations next week, and would the U.S. grant a visa to a member of the junta if they were to try to represent —

MR MILLER: So I do not know who will be representing. I will say as a general matter we have an obligation as the host country, the host nation for the United Nations, to grant visas to people who are accredited members who are – who the United Nations has determined are accredited members representing their government. Those decisions – our visa decisions, of course, are confidential, but we do have an obligation to admit people for meetings at the UN.

QUESTION: Even if they’re from a junta that overthrew what you call a democratically elected —

MR MILLER: If the United – if their accreditation is uncontested at the United Nations and the United Nations is welcoming them to a meeting, it is our obligation to provide a visa. Just – I will say a visa for purposes of attending the UN, not for any other purposes of visiting the United States.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. I want to go back to South Caucasus. Three questions, but very quick. Special Advisor Bono is in the region. As I understand, he was in Yerevan today. Do you have any readout for us —

MR MILLER: No specific readout, other than he continues to engage both on the short-term priority, which is to re-open the Lachin corridor, and of course the – our long-term priority, which I – I say long-term, but we really want it to happen as soon as possible, which is to reach a peaceful resolution to the overall matter.

QUESTION: So he’ll be visiting Baku as well, probably?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment on his specific – but if you put a call in to the appropriate bureau, I’m sure they can give you detail.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) So second topic, Gubad Ibadoghlu from Azerbaijan, his case we have discussed multiple times in this room. It came up during today’s congressional hearing. And the impression was that – there was a question about him, but the answer was about quiet diplomacy. Assistant secretary mentioned that she would go back to the senators with more detailed answer. If quiet diplomacy is not working – because he has been in jail for a long time already, his health is deteriorating – my question is: At what point you will start being deeply concerned and ask for his release?

MR MILLER: I have – you have – so I don’t think you should say – you should conclude that quiet diplomacy precludes that we’re asking for his release. I have said publicly from this podium that we urge the Azerbaijani Government to immediately release him. So —

QUESTION: You haven’t. You said —

MR MILLER: I have. I have said –

QUESTION: — that you urged them to respect human rights (inaudible).

MR MILLER: I have said before that we are troubled by his arrest and detention, and we urge his immediate release.

QUESTION: I appreciate that.


QUESTION: My last question, on Georgia – I don’t want to let this question slide, because it’s a very important question for my Georgian colleague. Because this does disclose —

MR MILLER: I love it when we have reporters arguing with me in the middle.

QUESTION: It does disclose here already an important detail about this – how this Georgian (inaudible) government, operates, pushes Russian propaganda. There are multiple examples just in recent history. We all have seen this famous video of Georgian prime minister talking about how Russia started Ukrainian war because of, quote/unquote, “NATO expansion.” Yet he’s able to travel to United States – he was here last month on private trip, taking his son to American school. My question is: Is it fair to expect from the United States Government to go further – not only sanction the formers but a few current officials who push Russian propaganda in Georgia?

MR MILLER: We take sanctions actions when we feel it is appropriate to do so, and I don’t have any to preview at this time.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have one question on Iraq. The U.S. Treasury Assistant Secretary Rosenberg, she was in Iraq and met with the Iraqi officials about corruption and also smuggling the dollar to abroad, especially Iran. Then are you still concerned about the dollar cashflow from Iraq to Iran? And how do you deal with the banks that are still operating with risks?

MR MILLER: So let me say that you’re right, Assistant Secretary Rosenberg was in Baghdad September 12th and 13th. She met with the Iraqi prime minister as well as leaders of the Central Bank of Iraq, Trade Bank of Iraq, the Iraqi Financial Intelligence Unit, as well as representatives from the Iraqi private banking sector. Both sides, recognizing the opportunities and challenges ahead for further improving the Iraqi financial sector, committed to continue working together to take positive steps towards meaningful and lasting reforms that will raise Iraq to international standards and prevent fraud, sanctions evasion, terrorist financing, and other illicit activities.

QUESTION: Then let me do – let me do one more follow-up.


QUESTION: Then do you say that there are still banks in Iraq that trying to smuggle dollar cash flow from Iraq to Iran and Syria?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to make any assessment of that from this podium today.

QUESTION: Matt, thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. So last month the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: You’re next.

QUESTION: — the State Department called on Nicaragua to release imprisoned Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez. First question: Have you heard anything back from the Ortega government on that – on that demand to get him freed?

MR MILLER: So I won’t speak to any private diplomatic conversations, but I will say that we continue to condemn the Nicaraguan Government’s unjust detention of Bishop Alvarez. We are closely engaged and working on this case. We share the concerns of the international community about his well-being. And we continue to call on President Ortega and Vice President Murillo to release him immediately and unconditionally so he can continue his pastoral work. And we will continue to be focused on this case.

QUESTION: And some wonder whether he’s even alive. Do you have any proof he’s alive?

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak to his status. It is our priority, though, that he be released and that the Nicaraguan Government account for his whereabouts and health.

QUESTION: And one on Nigeria, please. Thank you. A – tragic story here. A Catholic seminarian was killed when his rectory was set on fire, just recently. Seminarian’s name was Na’aman Danlami. Why is Nigeria still not on the Countries of Particular Concern list when you – when we see Christians there being killed routinely?

MR MILLER: So two things. One, we do remain concerned by some state governments’ use of – use and enforcement of anti-defamation and blasphemy laws against individuals expressing their freedom of – their beliefs or opinions about religion. We believe that laws prohibiting insults to any religion often reinforce intolerance for differing views. We remain concerned about intercommunal conflicts that at times can take on religious overtones, and the effect of violence against members of the religious community.

But I will say, last November – as part of the department’s annual review of international religious freedom designations globally, where we look at countries around the world – the department determined that the religious freedom conditions in Nigeria did not meet the legal threshold for Nigeria to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern. So while we do remain concerned about the – some of the developments in the country, there’s a legal threshold that in this case we just did not find was met.

QUESTION: And finally, Nagorno-Karabakh. One U.S. lawmaker recently wrote a letter to President Biden saying, quote, “The United States must recognize this genocide and act accordingly to save as many lives as possible,” end quote. What is the State Department’s message to suffering Armenian Christians?

MR MILLER: That we want the Lachin Corridor to be opened immediately. We have made that clear. Secretary Blinken has engaged with the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to make it clear that we want the Lachin Corridor to be opened immediately to address the really dire humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

QUESTION: How much time do you think these people have?

MR MILLER: Go ahead – I don’t have any further – go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Matt, today the UK, France, and Germany officially announced that they’re going to keep the nuclear nonproliferation measures against Iran in place, which it also includes arms and missiles embargo, after the JCPOA transition day on October 18th this year, and that they have jointly notified the coordinator of the JCPOA. The U.S. does have its own sanctions against Iran. Is the Biden administration talking with other countries about this subject, keeping these missile – the arms sanctions in place once they expire in October?

MR MILLER: We are coordinating closely with a range of allies and partners, including our E3 and EU partners on their transition day plans, and we’ll consider additional counter-proliferation efforts going forward. We have imposed a number of sanctions, as you referred to in your question, on Iran, and of course will not hesitate to continue to do so in the future if appropriate.

QUESTION: One more question.

QUESTION: Well, what’s your reaction to the E3 saying that they will not go for snapback but they will transfer some of the UN sanctions that are due to expire on the 18th of – and I was wrong yesterday; I said the 8th, but it’s October 18th —


QUESTION: — that they will make some of sanctions national sanctions?

MR MILLER: I would say that we are working closely with our European allies, including the members, of course, of the E3, to address the continued threat that Iran poses, including on missiles and arms transfer, with the extensive range of unilateral and multilateral tools that are at our disposal. And we will continue to work on that as we lead up to the so-called transition day and, of course, thereafter.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but I mean, do you think it’s a good thing that they’re doing this?

MR MILLER: We are in close contact with them about what the appropriate —

QUESTION: That’s fine. But I mean —

MR MILLER: I know. I —

QUESTION: What do you mean you’re in close – I mean, that – okay. Of course you’re in close contact with them. You’re in close contact with them every day about any number of things. I want to know if you have an opinion, if the U.S. Government has an opinion on what they announced today.

MR MILLER: I will say that we are going to continue to coordinate with them on what the appropriate next steps are, but I’m going to keep our conversations with them private.

QUESTION: Well, no – okay, well what do you think – forget about the conversations, what do you think is the appropriate – what are the appropriate next steps?

MR MILLER: I think we should continue to hold Iran accountable, but I’m not going to preview what the next steps might be.


QUESTION: So you’re okay with transition day and the UN sanctions going away with no snapback?

MR MILLER: I think you have to remember, of course, that those are not the only sanctions that we have on Iran and that our allies and partners have on Iran, and we’ll continue to work with our allies on what other steps are appropriate to take.

QUESTION: No, but if the UN sanctions – if the arms embargo is lifted, as it will be on the 18th of October, right, everything that you’re talking about in terms of, like, transfers of weapons to and from Russia for use in Ukraine or elsewhere are no longer – they’re no longer covered.

MR MILLER: I will say there’s some time between now and October 18th, and we’re going to —

QUESTION: Yeah, there’s just a month.

MR MILLER: Long time in government – in government time, and we’ll continue to work with them on the appropriate steps in response to that day.

I – we’ve had – Guita was still – I think had a follow-up before.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. In two days will be the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death while in the custody of the morality police in Iran. Recently her father has been – is being harassed. He’s been threatened not to make the anniversary a big thing, not to talk about it. They have forbidden him from doing interviews. Any comments on this?

MR MILLER: Yeah. First I’d say this is reportedly the fourth time in the last two weeks that the Iranian regime has summoned Mahsa’s father for questioning. The regime continues its relentless intimidation of her family and the families of slain protesters, but the regime cannot intimidate the people of Iran into silence. The world is watching its treatment of these families and the ongoing intimidation of journalists and abuse of peaceful protesters, and we will continue to watch it closely and take whatever steps are appropriate to respond to it.

QUESTION: Follow-up. Follow-up.

MR MILLER: Let me just —

QUESTION: Follow-up.

MR MILLER: All right, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Just, I mean, following up on Guita’s point about Mahsa’s anniversary, just a few days ago you announced a hostage deal that basically left behind three U.S. other cases – Jamshid Sharmahd, Afshin Vatani, and Shahab Dalili. Today the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress heard that the deal does nothing to halt further hostage taking and it allows the regime to divert resources intended for humanitarian purposes to security forces, missile program, and proxy groups, plus it undermines the international sanctions regime. Now, does the United States really stand with the Iranian people, or are your statements of support just paying lip service to the brave Iranian people who are fighting for democracy?

MR MILLER: So there was a lot there. Let me say a few things about it. One, all of the money that Iran would obtain access to under the terms of this arrangement are funds that Iran already owns. Under the terms of the arrangement that would be – that would allow the release of five American citizens, Iran would only have access to these funds for humanitarian purposes, so for purposes of food, medicine, and other things that do in fact benefit the Iranian people and not the regime.

With respect to the overall question, I – look, there were five American citizens who were being wrongfully detained in Iran. The Secretary believed, the President believed that we needed to do everything possible to get those Americans home. That’s what we are trying to do. It does not mean there are not other people in Iran who we are trying – whose release we are pressing for. There does not believe – there are other people in Iran who we believe are not being harassed and intimidated by the Iranian Government. It does not believe that we endorse all of Iran’s other actions on a range of activities. Of course we don’t. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for the actions to repress its own people; we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its actions to destabilize the region.

But when it comes to the decisions you have to make in this department, sometimes you have to make the decision of whether you want to leave these five Americans in prison under horrible conditions without access to their families – one of them had been in jail for over eight years – or do you want to bring them home. They’re not perfect choices sometimes. They’re not easy decisions. But we have made the decision that we want to bring those Americans home.

QUESTION: Do you have an end date on the —

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Oh, Michel, go ahead. Sorry.

QUESTION: On the prisoner swap, when will it happen?

MR MILLER: I do not. Not as – only thing I’ll say is what I said the other – not this week.

QUESTION: The funds, do you know if they’ve made it to Qatar yet?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to give an update on where those funds are in their transit from South Korea to the ultimate bank in Qatar.

QUESTION: Follow-up on those —

MR MILLER: No, let me go to some other people that haven’t – nice try, Alex.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for (inaudible) National News (inaudible). I have a question about the planning meetings between American and Kazakhstan delegations during the summit of the United Nations General Assembly, including within the framework of the C5+1 platform. Could you tell about the agenda, and what key issues will be discussed?

MR MILLER: So I will say that the C5+1 is an important framework. The Secretary held a meeting at the ministerial level of the C5+1 some months ago, but we’re not ready at this point to announce any meetings at the United Nations.

Go ahead, and then we’ll do – we’ll wrap up.

QUESTION: Does Secretary Blinken plan to raise the issue of Black Sea Grain Initiative during the High-Level Week next week at the UN?

MR MILLER: I would say that he raises the Black Sea Grain Initiative in just about every – I sit in a lot of his meetings with his foreign counterparts, and it comes up in just about every meeting, because it doesn’t just affect Ukraine, but it affects really every country around the world, especially those countries that have suffered most from Russia’s continued bombing – its continued blockade of the Black Sea and its continued bombing of ports and other facilities where Ukraine is shipping grain to nations that really depend on it.

With that, we’ll wrap —

QUESTION: Oh, well, l got – let me just ask one more, and this has to do yesterday with the Bahrain meetings. Did human rights questions come up at all during the discussion? I – they weren’t part of the MOU that was signed, but as you know and as you have commented on before, there are several people who are on hunger strike in Bahraini prisons for crimes that critics of the Bahrain Government say are ridiculous, are without standing. So was this something that the Secretary raised?

MR MILLER: It was. He raised human rights concerns and made clear that human rights are a pillar of our policy across the Middle East and North Africa, and then I’ll answer – I got asked a question about one specific human rights case yesterday that I couldn’t answer because the meeting was ongoing.


MR MILLER: But I can confirm today that yes, the Secretary did raise Mr. al-Khawaja’s case.

QUESTION: Okay. And – but even though there hasn’t been any positive response – or maybe there has been. Has there been a positive response from Bahrain?

MR MILLER: I can’t speak to the – a private —

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so assuming, then, that there hasn’t been, you went ahead and signed the MOU anyway.

MR MILLER: Look – yes, we believe that, as is true with a number of our countries —

QUESTION: Okay. So human rights is not actually the primary foreign policy —

MR MILLER: As is true with a number of countries, we have the ability to work together on things where we can advance cooperation but still raise where we have concerns.

QUESTION: Okay. Was that the only specific case that was raised?

MR MILLER: I don’t – I’m not aware of other specific cases.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR MILLER: All right, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)

# # #


Department Press Briefing – September 13, 2023

1:41 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: I want to go back to the Iran stuff that you were talking about yesterday, and the assertion from the administration that billions of dollars in escrow accounts had been sent back or withdrawn by Iran during the previous administration without any restrictions at all. Do you have any more —

MR MILLER: Yeah. What I’ll say is so after the previous administration withdrew from the JCPOA and re-established or reactivated these accounts, they did not set up any procedures to give the U.S. Government either visibility or oversight into how the money was being spent. Now, look, that wasn’t required by law. But we have decided —

QUESTION: Well, it’s not – it was, wasn’t it? Or —

MR MILLER: No. It wasn’t required by law that they set up – that they set up —

QUESTION: Yeah. But it was required by U.S. law, by law that was signed by the President, several presidents, that, I mean, money in these accounts be spent on – for only humanitarian purposes.

MR MILLER: It’s not – well, no. That’s not quite accurate. It could be humanitarian or other nonsanctionable activity. So there are two —

QUESTION: Well, okay.

MR MILLER: Two points. So they could – two points. One, the Iranians could —

QUESTION: So they could buy some Snickers bars, okay? Not humanitarian, but —

MR MILLER: Nonhumanitarian, other nonsanctionable activities. But I think the larger point I was making, without direct visibility and without a mechanism for oversight, you are largely asking to trust the Iranians, which is not something that we are willing to do for a number of reasons, which is why, when we were setting up these accounts or setting up the regime for these accounts in Qatar, we were setting up visibility and oversight mechanisms so we have clear visibility into how the money is being spent and have the ability to oversee it and take action if it’s being spent for nonhumanitarian measures.

QUESTION: Yeah, but – okay. So I’m still pressing for details about how many billions were taken out of India and Türkiye and Japan and South Korea that the Iranians were able to spend on – willy-nilly.

MR MILLER: So we don’t have perfect visibility into this question because of the situation I just outlined, which is we don’t have visibility into the accounts and how they were being used.

QUESTION: So you don’t know.

MR MILLER: We do – well, let me just say we do have information that has led us to conclude that they were spent down by billions of dollars, in some cases all the way to zero. But we do not have perfect visibility about it.

QUESTION: In which cases were they spent all the way down to zero?

MR MILLER: I don’t have specific details on that.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s my understanding that, in fact, these countries, particularly India, South Korea, and Japan, were well aware of OFAC restrictions on the escrow funds, on the funds that they were holding in escrow, and would not give the Iranians anything unless it was specifically approved and sent through either the failed European INSTEX exchange or then the almost-failed Swiss humanitarian channel.

MR MILLER: Two things.

QUESTION: Is that – is that incorrect?

MR MILLER: First of all, those aren’t the only countries. China is another country that had one of these accounts. I – but it was —

QUESTION: Well, you know what? When was the last time the Chinese, like, obeyed U.S. sanctions or respected them?

MR MILLER: That’s my point.

QUESTION: No. I’m talking about countries —

MR MILLER: I know. And I’m about to —

QUESTION: India had the largest amount with the exception of maybe China.

MR MILLER: And I’m about to get to that.


MR MILLER: I can’t speak to the other countries’ procedures. But what I can say is from our perspective, we think it’s important that the United States Government itself have direct visibility and direct oversight of these transactions, which is why we insisted on it as part of these negotiations.

QUESTION: Okay. And so your direct transparency, your direct visibility into the accounts that still are in South Korea, Japan, India, Türkiye – how much are left in those?

MR MILLER: (Inaudible) we do not have direct visibility. We do not know with any sort of fidelity.

QUESTION: Well, the idea – you just said your whole point was that they – you want to have —

MR MILLER: With the account that’s being – that we want to have with the account that’s being set up in Qatar.

QUESTION: That what you did when you came in was to get direct visibility, and now you’re telling me —

MR MILLER: We are getting – no, no. We are getting direct —

QUESTION: — that you don’t have any visibility.

MR MILLER: No, that’s not what I said. I’m saying we are able to get – set up this new account in Qatar. We are able to set it up under rules that allow us to have direct visibility into how the transactions are being – how the money’s being spent.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I’m talking about – but the claim that was made on Monday and Tuesday was that when this administration came in, you set up these specific rules and restrictions on what – on how these funds being held in escrow could be used so that you would have direct visibility into it. And now you’re saying that the previous administration allowed billions of dollars to go to Iran without any restrictions on them, but the visibility that you say that you got three years ago you don’t have —


QUESTION: — because you can’t tell me or Treasury can’t say how much or – I guess we could go to India, Japan, China, and Türkiye and ask them. I don’t know that they’ll tell us. But if you don’t know how much is left in these accounts for sure, you’re just guessing, aren’t you? And saying that they’ve all been depleted?

MR MILLER: It is not just – it is – in some cases we have very low visibility. In some of the cases we have better visibility, which leads us to believe that billions have been spent, and in some cases we believe down —

QUESTION: Okay. Well, where’s the better visibility and how much is left in those accounts?

MR MILLER: Down – that’s what I said. I’m not —

QUESTION: And how much did the Iranians get out —

MR MILLER: That’s what I said.

QUESTION: — during the previous administration? Well, if you can’t say that, how can you make the – I don’t understand how you can —

MR MILLER: Because there is some information that we have available to us with good fidelity, and that’s what I’ve been able to provide, and others that we don’t.

QUESTION: Well, with good fidelity – what does that mean? That you suspect that someone emptied the bank account?

MR MILLER: No. It means that – the statement I —

QUESTION: Like, I could have a bank account —

MR MILLER: We can see that they’ve spent down billions.

QUESTION: — at M&T Bank, right, and draw it down to zero. And you should be able to tell, or someone should be able to tell, if it was at zero or not, right? Why can’t you tell – I don’t understand.

MR MILLER: These are not accounts held in the United States.

QUESTION: I know, but —

MR MILLER: We do not have perfect – so we do not have perfect visibility into them.

QUESTION: What – India is a partner. Japan and South Korea are treaty allies of the United States. How do you not know how much is left in these accounts?

MR MILLER: And I said with respect to some accounts, we are able to see. Not – I do not have all of those details available. With some accounts we do not have perfect visibility. What we can see is that billions of dollars were spent down without any U.S. Government visibility or oversight at the time that money was being spent.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand how you can say that without knowing how much is in the accounts.

MR MILLER: We have a variety of ways to gather information.

QUESTION: So do – so do I. (Laughter.) And one of them is talking to former administration officials who say this never – one of them is talking to former people who were in office during the time that what you say happening – was happening, and they say it didn’t happen. And they say there was only a very small amount that was sent to Iran, and it was for humanitarian purposes, and it was through mainly the Swiss humanitarian channel, which only succeeded in apparently one or two small, very small, transactions in the tens of thousands of dollars. And then there was also INSTEX, which completely failed and didn’t do anything. So I don’t – I’ll drop it, but —

MR MILLER: I’d take their claims, but that is just not the information that we have.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just (inaudible) Iran, or could I switch topics?

QUESTION: If I may —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Go ahead, Shaun.

QUESTION: Switching to North Korea, actually, with Putin and Kim Jong-un meeting. I know there have been comments on that previously, but can you say particularly if there’s – the Russians are talking about satellite cooperation, what would that mean? How much of a concern is that in terms of the implications for North Korea’s program and for Russia’s military?

MR MILLER: I would say it is troubling when you see the Russians talking about cooperating with North Korea on programs that would violate UN Security Council resolutions that Russia itself voted for. Now, we obviously don’t – we haven’t seen the full manifestation of this meeting yet or what the full outcomes of this meeting will be, but when you see the two – when you see Kim Jong-un vowing to provide full, unconditional support for Russia’s so-called “sacred fight” to defend its security interests, which of course is not what it’s doing with respect to the war in Ukraine, that of course is troubling. When you see what looks to be increased cooperation and probably military transfers – as we’ve said for some time, we have reason to believe they were going to discuss military transfers – that is quite troubling and would potentially be in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: When you say “potentially,” I mean, one of the things that they mentioned is on the satellites specifically. I know you said you don’t have the full manifests of what’s going on.


QUESTION: But in terms of what – I mean, the United States has said that the satellite program that North Korea has is used to develop ballistic missiles.

MR MILLER: Ballistic missiles, exactly.

QUESTION: Is that a concern, that Russia could be actively promoting, improving the North Korean ballistic missile —

MR MILLER: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s why I – that’s why – that was what I was referring to in my reference to the multiple UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea’s ballistic missile program which Russia itself voted for and now could potentially be violating.

QUESTION: Could I just – one more.


QUESTION: I mean, just in terms of the consequences, I think Jake Sullivan himself has said that there is a potential for – just to put words into – a potential for sanctions, for further actions on this. What is the United States looking at? I mean, is there the potential for some action on the basis of this?

MR MILLER: So we’re going to watch very closely what comes out of this. I spoke to this somewhat the other day. We’re looking at – I will say there are two different – there are possibilities of weapons flowing two different ways here, right? So with respect to either direction, we would watch very closely and be concerned, and will not hesitate to impose sanctions if and when it’s appropriate.

And then I want to speak specifically for a second about the idea of North Korea providing weapons to Russia, which I spoke to the other day but I don’t think you were here. One, just the overall context, and one thing it’s important to restate again, that a year and a half ago Vladimir Putin launched this war thinking he was going to restore the glory of the Russian empire, failed in all of his maximalist, imperialist aims, and now a year and a half later, after losing tens of thousands of Russian soldiers and spending billions and billions of dollars, here he is begging Kim Jong-un for help. So it says something about the overall context of how this war is going for Russia. And with respect to what any outcomes might be, we have taken a number of entity – actions already to sanction entities that have brokered arms sales between North Korea and Russia, and we won’t hesitate to impose additional actions if appropriate.

QUESTION: Thank you. I —

QUESTION: May I just follow up on —

MR MILLER: Let me – she raised her hand. Go ahead. We’ll get to you, Said.

QUESTION: Thanks. Has there – has there been any interaction between U.S. officials and Chinese officials on this matter, given it would likely be a concern of Beijing if Russia were to provide nuclear technology to —

MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of. Not aware of any specific interaction. But the meeting just happened today, so I wouldn’t rule it out. And we are – we do have somewhat regular engagements with Chinese officials going forward. We have – I will say that Secretary Blinken raised North Korea’s nuclear program and North Korea’s ballistic missile program in his engagements with Chinese officials when we were in Beijing, and we’ve regularly raised that in our conversations with Chinese officials because – we think because of the close relationship that China has had with North Korea, that if they’re willing to play a productive role, they’re able to and they have some influence with the regime in North Korea. So I would anticipate we would raise it, but I’m not aware of any specific interactions that have taken place.

QUESTION: And will Blinken meet with whoever the Chinese delegation leader is at UNGA next week?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any specific meetings to announce yet, but stay tuned over the course of the next couple days.

Janne, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Two questions on North Korea. North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the Eastern Sea yesterday ahead of the North Korea-Russia summit. What do you think is the intention behind this?

MR MILLER: So I won’t speak to their intentions – always tough getting in the mind of that regime in particular – but I will say that the United States condemns the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launches, as we have condemned their previous ballistic missile launches. The launches are in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and are the latest in a series of launches that pose a direct threat to the DPRK’s neighbors. They undermine regional security. And our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad.

QUESTION: President Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are further strengthening their military cooperation at the talks. How will the United States choose a diplomatic or military approach to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile issues in the future?

MR MILLER: We have always made clear that we are ready for diplomacy, are open to diplomacy, would welcome diplomacy with North Korea to address our concerns about its nuclear weapons program. And to date, as I believe you’re well aware, they have shown no interest in such diplomacy.

QUESTION: So you still expect to dialogue with North Korea? Dialogue is still open?

MR MILLER: I – did you say I expect it?

QUESTION: Yeah, expect.

MR MILLER: I do not – based on their behavior over the last two and a half years, no, I would not expect them to engage in diplomacy with us, just based on how they’ve reacted for the first two and a half years – over two and a half years now – of this administration. But the door always remains open from our side.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: I was just curious as to why you guys insist on using the term “begging,” like he’s going cap in hand, while in fact it is the North Korean leader who is visiting Russia. Russia’s a vast country; he’s invited him and so on. And according to what we know, most of North Korea’s equipment – I mean military equipment – is basically Russian-made. But why the term?

MR MILLER: I don’t think that, at the beginning of this war, Vladimir Putin would have anticipated that a year and a half in he would having to be scrounge – he would have to be scrounging around —

QUESTION: But he —

MR MILLER: Said, let me finish – he would have to be scrounging around the world, including with international pariahs like Kim Jong-un, asking for assistance and potentially in return having to provide assistance to the DPRK that would violate UN Security Council resolutions that Russia itself voted for. So, I mean, you can use whatever word you want to characterize it, but I will stand by the words I used.

QUESTION: It could be scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of thing. That’s not begging, is it?

MR MILLER: I stand by my characterization.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Michele.

QUESTION: On Bahrain, on the meetings that you just had, this human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja – I’m sorry; I’m butchering her name – is heading back there to raise the profile of her father’s case. I wonder if the Secretary raised that in his meetings today.

MR MILLER: The meeting is ongoing right now as we speak, so I can’t speak to, obviously, what happened in a meeting that is ongoing. But we do regularly raise human rights concerns with countries around the world, including specific human rights cases. The Secretary regularly does that as part of his engagements, but, again, I don’t know what’s happened in a meeting that’s going on right now.

QUESTION: And one other human rights – human rights question. Has the administration decided what’s going to do with aid to Egypt?

MR MILLER: We have not made a formal determination as of yet, but I think, as you know, the deadline for that is approaching relatively soon.

QUESTION: Could we just follow up on Bahrain?


QUESTION: I know you said it’s ongoing, but in terms of what was signed today, what in substantive terms will change with the U.S. relationship Bahrain? I mean, the Fifth Fleet is already there. The Secretary spoke about intelligence cooperation. What changes after today (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: So two things – one – or three things: First, as you note, we already have a substantial security relationship with Bahrain. What we believe this agreement represents first – or second, I guess, if I made the first background point – a new framework to enhance cooperation across a wide range of areas, from defense and security to emerging technology, trade, and investment. We believe it’s the latest manifestation of that enduring commitment that we’ve shown to Bahrain and to the region in support of peace. And then I think the last point I would make about it is that this is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Bahrain, but we see it as potentially the cornerstone for cooperation among a broader group of countries that share mutual interests and a common vision with respect to deterrence, diplomacy, and escalation.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have a Ukraine-related question, but before that I want to go back to Iran, if I may. We discussed in this room yesterday – also today, Kirby also mentioned that if Iran violates the – let’s say the deal – we will just lock it down, so we will not send that funding. It goes back to Matt’s question. Do you – can you please give us the timetable, the transaction process? What’s it going to look like? How many tranches will be sent – 6 billion will be divided. And at what point you will be able to weigh in? And do you have established mechanism to lock it down?

MR MILLER: I am not going to get into the exact details of the transactions as they move from South Korea, through banks in Europe, ultimately to these end accounts in Qatar. But we expect in the coming days or so that the – that that money will move ultimately to the final destination in Qatar. With respect to the mechanisms that are available to us, we have complete visibility into these accounts and have the ability to lock them down if we see Iran attempting to take actions that are in violation of this agreement and in violation of our sanctions. I’m not going to get into what the exact technical details are, but we have the full agreement to stop their access to this account going forward.

QUESTION: Thank you. While we’re on Iran, MAHSA Act just passed Congress yesterday. As you know, it demands the administration to sanction Iran’s human rights violators, particularly leaders of Iran. Do you find it appropriate that – I know that it’s not a law yet so (inaudible) Senate side and the presidential signatures necessary. But Congress already have expressed its will. Do you find it appropriate that right when Iranian people are going through this painful process, this first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder – do you find it appropriate the butcher of Iran will not only be allowed to enter – to enter the United States territory, but also will be welcomed by local human rights – local NGOs such as Council of Foreign Relations, led by former administration officials? How appropriate is that?

MR MILLER: So I will just say that, as has been longstanding precedent, has happened under – going back really since the UN was founded and based in New York, we have an obligation as the host country to admit representatives of other countries no matter what we think of those countries’ policies. And that has long been the case as our obligation of the United Nations.

With respect to the president of Iran being hosted at a thinktank in New York, I won’t speak to that in particular. They’re obviously an independent organization that can make their own decisions. But I would say that when any organization hosts such a figure with a long history of spreading mistruths and saying the things that are – that – making claims that are not accurate, we would just urge them to watch very carefully what he says, make sure they hold him accountable, make sure that their members have full access to truthful, accurate information. And I would expect that they would do that.

QUESTION: And the fact the —

MR MILLER: Go – one more, and then I’m going to move around.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. The fact the bill passed the House, will that change your calculus on your end in terms of sanctioning Iran’s supreme leader before it becomes a law?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to preview any specific sanctions designations.

QUESTION: Please come back to me later on Ukraine.

MR MILLER: What – let me go to Olivia —

QUESTION: The previous – the answer that you gave just prior to that was about Raisi speaking at CFR?


QUESTION: So back in the previous administration, there had been restrictions placed on Iranian diplomats going to New York, which limited their movements to between their mission or residence and the UN itself. Now, recognizing that Manhattan is not exactly a huge area, still CFR is outside of what the range – what the perimeter had been for them before. I recognize that shortly after this administration took office, you guys rescinded those restrictions. But there are people who are saying that they should be re-enacted, particularly since the election of Raisi, which happened after that. Is there any consideration being given to going back to the previous administration’s restrictions on Iranian diplomatic movements?

MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of. Not —

QUESTION: No? And then secondly on Iran, at the UN, I believe it’s October 8th that the – under the JCPOA, which is on life support – if it still can be said to be on life support – the UN arms embargo will be lifted. And there’s a growing call – bipartisan call – in Congress for there to be a snapback of sanctions, something that the administration has opposed. Are you prepared now to change your position, or are you still thinking it would be okay for the arms embargo to be – to disappear?

MR MILLER: Matt, let me look into that. I’m not focused on – with things that have still a month to go before we get there. It’s a fair question, and I’ll just have to look into an answer.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, maybe you should be focused on it because —

MR MILLER: I – a number of topics I deal with every day at this briefing. And typically —

QUESTION: I know. I know. Well, so —

MR MILLER: My time horizon can typically be shorter than a month on things I’m preparing for.

QUESTION: So do all of us. We have – we (inaudible).

MR MILLER: Yeah, I understand. Olivia, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. What can you tell us about the purpose and circumstances of Ambassador Tracy’s visit with Paul Whelan? Has that meeting already happened? Was it at our request? Is there a readout of the visit overall?

MR MILLER: Sure. So Ambassador Tracy did meet with Paul Whelan earlier today. It was a consular visit. We believe Paul continues to show tremendous courage in the face of his wrongful detention. Ambassador Tracy reiterated to him that President Biden and Secretary Blinken are committed to bring him home. You may recall Secretary Blinken had a phone call with Paul Whelan around a month ago – a little under a month ago – where he delivered that same message to him that we are working very hard to bring him home and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Separately, but maybe relatedly, can you confirm these reports that have emerged that Russian interlocutors have specifically raised the case of Vadim Krasikov in potential prisoner swap negotiations?

MR MILLER: I cannot. And I will say, as we have said a number of times, we have found that when it comes to our efforts to bring home these wrongfully detained Americans, the substance of negotiations and what we’re trying to do to bring them home and any specifics, it’s oftentimes not helpful to our effort to speak to those publicly, so I can’t do so here.

QUESTION: Absent from concrete conversations about his case, is his case something that the U.S. would consider in a potential swap? And if so, have you raised it with the (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to – I’m not going to speak – obviously, we have shown that we are willing to make tough decisions, because we believe it is so important to bring Americans home. But that is a general statement. I don’t want to speak to any specific individual that might be detained in the U.S. or in another country. So.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I wanted to ask about – regarding Mexico. What can President Biden do to stop the sex trafficking of children coming across our border from Mexico, especially in the state of California? And I have a follow-up.

MR MILLER: Well, we have obviously – let me try to speak to what this department’s work is, which is to counter human trafficking. And we have taken a number of steps to do that. But with respect to specific border operations, I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally, what is the Biden administration response to the Sound of Freedom movie that highlights the international child sex trafficking problem? It’s a horrific problem.

MR MILLER: I’m not familiar with that specific movie. Obviously, as I said, we’ve taken a number of actions to counter child trafficking around the world, but I wouldn’t want to comment on that specific movie.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. The Kurdistan Regional Government in a letter has appealed to President Biden and this administration to intervene in a deepening crisis between Erbil and Baghdad. They also urged the administration to mediate between Erbil and Baghdad for their disputes. How do you (inaudible) request and letter? And will you mediate or increase your engagement between Erbil and Baghdad to overcome these disputes?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to discuss diplomatic correspondence between the President and the KRG. But I will reiterate, as we did in the February U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee in Washington, that we continue to urge the Government of Iraq and KRG officials to resolve their budget disputes in a manner that benefits the Iraqi citizens, as the Iraqi constitution requires.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. You had told me to ask the ambassador of the U.S. in Islamabad, so I asked him about his meeting with the election commission chief. He did not answer. He just sent me the press release back, which he had issued in August, that U.S. wants to see fair elections being held and stuff like that. But what hurt me Matt – and you are in the position to answer that – but when I asked him that: Mr. Ambassador, do you think since last one year the relationship between human-to-human relations of America, and Pakistan towards America – do you think it has improved or it has decreased? If I can’t even get an answer for this much question, then what is diplomacy about?

MR MILLER: I will answer the question this way, as I have said, I believe, before in answer – in response to similar questions, that Pakistan is an important partner of ours. And we greatly value the relationship between our countries, both between our two governments and the people-to-people connections.

QUESTION: Matt, one question about Afghanistan. Pakistan and Afghanistan are having border issues on Torkham since last few days. Thousands of people are stranded. What is the U.S. position on that?

MR MILLER: Obviously, we would encourage those two governments to work together to resolve that issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Let me – I’ve got to – I’ve got to get to other people in the room.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul has requested testimony from three Biden administration spokesperson, including our dear friend Ned Price, on the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Will state encourage Price testimony before the House Committee?

MR MILLER: So we obviously are in receipt of that request. Chairman McCaul has asked for interviews with a number of officials from the State Department and has asked for a number of documents. We have been – we have provided hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of pages of documents with respect to his inquiries in this regard. We will continue to push to cooperate with his committee to provide the information that it needs. We have already provided interviews with a number of officials and will continue to so as appropriate and when appropriate, balancing the House’s need to get information that it needs to do its job with our ability to protect certain privileges that the Executive Branch holds. But I wouldn’t want to speak to any potential interview other than to say that we’ll continue to work through these questions with the committee.

QUESTION: Sir, the chairman committee also claimed that these administration spokesperson misled the American people during the run-up to the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, painting a far rosier picture than the reality on the ground. So my question is, are these spokesperson or you are responsible for these statements that he’s referring? Because, I mean, are you just doing your job or – or somebody else is responsible for these kind of statements?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to get into that in detail other than to say I was not here inside the government at the time. But I do believe what the government has said at a number of occasions is that the situation changed very rapidly in a way that that could not be anticipated.

QUESTION: Sir, one last question. Sir – president of Pakistan —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: So – go – go – hold – everyone chill. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR MILLER: One more, and then we’ll —

QUESTION: The president of Pakistan proposes November 6th as election day, as according with the constitution, elections should be held in 90 days. But election commission of Pakistan said it is not able to hold elections in that short notice. Looks like another constitutional crisis in Pakistan. Your thoughts on that?

MR MILLER: As we do with countries around the world, we urge Pakistan to hold a free and fair – free and fair and timely elections, and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. And we urge Pakistani authorities to move forward with the electoral process in a manner consistent with Pakistan’s laws, as we do with countries around the world.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accord that was so famously signed on the White House lawn. It called for a Palestinian state by 1998. Of course, that date has gone. The situation is a lot worse today. Settlements spreading – now, you’re fully aware of what’s going on. And I’m wondering whether the time has come to really pull the plug on these accords, and perhaps pursue something entirely different, maybe less loftier goals or something that can – the United States can lead.

MR MILLER: So we don’t believe so. We continue to focus on our efforts on affirmative and practical steps that could promote a negotiated two-state solution, but at the same time we believe it’s important to advance equal measures of freedom and dignity as a means to advance further a negotiated two-state solution.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the elements or the components for a two-state solution are there, are still there? It can be done?

MR MILLER: I believe that it is important to – let me refer to something the Secretary said when he was asked – or when he spoke to this in a speech in December of 2022. He spoke to this exact when he said, “We know…at this moment the prospects of a two-state solution feel remote, and that may be an understatement to some,” as I believe you would agree with those remarks based on what you said. “But we are committed to” providing – or “to preserving a horizon of hope…[and] that means holding firm to the values that have anchored the friendship between the United States and Israel across countless transitions in government in both of our countries.”

So the two-state solution has long been United States policy, and it continues to be our policy that we will push for, and we believe it’s important to do so.

QUESTION: So why not, if you’re still committed to the two-state solution ultimately, why not recognize a state of Palestine saying that we would like to see this state of Palestine on such and such land, this land that was occupied or a portion thereof, and so on, and in the meantime, these things ought to be negotiated among the parties?

MR MILLER: We don’t believe that would be a productive step at this time.


QUESTION: So just —


QUESTION: You talked about the Secretary saying that in December 2022. Since – since he made those comments, children who were not even conceived yet have been born. Do you think you’re further away or closer today to a two-state solution?

MR MILLER: I don’t think I want to make a judgment about further or closer, other than to say, again, it remains our policy and something we regularly push for in dialogue with officials from the governments.

QUESTION: And then secondly, and I don’t think you’ll have a lot on this, but the case of Elizabeth Tsurkov, who is this Israeli Russian citizen who’s been being held in Iraq but who has connections to the U.S. – do you have anything more on that?

MR MILLER: I don’t. I’m happy to look into it further and see if there’s more.



QUESTION: Just a quick question on the visa waiver. May I just —


QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Is the U.S. still committed to ensuring Israeli adherence to the principle of blue is blue prior to admission of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program?

MR MILLER: I will say that we are – if by blue – you’re referring to blue passports? Is that what you mean? We are —

QUESTION: Yes, blue is blue. I mean, that’s what they call – you guys call it.

MR MILLER: We are committed to the principle that all American citizens be treated equally, yes.

Can we work some of the – go ahead, Shannon.

QUESTION: Is it still the case that Morocco has not put forward a formal request for U.S. assistance in the wake of the earthquake?

MR MILLER: I do have an update on conversations with the Government of Morocco and our actions with respect to relief efforts in Morocco. One is that the United States Agency for International Development has deployed a small assessment team to Morocco to liaise with local responders assessing the situation and identifying humanitarian needs; and second, that we are exchanging specialized technical expertise through the United States Geological Survey and we continue to be further in close consultation with the Moroccan Government on how the U.S. can best support their efforts to provide a humanitarian response to this tragedy.

QUESTION: Have they rejected any U.S. offers of assistance at this point?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t frame it that way. I would frame it that we are in discussions with them about what we can best provide to support their efforts.

QUESTION: So can I get a quick follow-up?


QUESTION: The USAID statement is talking about $1 million in support. Does that mean, like, to local groups or to people on – there? It won’t be Americans?

MR MILLER: I would refer to USAID for the specifics on how that money will be used.

QUESTION: Could I stay in Africa?


QUESTION: Mali. There was an attack today purportedly by Tuareg separatists. Generally speaking, I mean, what’s the concern level about the – a new flare-up of violence in Mali? And the departure of the UN peacekeepers and the presence of Wagner there, to what extent are those factors?

MR MILLER: We continue to be concerned both with the situation on the ground in Mali and with the presence of Wagner, or whatever you call the remnants of Wagner after the death of Yevgeniy Prighozin. We believe that they’re a destabilizing force in a country that did not need further destabilization.

I’ll go – go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. So last weekend, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made some comments on kind of what precipitated the war in Ukraine, and I’ll just quote him here: “President Putin declared in … autumn of 2021, and actually sent a draft treaty that they wanted NATO to sign, to promise no more NATO enlargement. That was what he sent to us. And [it] was a precondition [to] not invade Ukraine. Of course we didn’t sign that.”

So I’m just wondering – there were also some remarks by counselor Blinken last year that the U.S. —

MR MILLER: Secretary Blinken?

QUESTION: Sorry, Secretary Blinken.

MR MILLER: I didn’t know if you meant Counselor Chollet or – but I misspeak enough that I am not faulting you for having done so, trust me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So, but Blinken apparently expressed a similar sentiment. So I’m just wondering, in hindsight of what has transpired in the war, whether that decision was worth it, and maybe what was behind that decision.

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to what were private diplomatic conversations. I will reiterate what we said at the time, which was NATO has an “Open Door” policy and we are not – we were not willing to compromise NATO’s “Open Door” policy, nor do we believe it is appropriate to compromise the NATO “Open Door” policy, nor is NATO in any way a threat to Russia. NATO was a – is, was then and is now – a defensive Alliance. We always made clear in the run-up to that war that we were willing to engage in diplomacy with Russia. The Ukrainians made clear that they were willing to engage in diplomacy with Russia about legitimate regional security concerns. But we were not going to compromise one of NATO’s founding principles, and I certainly don’t believe NATO was – or that Ukraine – or I won’t speak for them – NATO – Ukraine did not want to seem to want to compromise their own right to determine their future as a country.

QUESTION: And could I just get one quick follow-up?


QUESTION: So when you weigh that, one is weighing that “Open Door” policy with the horrible consequences of the war, which Stoltenberg – Stoltenberg cites as one of Russia’s primary negotiating points. And then two is: Do you not see any security concern, even if it is a defensive Alliance, a security concern with NATO has a – NATO members often hold U.S. military assets on their territory? So is there not a concern from not wanting that on your border if you’re kind of one of our adversaries like China or Russia?

MR MILLER: I will just say I think you might be being – with all due respect – a little too incredulous with respect to your treatment of statements reported and offers reported to be made by Vladimir Putin. What we believe and what we believe has borne out – and some of the reason we believe this is because what – it’s what Vladimir Putin said himself – is that he has never believed Ukraine was a legitimate country and he always wanted to restore Ukraine – not restore, he wanted to make Ukraine a part of Russia. He’s said that openly. His actions indicated that’s what he’s – he believed. And that’s what his actions today continue to show he still believes.

Go ahead. No, go on. I’m going to work around. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Just real quickly, do you have any comment on the appointment of Ms. Kamikawa as the new foreign minister of Japan, and are there any plans set for Secretary Blinken to speak with her?

MR MILLER: I’m sure he will speak with her in the coming days, as he regularly does when new foreign ministers are appointed. The U.S.-Japan relationship has never been stronger. It is a – our alliance is a cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and across the world. Our government has had an excellent working relationship with the previous cabinet, and we fully expect close coordination on bilateral, regional, and global issues to continue with the new cabinet.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. China yesterday appointed a new ambassador to Afghanistan and the Talibans’ regime. I would like to ask you what’s your reaction and whether the United States will take such a step in the near future or not.

MR MILLER: I don’t have any reaction to the Chinese – the Chinese Government’s decision to do that, and I don’t have any announcements to make with respect to what we will do.

Alex, go ahead, and then we’ll finish off.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions on Russia’s annexation policy you just were talking about. G7 today came up with a statement on sham elections, condemned the action of President Putin.

MR MILLER: The Secretary put one out last week as well.

QUESTION: The Secretary also put it prior to the election, and he also pledged that there will be sanctions against individuals who take part of it, which raised high expectations. Are they too high at this point?


QUESTION: When should we expect sanctions?

MR MILLER: I never preview those, but those elections only close I think on Friday, and today’s Wednesday. So it takes some time to put these things into effect.

QUESTION: So G7 statement is not enough, so – I mean it’s not your, let’s say a final —

MR MILLER: I am not going to announce or preview any sanctions – you’ve probably gotten used to hearing me say this – any – preview or announce any sanctions decision determinations before they are made.

QUESTION: Fair enough. Now that sham election is over, we have seen Russia is stepping up more with its annexation strategy, bullying other countries – in this case Azerbaijan – for not recognizing Russia’s, quote/unquote, “territorial integrity” by condemning – or not respecting, let’s say, the elections. Do you have any reaction?

MR MILLER: Look, Russia has proved through a number of actions in recent years that it is not a neighbor you can really trust on to be a peaceful, tranquil, stable neighbor that respects territorial integrity and sovereignty, and I would think every country in the region should be aware of that.

QUESTION: The fact that they are going out and talking about their territorial integrity by pitching Ukrainian territory to other countries, that’s what I’m talking about.

MR MILLER: Yeah, I did, and I stand by the comment I made. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:24 p.m.)


Department Press Briefing – September 12, 2023

1:20 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. Nice to see a smile. I don’t have anything. Matt, you want to start us off?

QUESTION: All right, sure. Can you explain exactly what the waivers the Secretary signed on Friday —

MR MILLER: Sure. So the waivers that the Secretary signed on Friday that were notified to Congress yesterday were to effectuate the transfer of funds from accounts in South Korea, Iranian funds that had been held in accounts in South Korea, through accounts in Europe, ultimately to accounts in Qatar, where they will be available for use for humanitarian transactions with strict Treasury Department oversight, and ultimately they’re to, as we said before, effectuate the release and bring home five American citizens who have been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you explain why these waivers were necessary? Because it’s my understanding that the administration did not believe, and had told the European banks even though they were extremely leery of being involved in any kind of conversion of money or transfer of money, and they didn’t want to do it. So is that why the waivers were finally granted and why it took so long? This deal was announced back in – over a month ago.

MR MILLER: It’s a good question; let me explain it with a little background context, which is that – I think you’re aware of all of this, but some others may not be, which is the 6 billion –

QUESTION: I am aware of it, and I know the answer.

MR MILLER: I know.

QUESTION: But the fact of the matter is that no one in the administration has spoken to the record on this – we’ve got —

MR MILLER: Exactly, which is why I want to explain it at length.

QUESTION: And I want to get into the NSC comments from last night too.

MR MILLER: That there were $6 billion that were held in these funds; the previous administration set up these accounts or allowed these accounts to be set up so countries could purchase Iranian oil. The money would then go into these accounts. Iran has always been able under the regime set up by the previous administration to access the funds in these accounts. And in other places, we saw them spend down the funds in these accounts, funds that – accounts that were set up for purchases of oil, for example, from – in India or Brazil, and under the previous administration were spent down with no restrictions at all.

When this administration took office, we put restrictions on these accounts to ensure that they could only be used for humanitarian purposes. However, a number of banks, despite the assurances we had given, did not want to allow – did not want to participate in transactions related to these accounts. So it was necessary to – for the Secretary to make these waivers to allow the transfer of money from these accounts, through bank accounts in Europe, ultimately to Qatar (inaudible).

QUESTION: So why did – why did it take so long, then, for you guys to come around to deciding that, okay, this isn’t going to happen unless we actually do the waivers?

MR MILLER: I would just say this has been a complicated process from the beginning, as you can imagine, dealing with all of the moving pieces and dealing with this – dealing with moving this money from accounts in Korea where it had to be converted into euros, ultimately to a supervised account in Qatar.

QUESTION: Right. But if, as you say, under the previous administration – and I’m going to take a little bit of issue with that momentarily – but if, as you say, Iran was able to spend down money in similar accounts that have been in – set up in Brazil and India, why were there not the same concerns by – from banks?

MR MILLER: In the previous – so I’m not going to speak to why banks were willing to participate in the previous administration. We did make a change at the outset of this administration where we made clear that these funds – the funds in these accounts could only be used for humanitarian purposes.

QUESTION: Okay. And are you suggesting that the previous administration allowed Iran to spend down money in these restricted accounts for nefarious purposes, or for purposes other than humanitarian assistance?

MR MILLER: I will say that we don’t know what they were used for, because we can find no record of how these funds were spent down. Certainly not that they were required to be – what we can – what we can say is that they were not required to be spent only for humanitarian purposes, and we can’t tell what they were used for.

QUESTION: Okay. And once this money gets to the bank in Qatar, even though you say that it’s restricted for use for humanitarian goods, items only, does that not allow – or does that not free up $6 billion from Iran’s treasury, from its internal accounts, that they might otherwise have to spend on the same humanitarian items and now they can spend it on, I don’t know, arming the Houthis or supplying Assad with stuff, or even with sending drones to Russia?

MR MILLER: No, and here’s why. I think it’s important to remember that our sanctions regimes – with respect to Iran, and with respect to the country – to all of the countries where we impose sanctions – have always contained exceptions for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian purposes. That has always been the case, that was the case with these accounts. It was difficult to transfer these accounts for the reasons – the money from these accounts for the reasons that we just went into. But it has always been Iranian money in accounts that were – was available to them for humanitarian purposes if they could be able to use it.

QUESTION: I don’t —

MR MILLER: But let me just say one other thing, which is I do recognize that there are tough choices involved here, and the Secretary has been forthright about this. He’s been upfront about this; the President has been upfront about this. There are always tough choices involved in bringing home American citizens, but we – the President and the Secretary have decided that their first priority is to bring these American citizens home, and that’s why we agreed to this arrangement to do that.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re not suggesting that somehow these restrictions impact fungibility of these funds.


QUESTION: You’re not. So —

MR MILLER: I don’t – wait, I don’t know what you – say that again. The —

QUESTION: So if I have – if I have one dollar —

MR MILLER: Oh, I – they —

QUESTION: — and I give it to you, and that means that you have another – that a dollar that you have in your wallet you can use to spend on anything you want and you don’t have to worry about the dollar that I gave you, right?

MR MILLER: So where that analogy breaks down: No one has given Iran a dollar here. These are Iran’s funds. These are Iranian money.

QUESTION: I’m not suggesting that they’re not.

MR MILLER: But you just said “if I give you a dollar.” I’m saying —

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if I give you a dollar out of an Iranian account that I have stashed aside someplace, then they’re able to spend the dollar on something else other than humanitarian funds, correct? And the other thing that I would take issue with – and especially these White House talking points, which are just disingenuous to the extreme; I mean, they must be intended for people who did not follow the whole JCPOA negotiation – is that the – if you give – let me start again.

There is no suggestion by anyone, even the critics, unless they’re completely uninformed critics, that this is U.S. taxpayer money, and that is one – no one has said that that I’m aware of, and if they have, then it’s wrong. No one is saying that. So that is like a straw man argument that you guys knock down all the time, saying this isn’t U.S. taxpayer money, it’s not coming out of the account. But the other thing is – is that when you say that they drew down —

MR MILLER: Can I interrupt? I hesitate to ask to interrupt because you interrupt me all the time –

QUESTION: No, go ahead.

MR MILLER: I don’t really mind it.


MR MILLER: It is not a straw man argument only in that if you perused Twitter last night, you will find a number of elected officials who talk about how the United States is giving Iran money, which we are not doing; it is Iran’s money. So there are people who are – claim that we are giving money, and we cannot give something that is not ours.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but you’re making it easier for them to get it.

MR MILLER: I’m taking issue with the specific words. You referred to it as a straw man. There are people who have made that —

QUESTION: Well (inaudible) suggested that it’s U.S. taxpayer money, but anyway, neither here nor there.

And then secondly on this one, when you say that the previous administration allowed Iran to spend down these accounts, you don’t know what it was spent on and you can’t account for any of it, so how do you know that they did?

MR MILLER: The – we can see that the accounts have been spent – other account, not these South Korean accounts, but the accounts in – for money that was purchased by other countries have been spent down. They were spent down without restrictions requiring them to only be used for humanitarian purposes, and we cannot see what they were spent for.

QUESTION: But do you know – how much was that?

MR MILLER: I don’t know off the top of my head. We may have that number. I’d be happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: In an interview with NBC this morning, President Raisi suggested that Iran – this is – these are Iran’s funds, that they can decide how the money’s spent, whether that be on humanitarian goods or whatever it is that the Iranian people need. Why do you think that he’s under that impression?

MR MILLER: Well – so, follow up a little bit what I just said to Matt, that may have been the policy under the previous administration, where these accounts were allowed to be spent for purposes that we cannot track. It is not the policy of this administration and it is not the arrangement that will be in place here. I understand why the foreign minister may need to say – may need to make those remarks, but the facts of this arrangement are when this money arrives in these accounts in Qatar, it will be held there under strict oversight by the United States Treasury Department and the money can only be used for humanitarian purposes, and we will remain vigilant in watching the spending of those funds and have the ability to freeze them again if we need to.

QUESTION: But what do you say to critics who are looking at this and saying this is a pretty clear, direct payment for the release of hostages? Is there any change in policy as far as willing to pay a ransom?

MR MILLER: So I will say two things about that. Number one, again, when you refer to it as a payment – again, this was Iran’s money in accounts in South Korea that has always been – they have always been legally allowed to use for humanitarian purposes. So the United States is not giving Iran anything or is not paying Iran any amount of money.

But the second thing I will say is I see a lot of what I will call kind of false choices and maybe wishful thinking – is probably – “wishful thinking” is probably too benevolent a way to describe it – by some of the critics of our work to bring American citizens home. I see people all the time that will say, “Of course I want to bring these American citizens home, but I don’t think that the United States should allow this transaction to go forward.” Iran is not going to release these American citizens out of the goodness of their heart. That is not real life. That is not how this works. That was never going to happen. We have to make tough choices and engage in tough negotiations to bring these American citizens home. There were five American citizens who have been jailed under brutal conditions, one of them for more than eight years, and the Secretary and the President decided that we need to do everything we can to bring them home, and that’s what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Appreciating all of that, does it remain U.S. policy that you will not pay ransom for hostages?

MR MILLER: It does.

QUESTION: Let me follow up on that.

MR MILLER: Yeah, let me – Humeyra had her hand up, if you —

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Just want to ask an update on where we are on the unfreezing of the funds. I mean, is it 80 percent complete, almost complete? Just trying to get a sense of the timeline that was said weeks – like, weeks ago.

MR MILLER: The – I’m not going to get into specific details, other than to say that the funds are in the process of being transferred to their ultimate destination, which is – are these accounts in Qatar. They are not there yet, but we are in the process of transferring them there.

QUESTION: Okay. And based on that —

QUESTION: Well, not “we.”

MR MILLER: That we – that we – you’re right. Thank you for the correction. They are in the process of being transferred there.

QUESTION: And based on that, when would you expect the swap, the actual swap, to take place?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any announcements to make about when that will occur.

QUESTION: Right. And I just want to sort of follow up on something that you just said. You said the U.S. will have the ability to freeze Iranian funds, transfer to Qatar, if necessary? Is that —

MR MILLER: Correct.

QUESTION: Is there going to be some sort of a criteria for that? And —


QUESTION: — you’re going to be monitoring it throughout what period? Can you talk a little —

MR MILLER: The criteria is that these funds, when they are deposited in these accounts, can only be spent for humanitarian purposes, so the purchase of food, the purchase of medicine, the purchase of other humanitarian products. The Treasury Department has strict oversight over the use of those funds. We have visibility into how they are used, and we have the ability to police their use.

QUESTION: Right. And one more thing. I know you guys have kept saying these are two separate tracks, like we’re not – we’re not in a place with – to revive JCPOA and all that. But if this all goes just fine, what is next for U.S.? Are you going to – are you thinking about trying to revive the nuclear talk, one way or the other?

MR MILLER: I think what’s next ultimately depends on Iran and what it’s willing to do. These are separate matters. This has been a policy we have pursued or an action we have pursued to free these five wrongfully imprisoned American citizens. Separately, we do remain focused on constraining Iran’s nuclear program, constraining its destabilizing behavior. We remain committed to ensuring it never obtains a nuclear weapon.

And the reason I said it’s up to – to some extent to the actions by the Iranians, you just saw the remarks from the director general of the IAEA yesterday, who said that Iran is not cooperating with the IAEA in a satisfactory way. So if Iran wants to – I mean, we have always said that we welcome diplomacy and would be open to diplomacy to seek a resolution to Iran’s nuclear program. But if you just look at their actions and the fact that they are not fully cooperating with the IAEA, that’s a sign that they are not taking those steps they need to at this point.

QUESTION: How many nuclear weapons does Israel have?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that? Can you – would that explain from what you just said why the – apparently the U.S. would not support a resolution in front of the IAEA condemning the non-cooperation of Iran?

MR MILLER: I think I said we don’t have any specific action to preview today about what the IAEA may do. But you should expect us to coordinate with other members of the board of likeminded nations who share our concern with Iran’s nuclear program to once again call on Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA.

QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s our understanding that you would support some sort of common declaration or what have you, but not a resolution per se, as the —

MR MILLER: I don’t want to speak to what exact form or actions with the IAEA or what actions the IAEA may take other than just what I said, which is you should expect to see us working with other members who share our priorities to clearly express that Iran should cooperate fully with the IAEA.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow up. Going back to this question on Raisi, when he said that we will be spending the $6 billion, quote/unquote, “Wherever we need it.” Do we understand it correct that he was lying? Somebody’s lying.

MR MILLER: I’m not going to characterize his remarks that way, other than to say what I said before, which is the funds that are in those accounts in Qatar can only be spent with strict oversight by the Treasury Department and only for humanitarian purposes.

QUESTION: What if we find out that they did sponsor – we have been talking about how Iran being destructive in the region, how they have been sponsoring Russian war in Ukraine. If you find out that Iran has been continuing by using $6 billion that you said is not yours, but is Iranian people’s money, not the Iranian Government’s money, what are you doing to do?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to try to get into hypotheticals. I mean, again, I don’t think you should take this action as anything other than the United States doing everything it can to bring home five wrongfully imprisoned Americans. We will continue to take all the steps that we have taken, that we continue to take, to constrain Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of existing sanctions on the Iranian Government and on various entities inside Iran. We will continue to impose sanctions when events warrant that.

Bless you.

But in this instance, we decided it was important to bring these American citizens home, and if we see Iran acting in ways that do not comply with the arrangements that are agreed to in this transaction, we will take actions to ensure that those funds cannot be spent for anything but humanitarian purposes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: And my last – my last question on this —

QUESTION: Oh, sorry, Alex.

QUESTION: Yeah, of course. Just —

MR MILLER: One more, Alex.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, five Americans you mentioned – can you assure us that you have done – since the agreement was announced – everything you could not to – let’s say to extend this number from five to seven? As you know, there are two American persons left behind, and there have been back-and-forth negotiations going on. There was a meeting in this building. You tried everything but you failed. Is that the case?

MR MILLER: I – I won’t go where I was going to go. This was a deal to bring home these five American citizens, and we are proud of the actions we have taken. And we look forward to seeing their release; we look forward to seeing them reunited with their families, their loved ones. We, again, do note that there are others who are detained in Iran whose release we worked to secure. That is an ongoing priority for the State Department.

Abbie, go ahead. I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: One more on Iran. In advance of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death, President Raisi also issued a threat to protestors, warning that they would pay a big cost for sowing instability in the country. Does the State Department have any response? And given these discussions over the prisoner release, what are you doing right now to help protestors on the ground there?

MR MILLER: I will say those comments are particularly offensive coming when they do, the week of the anniversary of the protests last year, the one-year anniversary. And I will say that we will continue to support the Iranian people. During the – at the height of the protest last year, when we were providing internet access to the Iranian people when it had been shut down by the Iranian Government, as many as one in three Iranians used U.S.-supported anticensorship and digital security tools. We held accountable those responsible for Mahsa Amini’s death, and we will continue to do so. And I would call on the Iranian Government to respect the rights and wishes of its citizens and not stifle their voices.

QUESTION: Coming back to the transfer of the money, can you say that all of the funds are out of the South Korean bank accounts and are in Qatar? Are they in process? Realistically, how long will it take for the money to get to this custodial bank account?

MR MILLER: They are not all in Qatar yet. I don’t want to speak to where along the process they are, other than that they are in the process of being transferred, and I wouldn’t want to put a timetable on it. I would say, just for your planning purposes, you should not expect to see any movement in terms of the American citizens being released this week.

QUESTION: In terms of once the money is verified to be in the custodial bank account, what is the timeline then for Iran to release the five Americans? What is the process for the U.S. to release the five Iranians reportedly going to be sent back? What’s the process here?

MR MILLER: Again, I don’t want to get into exact timetables, other than to say it is our top priority that those Americans not spend any extra day or minute or hour than is necessary – no time is – they shouldn’t have been imprisoned in the first place – but we want to get them home as soon as possible. So as soon as we can effectuate their release, we will do so.

QUESTION: Do you – are you prepared to say that the Iranians being held here in the U.S. are not going to be put on a plane until the U.S. knows that its citizens are on a plane to Doha?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to speak to the exact logistics of it at this point.

QUESTION: And then my final question: How worried is the U.S. Government about this deal – about this whole process falling apart?

MR MILLER: I will say this is not a country with whom we have the most trusting relationship to understate matters. So it’s a process we are monitoring very carefully. It’s why you have seen us always be measured in the way (inaudible) described this, since it was first reported several weeks ago. Nothing is final here until we see those Americans having left Iran. But we are hopeful that that will happen, and we continue to work to make it so.

Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just say – just one more and it’s very – it’s your contention that this money that was frozen and – or that was being held in South Korea could always have been used by Iran for humanitarian purposes. Is that correct?

MR MILLER: That is true under sanctions now. It has – it was difficult to do so. It’s hard to find banks to conduct those transactions in a number of cases. But under the rules, the law, the legality of our sanctions, that’s true.

QUESTION: Well then why didn’t it happen before?

MR MILLER: Well, the point I just made is that it’s difficult to find banks that are willing to engage in those transactions.

QUESTION: Okay. So when you have – when you – unless you guys grant a wavier?

MR MILLER: Correct. Correct.

QUESTION: So this whole thing about we’re not giving it, we’re not – I mean, you’re doing every – you are unblocking it, basically. You’re telling international banks in these European countries and in Asia and in the Middle East that you’re fine, go ahead and do it. So the idea that you don’t have anything to do with it is —

MR MILLER: I did not say that and would not say that. We are, of course, taking steps to effectuate the transfer of these funds, these Iranian funds. However, the point I take issue with – to give something it must be something that’s yours, and this is not our money. This is Iranian money.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if you didn’t give the waiver – sorry, grant the waivers – then they wouldn’t get the money.

MR MILLER: I’m not disagreeing with that. Although it’s their money in the first place, they wouldn’t have access to it for – they wouldn’t be able to effectively —

QUESTION: All right. Well, we had the same argument back – we had the same argument back in 2016, so —

MR MILLER: History repeats itself.

QUESTION: One question.

MR MILLER: Michel, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any guarantees from Iran that it won’t detain any U.S. citizen in the future?

MR MILLER: I would say that guarantees from Iran about how it will behave in the future is not something that we typically put a lot of stock in. This is a deal to secure the release of these five American citizens. We continue to have concerns about all of Iran’s destabilizing activities, and we will continue to monitor and take action to constrain those activities in the coming months and in the coming years.

QUESTION: Also Iran. Israel accused Iran on Monday of building an airport in southern Lebanon to be used as launchpad for attacks against Israelis across the border. Any comment on this matter?

MR MILLER: We have seen the reports and are monitoring them, but I don’t have anything to add.

QUESTION: One more question. Has there been instances where the U.S. Government has mistakenly placed individuals on sanctions list? And would the U.S. Government be willing to publicly acknowledge and rectify a mistake if it were to – like, to reverse the sanction on individuals that were in error?

MR MILLER: I don’t know how to answer a blanket question like that. Obviously, if we make mistakes, we try to correct those. If you have a specific case you want to bring up, I’d be happy to take a question on that. But with a broad question like that, it’s hard to know how to answer. But —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) have U.S. urged the Lebanese Government to elect a president? We’re over 11 month now. There is no —

MR MILLER: We have.

QUESTION: — president in Lebanon. Give me an example. What have you done to pressure Lebanese Government to elect —

MR MILLER: I have spoke – you’re not someone that’s at the briefing every day, but I will say I have spoken to this on a number of occasions and have spoken about the fact that senior members of this department have made phone calls to members of the Lebanese Government and have traveled to the region to press that exact case.

Anything else on Iran before we move on to other stuff?


MR MILLER: Just – let me just —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR MILLER: You’ve already had a chance. I’ll go – Janne, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. I have two questions, one on North Korea, one on China. First question is: It is reported that the lifting of sanctions against North Korea will be discussed at the talks between Kim Jong-un and Putin. Can —

MR MILLER: The lifting —


MR MILLER: — of which sanctions?

QUESTION: I mean just —

MR MILLER: Sanctions —

QUESTION: I was told the sanctions against North Korea.

MR MILLER: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I just didn’t know —


MR MILLER: I just didn’t know if it was a report about which specific sanctions imposed by whom.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) said that can Russia unilaterally lift UN Security Council sanctions by themselves?

MR MILLER: No, Russia cannot. No, Russia cannot take – Russia cannot take unilateral actions relating to the United Nations Security Council.

QUESTION: Okay. And second question is: Chinese Government said that it would not interfere with arms deals between North Korea and Russia. What can you say about China’s neglect?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to China’s reaction other than to say we have been very clear about what our position is, which is that any transfer between – of arms from North Korea to Russia would violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. It would be a sign of the desperate state in which the Russian Government finds itself a year and a half into this war that it has been prosecuting unsuccessfully against Ukraine. And we will monitor what happens and won’t be – will not hesitate to take action to hold those accountable if necessary.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Follow-up on China?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Just before the G20, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Bangladesh, and in Dhaka he said Moscow would prevent any attempt to establish dictates and interference by the U.S. in this region, and ruling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed accused U.S. as she said that U.S. in the name of Indo-Pacific Strategy, they wants to come here and gain control over the region. So what is your response and what is your position on the Indo-Pacific Strategy?

MR MILLER: I would say with respect to Russia, a country that has invaded two of its neighbors, is prosecuting an aggressive war where it bombs schools and hospitals and apartment buildings on a daily basis, should not be talking about any other country imposing dictates. It’s a fairly – it’s not the most self-aware comment that Sergey Lavrov has ever made. But I would say that with respect to United States policy, that the United States and Bangladesh share a vision to ensure the Indo-Pacific region is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. That’s the intent of our Indo-Pacific strategy and that is our position.

QUESTION: Can we – can I please confer in the G20 summit, any meeting – sideline meeting between the Bangladesh prime minister and the President Biden as foreign minister told the reporters that Biden had a – and Prime Minister Hasina had a good conversation, though we did not see any readout or anything from the White House or from the State Department?

MR MILLER: I believe the White House did make public the meetings that the President had with other leaders.

QUESTION: If I may, for press freedom, very quick: Bangladesh government-controlled court sentenced seven years two senior journalists, and 90 years old who used to work for the BBC, Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman, including three American citizens and one journalist who is exiled in New York. Government ordered seized his property. Journalist name: Eleas Hossain. So what is your comment? The government is harassing journalists and reporters and the senior editors?

MR MILLER: We believe, as we’ve said on a number of occasions, that journalists play an essential role in any democracy. Their work uncovers corruption, safeguards the public’s right to know information that affects their lives. They need to be able to make the public aware of the issues that they face in their daily lives. They need to ensure accountability for elected officials the way that you all show up and ensure accountability for what I say here every day. They must be able to do their jobs without fear of harassment, violence, or intimidation. And we are concerned with the Government of Bangladesh’s systematic and pervasive oppression of journalists and media personalities who attempt to hold the government accountable.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Two questions on Syria. Are you working to repatriate an American family of 10 in northeast Syria? Then if you give me an update on —

MR MILLER: An – I’m sorry?

QUESTION: An American family of 10 in northeast Syria that have been held in the ISIS families detention centers in northeast Syria. And is there any other American citizens being held in these detention facilities?

MR MILLER: Yes, we – I – if it’s the family I believe you’re referring to, yes, we are working to repatriate that family. Repatriation is the only durable, long-term solution to the humanitarian and security situation in northeast Syria. We urge every country of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate, and, when appropriate, prosecute their nationals from detention facilities and displaced person camps in northeast Syria in a manner consistent with their obligations under international human rights law and international refugee law. I don’t have an update on the number of U.S. citizens who might be there.

QUESTION: And one more question: What do you say about the Syrian accusation to the United States that – they are saying that the United States occupied the oil fields in northeast Syria and they are operating illegally. The Syrian ministry – foreign ministry, they sent a letter to UN general-secretary and also to the international body and they are asking the international body to hold the U.S. accountable. What do you say for this accusation?

And then are you – is there any U.S. company – oil company operating —

MR MILLER: You’re getting to, like, question number four here, so – (laughter) —

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there any U.S. – is there any U.S. oil company operating in northeast Syria?

MR MILLER: You should ask the U.S. oil companies that question. I would say with respect to that allegation, it’s not accurate.

Go ahead, in the back. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. As everyone is aware, of course, the COVID pandemic took millions of lives, cost trillions of dollars. As you may be aware, the BMJ, the prestigious British Medical Journal, just had a lengthy piece about how USAID just terminated a controversial 1.5 million wildlife virus hunting program amid safety fears. That is, USAID has had a series of programs to collect viruses; it started as the PREDICT program and then it took on different names. Lots of people have claimed that this as well as NIH funding to —

MR MILLER: Who are the people that have claimed that?

QUESTION: That have claimed?

MR MILLER: Yeah. You said lots of people. Who in particular?

QUESTION: Have claimed what aspect?

MR MILLER: The point you were just making. You were – said lots of people have claimed that the – I’d like to know who those people were that I’m going to be responding to in a minute.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. I have claimed.


QUESTION: Richard Ebright —

MR MILLER: This is usually a place for questions, not claims, but go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. Well, I mean, this is an overdue subject, don’t you think? Richard Ebright, other prestigious scientists have stated that it could well be the case that the COVID – U.S. intelligence services have put out statements that it could have come out of a lab in Wuhan. Now we know that NIH funding went from EcoHealth Alliance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. USAID – you find this very tiresome.

MR MILLER: Go ahead. I just – it’s – get to the question if you don’t —

QUESTION: Well, you asked me.

MR MILLER: Get to the question if you don’t mind.

QUESTION: You asked me.


QUESTION: So how much money went from USAID to this – to the work at Wuhan and to their collaborator, Ralph Baric, at the University of North Carolina to create – to collect and make coronaviruses that are weaponized, that are more deadly?

MR MILLER: So I, first of all, reject the implicit accusation in that question and I do not have at my finger —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: I do not have at my fingertips the particular details of USAID funding.

QUESTION: Question —

QUESTION: Are you saying for certain —

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you saying for certain that no USAID money went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

MR MILLER: I’ve answered the question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, please tell me. Do you – are you stating that no USAID money went —

MR MILLER: I have – I will say I am happy to take questions from those in this audience. I’m happy to answer them. I appreciate that they treat every person in this room, including myself, respectfully.

QUESTION: I am giving you respect.

MR MILLER: I called on you. I’m now calling on someone else. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m asking you treat me respectfully. Please tell me, what are you denying?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What is your denial?

QUESTION: I had a question (inaudible).

QUESTION: It’s a non-denial denial.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Excuse me. I have a question about Israel. Thank you, Matt. Okay. In light of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to the White House, will President Biden be requesting Prime Minister Netanyahu to adopt his two-state policy that divides Israel despite the Jewish scripture Joel 3:2 warning of doing that? And I have a follow-up question.

MR MILLER: We have been very clear that we strongly support the two-state policy. We make that clear in all of our conversations with leaders of the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: Okay. And then finally, will the U.S. demand the repeal of Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas’s law which provides a salary for life for anyone who murders a Jew? And this is a concern that Israel Behind The News has.

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back to give you a precise answer.

Shannon, go —

QUESTION: Are you just – are you accepting the premise of the question that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been invited to the White House?

MR MILLER: The – no, I’m not. The White House has made clear they expect the President to have a meeting with prime minister, but no, I’m —

QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re not —

MR MILLER: Sometimes I make clear I’m not accepting the premise of the question, but not always.

QUESTION: You’re not saying – you’re not saying it’s at the White House?

MR MILLER: I am not. I —

QUESTION: You’re not agreeing with the —

MR MILLER: I have made clear a number of times from this podium I do not speak to the President’s schedule.

Shannon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I want to ask about the case of James Frisvold, the American citizen who was held in Mexican prison for 13 years before he was ultimately found not guilty. Advocates who worked to free him have been critical of the State Department for what they claim is a lack of involvement in the case. Matt, do you have a response to that criticism? And can you speak to if the department was providing consular assistance to Frisvold while he was in custody and tracking the serious issues in his trial?

MR MILLER: Yeah. We are aware of the release of that U.S. citizen from detention in Mexico. I will say, as is often the case unfortunately where there are places I’d like to speak in detail, due to privacy considerations – I think you’re familiar with the law that restricts us from saying more unless we have a waiver – I’m not able to speak in detail to this case, but of course, any time a U.S. citizen is detained abroad, consular officials seek to aid him or her with all appropriate assistance.

QUESTION: One follow-up if I can, just more broadly, can you speak to the department’s view of these outside entities like the Richard – Richardson Center, rather, that practice unofficial diplomacy? Do you see their role in – their involvement with detained Americans, is it a helpful or a harmful role they play?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to speak – I don’t want to give a blanket statement because there are a number of organizations that do a number of different things, but it is our priority to secure the release of – first of all, to ensure the safety and security of Americans overseas; and second of all, to secure their release when they’re wrongfully detained, and we do work with a number of organizations in that capacity.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Se Hoon Kim, Global Strat View. So coming back to China, how much knowledge does the State Department has about the Chinese authorities’ training program in Southern Mongolia, or – also known as Inner Mongolia, called the Training for the Firm Inculcation of Chinese Nationality Common Identity, targeting the entire Mongolian population in Southern Mongolia or Inner Mongolia?

And also at the same time, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center has raised several high-profile cases of China’s transnational repression of Mongolians from both Southern Mongolia or Inner Mongolia and the independent country of Mongolia to the State Department multiple times. What actions have the State Department taken on the cases, including the case of Mr. Lhamjab Borjigin and Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj?

MR MILLER: I don’t – I’m not going to speak to specific cases, other than to say that we always put human rights at the forefront of our foreign policy. We always raise human rights issues with other countries and we’ll continue to do so.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Moving to Ukraine, if I may.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: German foreign minister was visiting Ukraine, as you know. She appealed to international partners to boost Ukraine’s air defense. I know that he – she is planning to visit Washington. There are multiple reports about that. Is Secretary open to that conversation?


QUESTION: To boost Ukraine’s air defenses.

MR MILLER: I’m – I will say that boosting Ukraine’s air defense has been something that the Secretary as well as Secretary Austin and the National Security Advisor and the President himself have worked on since even before the beginning of this war, working to provide air defense systems to Ukraine. We’ve transferred a number of U.S. air defense systems to Ukraine. In this last set of military assistance that the Secretary announced when he was in Ukraine, it included components of air defense systems that we have previously provided, and we have worked with other countries to – for them to provide air defense systems. So we will continue to do that. I’m sure it’s a matter that he will speak with his German counterpart later this week.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have another one. One —

MR MILLER: One more and then we’ll go and finish up.

QUESTION: My final question, I promise, is different topic, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Putin today made multiple statements about the conflict. He is into blame game, blaming Pashinyan over everything is going on right now in the region. There’s conventional wisdom that he is trying to use the conflict to topple Armenia’s democratically elected president. As you know, there have been some reports about Wagner mercenaries being sent to Armenia to engage in that kind of activity. Do you have any concern about —

MR MILLER:  I will just say that we continue to work – I’m not going to respond to that comment.  I’ll just say that we continue to work to resolve the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  As I spoke to yesterday, the Secretary has been personally involved in this, with multiple conversations just in the past week.  We did note – I will say – you brought up the topic – that in the last 24 hours one shipment of humanitarian supplies passed through the Aghdam route into Nagorno-Karabakh, and so we will reiterate our call on the specific question about the importance of opening both corridors into [Nagorno-Karabakh] and as a more – as a short-term matter, and as a more long-term matter, the two countries coming to an ultimate agreement.

Go ahead, and then we’ll wrap up.

QUESTION: Thanks. Can you just give us an update on the conversations with Morocco about potential U.S. assistance in the earthquake recovery?

MR MILLER: The conversations are ongoing. We’re in close counterparts – or close conversations with our counterparts. USAID has been in conversation with them about what assistance that we can provide. We have yet to receive an official request, but we are standing ready to provide all the assistance we can when we get that request.

Okay. Thanks everyone. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:59 p.m.)

# # #

Department Press Briefing – September 11, 2023

1:27 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER:  Hello, everyone.  Good to see you.  Been a while since I’ve been here.

QUESTION:  Yeah, you abandoned us.

MR MILLER:  Yeah, I’ll raise this just a bit.  I didn’t abandon you.  I was in Ukraine and elsewhere, New Delhi.  I do not have any opening comments today, so Matt.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Well, I can’t say that I hold out a whole a lot of hope that you’ll have much of an answer to this, but I just want to – I want to ask what you guys make of the whole Putin-Kim Jong-un thing, what it means for – what it means to you or what it suggests to you about the state of the Russian war machine.


QUESTION:  And also what it means in terms of North Korea.

MR MILLER:  I’ll say a few things about it.  First, I think it’s important to put it in overall context, which is a year and a half ago President Putin launched this war against Ukraine with its full-scale aggression with a dream of restoring the glory of the Russian empire.  That hope, that expectation of his, has failed.  It will continue to fail.  And I think there’s no better evidence of that than now, a year and a half later, not only has he failed to achieve his goals on the battlefield, but you see him traveling across his own country hat in hand to beg Kim Jong-un for military assistance.  And the fact that it comes just after the G20 this weekend, where President Biden was there meeting with his fellow counterparts, leaders of major countries in the world, and President Putin was nowhere to be found, I think largely because of his own international pariah status that he has foisted upon himself through his actions.

So in terms of what it means going forward, I think obviously it means that he is having trouble sustaining the military effort and so is looking for help from North Korea.  And in terms of what our reaction will be to it, so we’re going to monitor very closely the outcome of this meeting.  I will remind both countries that any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would be in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.  And we of course have aggressively enforced our sanctions against entities that fund Russia’s war effort, and we will continue to enforce those sanctions and will not hesitate to impose new sanctions if appropriate.

QUESTION:  On North Korea?

MR MILLER:  I think I want to wait and see what the outcome of the meeting is before speculating, but we have always looked to impose sanctions and hold accountable countries or entities – entities that fund Russia’s war effort.

QUESTION:  Before I ask one more on this, just how many entities are there left in North Korea that don’t have U.S. sanctions on them?

MR MILLER:  (Laughter.)  That’s a good question I’m not able to answer.

QUESTION:  Are there any?

MR MILLER:  I am sure that there are, but I don’t have —

QUESTION:  I mean, maybe there’s a corner store in downtown Pyongyang that sells —

MR MILLER:  I’ve not been to Pyongyang recently, so I can’t – I honestly don’t know.

QUESTION:  I haven’t been, either, but I have been twice, and there are stores there that still sell Pepsi and Coke and stuff like that.  At least there were.  So yeah, I just – if you’re going to impose more sanctions on North Korea, I don’t understand why that’s —

MR MILLER:  No, look, I —

QUESTION:  Is it a punishment or is it an attempt to be a deterrent?  Because it’s not working if it’s the latter.

MR MILLER:  I think – look, I will actually say, with respect to our overall sanctions, I think the fact that Russia is having to beg North Korea for military support speaks to the effectiveness of our sanctions and our export controls, that they have been denied the technology they need and the raw materials they need to fund – to sustain this war effort.

QUESTION:  The second part of my question – and I’ll stop if this is – you have used the word “beg” twice now.  What makes you think that he’s actually begging?  Don’t the Russians have anything to offer the North Koreans that the North Koreans might want?

MR MILLER:  That may be the outcome of this meeting, but —

QUESTION:  But you used the word “beg.”

MR MILLER:  I think it’s fair to say that this – that having to travel across the length of his own country to —

QUESTION:  But it’s still —

MR MILLER:  To ask —

QUESTION:  It’s still his own country.

MR MILLER:  Yeah, I know.  To meet with an international pariah to ask for assistance in a war that he expected to win in the opening month —

QUESTION:  Okay, but how do you —

MR MILLER:  Look, I may – I would characterize it as him begging for assistance.  Now, we’ll see.  There may be something that he offers in exchange.  We’ll see when it comes.  We’ll monitor it very closely.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Well, and if there is an exchange, is that – will you still – do you still think that that’s begging?

MR MILLER:  Why don’t we wait and see.  I’ll wait and see what happens and characterize it after, after we see.

QUESTION:  No, no, it won’t wait because you already did characterize it like three times.

MR MILLER:  Fair enough.  Let’s – before we pass any further judgment, let’s wait.  I stand by my characterization.

QUESTION:  All right.  Well, I mean —

MR MILLER:  I’ll add any further characterization when we see the outcome of the meeting.

QUESTION:  You don’t have – you don’t have any information, or at least information that you can share, about what North Korea might get in return for —


QUESTION:  — this assistance?  Okay, thank you.

QUESTION:  Do you happen to have any notion or knowledge of what kind of equipment that Russia is begging for?

MR MILLER:  I’m going to wait.  Let’s wait and see what the meeting shows.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Has there been a – let’s just say a statement saying that we are going to North Korea to get some weapons?

MR MILLER:  I’m sorry.  What?

QUESTION:  I mean, how do you – how did you conclude that the president of Russia is meeting with the president of North Korea for – asking for weapons?

MR MILLER:  I don’t think it’s a social gathering, Said.

QUESTION:  No, I’m just saying – okay.

MR MILLER:  So this is —

QUESTION:  Maybe it’s something else?

MR MILLER:  We shall see.  I will happily eat my words if it turns out to not be, but let’s —

QUESTION:  They might have tea and ride white horses around.

MR MILLER:  Perhaps.

QUESTION:  Let me just follow – I have a quick follow-up.  You’re saying that the Russians have strategically failed at it.  But one, looking at what’s going on, they – we see that Russia is holding the territory that it went out to hold.  Their economy has improved a lot since last year.  So I don’t see where – while the counteroffensive, by all assessment, has failed.  I mean, just educate us on how you see that Russia has failed.

MR MILLER:  So you’re conflating a number of things here, and I will take them in some attempt – attempted order.   I will say first of all, with respect to Russia’s overall strategic failure, you have to remember what Russia’s goals were.  And their goals were to take Kyiv; to take the majority, if not all, of the country; to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine.  All of those things have failed.  They occupied a certain amount of the country.  The Ukrainians have taken back around 50 percent of the country that Russia occupied at the height of its full-scale invasion.

And you have seen the Ukrainians continue to make – to continue to show tangible results in taking back territory from the Russians, both in their efforts last year and the counteroffensive that they launched last fall, and in the counteroffensive that they launched in the past month or two that is ongoing.  Secretary Blinken was just in the – in Ukraine, as you know, discussed this exact question with the Ukrainians, was briefed on the results that they are showing.  And we have seen those results accelerate.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the outcome is certain.  Obviously, war is difficult and the Ukrainian military is facing dug-in, entrenched Russian forces.  But, number one, Russia’s goals have failed in every way since the outcome of this war.  And number two, we continue to assess that the Ukrainians are making progress in their counteroffensive, and we have confidence in the ability of their forces.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  Humeyra.

QUESTION:  Matt, on China, there was a story over the weekend in Wall Street Journal saying that Wang Yi was no longer coming to UNGA.  First, can you confirm that?  Because that was the anticipation from State Department, that he would come during UNGA and meet with Secretary Blinken.

MR MILLER:  It’s not exactly what we’ve said before, but I – let me say this.  So I won’t speak – I’ll let the Chinese Government speak to whether Wang Yi will or will not attend the United – attend UNGA next week.  But that said, whether it’s at UNGA or whether it is after UNGA sometime before the end of the year, it is still our expectation that Secretary Blinken will host Foreign Minister Wang Yi here in the United States.

QUESTION:  And would that be in Washington, then?

MR MILLER:  I have not – don’t have any meetings to announce.  I’ll wait until we have something firmed up that we can announce.  But it’s still our expectation that meeting will take place.

QUESTION:  The fact that he’s not coming to UNGA, does the administration in any way see that as something that might derail a possible Xi-Biden meeting in November?


QUESTION:  In principle?

MR MILLER:  We – look, we have been clear.  It’s sometimes difficult to speak to these because I’m asked to speak – it’s not what I’m saying you’re doing – but ask me to sort of speak on behalf of the Chinese Government, which I will not do.  I will speak for the United States and for the State Department and what our hopes and what our expectations are with respect to engagement with the Chinese Government and with our Chinese counterparts.  And that is, as we have said, we think it is important to engage directly in one-on-one conversations.  That’s why Secretary Blinken traveled to China and kicked off a series of meetings both at the cabinet level and the subcabinet level that have taken place since then.

As the President has said, he hopes to meet with President Xi sometime later this fall.  We believe there is no substitute for one-on-one conversations at the leader level.  So we will continue to work towards a possibility of that – of those meetings, but we don’t have anything to confirm at this point.

QUESTION:  Right.  Just a couple of small things on this.  You mentioned three cabinet-level U.S. officials, and I was in one of those trips, and Special Envoy John Kerry also went to Beijing.  And yet all of that –

MR MILLER:  One in addition to ours, or you mean ours?

QUESTION:  I’m sorry?

MR MILLER:  One in addition to the one – to our meeting?

QUESTION:  Well, on three cabinet-level —

MR MILLER:  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION:  Like John Kerry.   And all of that happened within a span of less than three months.  And we’ve seen no reciprocity, and now we learn that Wang Yi is probably not going to be coming during UNGA.  Does the administration see – take this as a bit of a snub?

MR MILLER:  Not at all.  We think it’s important to continue these conversations.  The conversations have been ongoing.  As the Secretary said, he extended the invitation to the then-foreign minister when he was in China.  That invitation was accepted.  It has since been transferred over to the new foreign minister.  We expect it to be accepted, and we expect that meeting to take place.

But ultimately, we can only – we think it’s important to have these conversations.  And we will continue to have them and we expect them to continue to take place.  But we can’t speak for the Chinese Government about when and where they will send their ministers.  Those are decisions for them to make.

QUESTION:  Right.  And final one: Is Secretary Blinken going to meet with – sorry, I believe that was VP, Chinese VP, who’s coming instead of Wang Yi during UNGA?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any meetings to announce at this point, maybe as we get closer.

QUESTION:  Thanks.

MR MILLER:  Yeah, Jenny.

QUESTION:  Can I go to Ukraine?


QUESTION:  President Zelenskyy in an interview with Fareed Zakaria over the weekend said he was expecting or hoping he would get ATACMS by this autumn.  Has there been a change in the U.S. position on providing ATACMS to Ukraine?

MR MILLER:  There has been – there has not been.  You saw Secretary Blinken speak to this over the weekend.  We always assess the military assistance that we can provide to Ukraine, both what is appropriate to provide at any given point, what we are able to provide at any given point, and what our allies and partners who are part of this coalition can provide to them.  It’s a question that we continue to take up and continue to look at, but there’s been no change at this point.

QUESTION:  Is it the U.S. assessment that these would be effective weapons for Ukraine in its counteroffensive?

MR MILLER:  I think I will just say that this is – these are ongoing conversations that we have with our Ukrainian counterparts, as well as conversations we have inside the United States Government, but we don’t have any new position to announce at this point.

Yeah, Leon.

QUESTION:  Matt, I was wondering, the Secretary gave a series of interviews over the weekend – CNN, ABC, what have you – I found that I thought – you probably won’t agree but – that he was at pains to, over the G20, to explain how it could have been a success, when, speaking of Ukraine, Russia is not mentioned in the statement; on climate issues, it’s way under par what was expected; there wasn’t the Chinese president present in India.  And so do you still – my question is:  Do you still think it was a success, or a missed opportunity?

MR MILLER:  We absolutely believe that it was a success.  I will just say with respect – let’s take them in order.  First, with respect to the statement, the G20 is a big organization.  Russia is a member of the G20; China is a member of the G20.  There are members that have a diverse range of views.  We believe the fact that that organization was able to issue a statement that calls for respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty and saying that those principles should not be violated is an extremely important statement, because that is exactly what is at heart of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  It is those very questions.  So we thought that was an incredibly important statement for them to make.  You also saw important announcements made at the G20 about new economic arrangements between Saudi Arabia and India that the United States was a part of.

And I will say with respect to President Xi not attending – I’m not going to speak to whether President Xi should have attended or should not have attended.  I will say we found it incredibly productive for President Biden and Secretary Blinken to be there, engaging directly with their counterparts.  As I said in response to a question a minute – a moment ago, there is no substitute for that, and we found it incredibly productive for the interests of the United States to be able to have those conversations and advance them.  As the White House made public over the weekend, in addition to the sessions, the President had a number of pull-asides with leaders of other countries where we were actively advancing the foreign policy priorities of the United States, including engaging on the war in Ukraine.

QUESTION:  Follow up on that?


QUESTION:  Welcome back.  I have two housekeeping questions for the first round.  But before that, maybe a follow-up on what you just said.  Russia and China were members of that very organization last year as well.  So is there any reason why we did not see —

MR MILLER:  There’s – I think if you go back and look at the statement that issued last year, there was a note – and I will need to follow up to get the exact – there was a note that Russia had abstained from that statement or did not join it.  So it was a different statement last year from a different collection of countries.

QUESTION:  What was the role of Lavrov in this process?  Has there been any interaction between the U.S. delegation and the Russians?

MR MILLER:  There was no interaction between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov.  I’m not aware of any other interactions between the U.S. and Russian delegations.  I can’t rule out the fact that someone said “hi” in the hallways or something passing each other, but I do not believe there were any substantive interactions.

QUESTION:  Right.  I have two housekeeping, if you don’t mind.  Who is the State Department chief cyber ambassador right now?  Because I got confused.  Nate Fick was the leader who was leading the bureau, and today’s appointment of Dr. Eileen Donahoe – who —

MR MILLER:  It’s to pursue – I’ll get back to you with the exact substance, but it’s – she is appointed to lead a slightly different effort.  And it’s outlined in the statement that we issued, and we can follow up with you separately on some of the specifics.

QUESTION:  Any connection between this appointment and reports that you have seen cyber escalation from Russia?


QUESTION:  No.  Okay.  Last question on housekeeping again.  The Secretary spoke with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan on September 1st, and it some sort of urgent call, because he was traveling, he raised concerns about what was going on.  And the State Department came out with a readout on September 6th, six days after that.  That did not speak urgency.  Why?

MR MILLER:  So separate and apart from the question of when a readout that was over a holiday weekend might have come out, I think if you want to speak to the urgency that the department has shown to this matter, look not just to the conversation that the Secretary had then, but that the Secretary spoke with the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan over the weekend while he was traveling – one call from New Delhi, one call from Hanoi.

It is a – and I think I’ll speak directly to the situation, because it is something that the Secretary has personally been involved in while he was on international travel and, of course, the Acting Assistant Secretary Kim has been involved in, and others.  We are deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.  We repeat our call, as the Secretary did in a statement over the weekend, for the immediate and simultaneous opening of the Lachin and Aghdam routes to allow passage of desperately needed humanitarian supplies to the men and women and children in Nagorno-Karabakh.  We urge the leaders, as the Secretary did in his calls, against taking any actions that raise tensions or distract from this goal.

And I will say, in addition, we have consistently stressed this need for open – to open routes in Nagorno-Karabakh and for a dialogue between the parties.  While it is important that Nagorno-Karabakh have credible representatives for this process, as we have said in the past, we do not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent and sovereign state, and therefore we do not recognize the results of those so-called presidential elections that were announced over the last few days.

So I will say that the United States will continue to strongly support efforts by Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve outstanding issues through direct dialogue, and that’s why Secretary Blinken and Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations Lou Bono have been consistently engaged, and we will stay consistently engaged on this question.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I do get your point about the weekend.


QUESTION:  The department did have a chance to disclose that meeting, that phone call on September 5th, when I did ask, in fact, a question about interaction between the U.S. and both sides.  One more point about that readout.  You guys – since I mentioned human rights, let me ask you directly.  Are you guys sacrificing human rights for peace talks?  If so, are there concerns that you might not achieve anything?

MR MILLER:  Sacrificing human rights?  I just made very clear that we want both quarters to be reopened to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance into Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Secretary made that clear to the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan over the weekend, as have other representatives from the State Department and the United States Government.  So no, I would not agree to that characterization at all.

QUESTION:  But did he mention human rights situation in Azerbaijan, the case of Gubad Ibadoghlu and other (inaudible) you guys have raised —

MR MILLER:  I don’t have a specific readout on that.  These calls were about the crisis situation on the ground right now and trying to resolve it.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  I have a couple of questions, Matt.  First, on the MOU that the U.S. signed with Saudi Arabia regarding the green transit corridors, what’s the importance of this MOU?

MR MILLER:  So it was a landmark India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor that we believe will usher in a new era of connectivity from Europe to Asia that will stimulate economic growth, economic development across the two continents, as well as cooperation on energy and digital connectivity.  The memorandum of understanding is among the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, EU, and other G20 partners to explore a shipping and rail transportation corridor that will enable the flow of commerce, energy, and data from India, the Middle East, and Europe.

And I will just say, like the Lobito Corridor we are announcing in Southern and Central Africa, it will be a clear demonstration of a new model that President Biden has pioneered for more transparent and sustainable infrastructure investments around the world, and we think it will deliver significant economic benefits both to the countries that are direct participants and to the region at large.

QUESTION:  Is it a part of the normalization efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

MR MILLER:  No, it is separate from – it is separate.

QUESTION:  There is another MOU that the U.S. will sign on Thursday with Bahrain regarding security and prosperity.  Do you have any details about it?

MR MILLER:  I don’t want to read out what we may or may not announce before that meeting takes place.

QUESTION:  And one final question on Iran.  Do you expect any progress on the hostage or the prisoner swap?

MR MILLER:  I will say it is a process that is ongoing.  We continue to work towards the full release of the American citizens that were detained in Iran, that have now moved on to house arrest.  I don’t have any update on timing for ultimate resolution.

QUESTION:  Can I just ask you one thing on the Saudi – on the – this MOU that was signed at the G20?  What actually does it change?  Is it right now not possible for ships to go from India to Saudi Arabia?

MR MILLER:  It is possible.


MR MILLER:  We believe it will explore – that the creation of a new shipping and rail transportation corridor – shipping and rail – will –

QUESTION:  Okay, where’s the rail part?

MR MILLER:  — will enable – I will –

QUESTION:  What’s the new rail part?

MR MILLER:  So the memorandum – this is the signing of a memorandum of understanding that is going to lead to the full implementation of this corridor.  I don’t think I can speak to details before they have been fully established.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So right now, ships – shipping –

MR MILLER:  You working on the math here?

QUESTION:  — container ships can go from India to Saudi Arabia.

MR MILLER:  Correct.

QUESTION:  And vice versa.

MR MILLER:  Correct.

QUESTION:  Right?  And that – those goods can be transported up the peninsula.

MR MILLER:  And there will be a new rail and shipping transportation corridor established with significant –

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then they go – and then they go into the UAE, and then they go into Jordan, and then into Israel, and then where do they go?

MR MILLER:  I’m going to say, with respect to this agreement, this was the signing of a memorandum of understanding that will be fleshed out with further details —

QUESTION:  I’d like to know what the rail part of this is.

MR MILLER:  — and those details will be coming in further months, as they are fully implemented with the countries who signed onto the MOU.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So did the Egyptians have anything to say about this?

MR MILLER:  We do not believe that this will in any way hurt Egypt.  In fact, it will deliver positive economic benefits for the entire region.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So you do not think that once this is completed, whenever that is, it will mean that goods being transported from South Asia to Europe that will – that bypassing the Suez Canal won’t affect Egypt at all?

MR MILLER:  There is no replacement for the Suez Canal.  But I will note that there is a maximum throughput through the Suez Canal every day.  And we do not believe that this economic corridor will in any way displace or replace the Suez Canal, and we believe ultimately it will deliver economic benefits for the entire region.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  On the Palestinian issue.  Today the Israeli Government was set to discuss and approve a new settlement in Abu Dis, which happens to be in my village.  I mean, my home could be gobbled up.  That was an area that was designated throughout peace negotiations to be the capital of the Palestinian and East Jerusalem, would-be capital or whatever.  I wonder if you have any comment on that particular settlement.

MR MILLER:  Our views on this question have been clear and consistent.  You and I have discussed them in the relatively brief time I’ve been here a number of times.

QUESTION:  Right, right.

MR MILLER:  The expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution, exacerbates tensions, and further harms trust between the two parties.  We strongly oppose the advancement of settlements and urge Israel to refrain from this activity.  We take the issue very seriously, as it impinges on the viability of a two-state solution, and we raise it at the highest levels on a consistent basis.

QUESTION:  So are you telling the Israelis to steer away from Abu Dis, my town?

MR MILLER:  I’m not going to speak —


MR MILLER:  — with – I’m not going to speak to any specific conversation.  But as I just said, we raise this issue of settlement expansion consistently at the highest levels of the Israeli Government.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And one more.  It seems that $75 million are still being held up in food assistance to the Palestinians, especially in Gaza.  I guess it’s awaiting maybe the end of the fiscal year and so on.  And I wonder if you could comment on this because the situation, as you’ve probably been following up, with UNRWA and with the distribution of food and the assistance of food in Gaza cannot wait till the end of the fiscal year or the beginning of the new one.

MR MILLER:  I would say that we agree that funding for UNRWA supports provision of food, health care, education, relief, and social services, which are more vital than ever with the worsening violence in the West Bank and Gaza and deepening economic decline in the region, and we are committed to working with the UN and our international partners to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for recovery efforts in a manner that benefits the Palestinian people.  So we would agree that this funding is important and are trying to move it through.



QUESTION:  Changing regions completely, today marks the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile – Pinochet.  I haven’t seen a statement yet from the State Department.

MR MILLER:  Coming shortly after this briefing.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Well, maybe you’ll —

MR MILLER:  I saw it just before the briefing and didn’t have time to dig into it.  So we’ll have one —

QUESTION:  Okay.  The —

QUESTION:  There’s also another anniversary, but I can’t think of what it might be.

MR MILLER:  9/11, and there was —

QUESTION:  It might be a little closer to home.

MR MILLER:  And there was a statement from the Secretary —

QUESTION:  Yeah, this morning.

MR MILLER:  — this morning, and of course President Biden is attending an event in Alaska.

QUESTION:  And a second anniversary.

MR MILLER:  Yes, correct.

Go ahead.

QUESTION:  On Chile, the U.S. has spoken of a dark chapter, what have you.  But is the United States ready to – but has never really formally, officially apologized for supporting the coup.  Is the United States ready to do so?

MR MILLER:  So you’ll see us speak to this in more detail in the statement that we’ll put out.  I’m not going to speak with that level of specificity to events that happened in a previous administration 50 years ago.  I will say that the anniversary is a moment for us to pay our deepest respects to the victims of the repression that followed that coup, to honor the extraordinary bravery and sacrifices of countless Chileans who stood up for human rights and fought for an end to the dictatorship and a peaceful return to democracy.  And for our part in the Biden administration, we have tried to be transparent about the U.S. role in that chapter of Chilean history by recently declassifying governments – I’m sorry, reclassifying – declassifying documents from 1973, as the Chilean Government has requested us to do.  And I will just say that going forward, we reaffirm our full commitment to supporting democracy and upholding rights, of course, in Chile and beyond.

QUESTION:  But you won’t go further than that?


Go ahead.  I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION:  Nice to see you, Matt.  Nice to see you, Matt.  Finally, when we have closed the chapter of the cypher, we can now move to the facts of cypher.  My question is —

MR MILLER:  (Laughter.)  That doesn’t sound like we’ve closed the chapter.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Well, it’s not going to be closed until it gets somewhere.  So after this whole thing, now, today, you can say that in one year today, the economy of Pakistan is – basically, Afghanistan economy is four times stronger.  What does the State Department say to that?

MR MILLER:  To the economy of Pakistan?  I —

QUESTION:  To the dollar rate in Afghanistan is four times stronger than the dollar rate in Pakistan.

MR MILLER:  I’ve spoken to this on a number of occasions about our support for reforms that would allow the improvement of the economy in Pakistan, and will continue to do so.

QUESTION:  And one thing – I’m sorry, this is a little bit older story.  But keeping in view this whole thing that is happening, the ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Blome, visited the chief election office.  I was just wondering, like, what – how does the State Department or the diplomats have anything to do with going and meeting the chief election office of any country?  Like —

MR MILLER:  So I will refer you to the embassy for specific comment on that meeting, which I’m sure they would be happy to provide.  But I think I see where you’re going with the question, and so I will reiterate what I’ve said a number of times, which is that the United States does not take any position with respect to the outcome of an election in Pakistan.  We do not support any one political party or any candidate in Pakistan.  But we of course urge free and fair elections in Pakistan, as we do throughout the world.


QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  In Libya there is reportedly massive flooding, up to 2,000 people impacted.  Does the U.S. have any comment or way to confirm that number?

MR MILLER:  I’m not able to confirm the number.  We’ve seen the reports, of course, and pass on our deepest sympathies to those affected.  But I don’t have a specific number.


QUESTION:  Just staying on Libya —


QUESTION:  — and the other anniversary that is today, or one – the Benghazi attack.  I know it was noted —

MR MILLER:  In the Secretary’s statement.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  — in the Secretary’s statement, but is there anything else going on to commemorate that or the people who died there?

MR MILLER:  No, other than the Secretary noting, of course, what a moment it was for the State Department.

Humeyra, and then I’ll go to the back.

QUESTION:  Matt, just on China again, because there are so many things.  The defense minister hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks, and U.S. ambassador to Japan seems to weigh on the issue with a tweet, which makes me wonder if the United States has an assessment on the whereabouts of the defense minister and whether you officially think of him as having disappeared, whether you have any idea about his whereabouts.

MR MILLER:  I do not have an assessment of his whereabouts.

QUESTION:  Do you have any answer to why the U.S. ambassador to Japan might have weighed on the issue?

MR MILLER:  I think Rahm Emanuel throughout his career has spoken in a colorful manner and continues to do so.

QUESTION:  So are you saying this tweet was not cleared by the State Department?

MR MILLER:  I’m not going to speak to our internal clearance processes other than to say, as I said, Rahm Emanuel has always had a colorful way of speaking in all of his positions in government, and that clearly continues.

QUESTION:  Okay, what was colorful about it?

MR MILLER:  I thought it was fairly colorful.

Abbie.  (Laughter.)


MR MILLER:  I’ll let my comment speak for itself, I think.

Abbie, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  On Morocco, can you bring us up to date on the latest efforts by the U.S. to assist in the aftermath of that earthquake, and what U.S. citizens may or may not have been affected or impacted by it?

MR MILLER:  Yeah, let me speak to the last question first, which is we are not aware at this point of any U.S. citizens who have died as a result of the earthquake.  We are aware of a small number of injuries but not any fatalities, but of course the rescue efforts continue, so that number could change or that fact could change.

With respect to our efforts, Secretary Blinken spoke with the foreign minister of Morocco over the weekend, again, from New Delhi at the G20, expressed first of all his deepest sympathies and condolences for the loss of life and – of – suffered by the Moroccan people and the destruction to their country.  They also discussed how the United States can best support the Government of Morocco’s leadership of the humanitarian response to the tragedy, and the Secretary and the foreign minister pledged to stay in close contact as the response efforts continue, and the United States through the State Department has been in close contact with the Moroccan Government through today.

QUESTION:  Is the U.S. providing anything directly right now for assistance?

MR MILLER:  We have made the offer for assistance and are in close consultations with the Moroccan Government about how we can best provide that assistance.


QUESTION:  On Türkiye, I was wondering if you have any updates on the sale of F-16s to Türkiye.  Is there any timeline for when the State Department intends to proceed with this sale?

And also, you and other U.S. officials have repeatedly said the F-16 issue and Sweden’s NATO accession were not linked, but yesterday, Turkish President Erdogan, after having a brief chat with Biden on the sidelines of the G20, said that the U.S. makes such a connection and it could upset Ankara.  How do you explain that?  Are you in the same – still in the same position of not linking those two separate issues?

MR MILLER:  So two things.  One, I don’t have an update on the timing.  But with respect to whether they are linked, we do not believe that they are linked or should be linked, but as we have said before and as we have made clear to the Turkish Government, of course, the sale of F-16s is something that has to be approved by the United States Congress.  And there are members of Congress who believe that the two issues are closely tied together, so while we do not believe that they are linked, we’re not the only actor in this process.  We’ve made that clear directly to Turkish officials.


QUESTION:  So on the North Korea – well, the Putin-Kim meeting, the administration has been briefing us before that it was Kim who was expecting this visit as one of the conditions for agreeing to send arms.  So the fact – does that – the fact that this is taking place mean that it will – do you expect it will go through?  Or – and do you have any visibility on what North Korea might be sending?

MR MILLER:  I will just say what I said earlier, which is we don’t think it’s a social visit.  But with respect to what the outcome might end up being, let’s just wait and see what comes out of the meeting.

QUESTION:  I have one more question.  Today, the – in Armenia, the first U.S.-Armenian military exercise are taking place, and I was wondering if this is designed to somehow forestall a potential Azerbaijani attack.  Are you – is there any —

MR MILLER:  No, not at all.  We routinely train and operate alongside our partners to maintain readiness, and we continually – continuously improve on the interoperability between our armed forces.  Armenia is a longstanding partner to the United States and has an enduring relationship since 2003 with the Kansas National Guard as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program.  So no, this is in – this is a routine exercise that is in no way tied to any other events.

QUESTION:  Let me follow up on that, Matt.


QUESTION:  You probably have seen Russia’s response to today’s Armenian-U.S. military training.  They remind Armenia to remember where their loyalties lie.  Do you have any reaction to that?

MR MILLER:  I think that given Russia has invaded two of its neighbors in recent years, it should refrain from lecturing countries in the region about security arrangements.

QUESTION:  And one more if you don’t mind.  Thanks so much.  And one more on Putin-Kim meeting.  You told Matt earlier that Putin was nowhere to be found last week, and then you said he is meeting with international pariah this week – today.  Do you see this as meeting between two international pariahs?  Is that how see Russia, Putin as well?  And do you think it will cement Putin as a pariah?

MR MILLER:  I think Putin’s actions have cemented him as an international pariah.  Remember, he’s under – he has been charged by the ICC with war crimes, was not able to travel to the most recent meeting of the BRICS because of that decision to charge him, did not show up at the G20 meeting, no doubt because he didn’t want to hear from a number of the countries there about the results and the consequences of his actions.  So yes, I would absolutely make that assessment.

QUESTION:  Are you sure he didn’t travel to the BRICS meeting because of that?  The South Africans have – and they are a member of the ICC.  But they have —

MR MILLER:  Correct.

QUESTION:  They have allowed other ICC invitees to go into the country without —

MR MILLER:  I – you can never say anything with 100 percent certainty, but I certainly saw the reports from South Africa that they were – the reporting around this that they were relieved that he did not attend.

So – go ahead.  We’ll do a couple more and then wrap up.

QUESTION:  Matt, I’m sure you know that Greece and Türkiye started high-level talks to find ways for Türkiye to stop threatening Greece.  The two leaders are meeting again next week at the United Nations.  As we know, they met in Vilnius during NATO.  Is it possible to tell us if American Government is involved in these diplomatic efforts between these two allies of yours?

MR MILLER:  I won’t speak to the upcoming meeting.  But I will say that, of course, we have been involved in conversations with both countries about the need to de-escalate tensions in the region and specific steps they can take to de-escalate tensions in the region, including direct involvement on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Vilnius.

Humeyra, you have one more?  And then we’ll —

QUESTION:  I have one other question.

MR MILLER:  One – yeah.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  It’s – my question is about the relation between Albania and Greece, another allies of yours.  The relations are in deep crisis lately because the prime minister of Albania, I don’t know if you know, has ordered the arrest of a Greek mayor.  He’s an elected mayor.  He’s still in jail after three months.  My question is that – do you know about the arrest?  And if you know, have you intervened with Albanian Government to release this elected mayor?

MR MILLER:  Let me take that one back.

Humeyra and then Jen, and we’ll wrap up.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Just want to follow up on the F-16 question, because in the same comments, Erdogan also talks about how he has his own congress to persuade, and that’s a reference to the Turkish parliament.  And when you read the comments in their totality, it does sound like the ratification may not be as soon as the Turkish parliament reconvenes.  I’m wondering if the U.S. has any worries that this might be further delayed?  Are you – what kind of, like, message are you conveying to the Turkish authorities?  And what is the sequencing going to be?  Like, they’re going to ratify, you’re going to send the formal notification?  Or they want you to send a formal notification of the F-16s after they ratify?

MR MILLER:  I will say, with respect to what our position is, we believe, as we’ve said before, that Sweden’s accession to NATO should be approved as soon as possible.  And we appreciate President Erdogan’s support for it and take him at his word that he will push it through and that it will ultimately be ratified by the Turkish parliament.  With respect to any sequencing, I’m not able to get into it at this point.

Jen, and then we’ll finish up.

QUESTION:  Do you have any updates on the Travis King case?  Has there been any more outreach to or from the North Koreans?

MR MILLER:  I am not aware of any, but let me let me check on that for you.

Great.  Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m.)

# # #

Department Press Briefing – September 5, 2023

1:15 p.m. EDT

MR PATEL: Good afternoon.


MR PATEL: How’s everyone doing? The flags are really close. I don’t have anything off the top today, Matt, so if you would like to start us off.

QUESTION: I don’t really have anything off the top that I expect that you’re going to be able to answer, so – but I do know that there’s a lot of interest in this idea that Kim Jong-un and President Putin are going to be meeting. What do you know, if anything, about that?

MR PATEL: So I would say a couple things to that, Matt. First, we have warned publicly for some time now that arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing. As you all know, some of you reported that last month Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, traveled to the DPRK to try and convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia. And we have information that Kim Jong-un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia. We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and to abide by the public commitment that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.

I will also just note that Russia has been forced to search desperately around the world for weapons it can use in its war in Ukraine because of our sanctions and export controls and the effects that those have had, which has made it harder for them to get material that they need. You’ve seen this with their attempts at a security relationship with the DPRK and the deepening relationships with the Iranian regime and their provision of drones that we’ve talked a great deal about as well.


MR PATEL: All right.

QUESTION: Could I just press on that a little bit?


QUESTION: In terms of the information that actually leads the U.S. to believe this – I mean, obviously, I’m sure you’re not going to – intelligence here, but the Kremlin, for example, isn’t actually confirming that this would take place, but the U.S. is reasonably confident that it expects this —

MR PATEL: I’m not going to get into more of the details from here, Shaun, as you said. But again, we have warned publicly about this before, and it’s, of course, something that continues to be concerning and we’re paying close attention to as it progresses.

QUESTION: In terms of consequences, I mean, obviously, there are heavy sanctions through the United States in both countries. Is that something that – are there any risks involved from the United States perspective if they go forward?

MR PATEL: Well, we have been incredibly clear about the potential consequences of any country taking action to support Russia further its illegal and unjust war of aggression in Ukraine. And you have seen us take action in a number of these instances. I’m not going to preview actions from up here, but of course we will calibrate appropriately with our allies and partners, including those in the region, and take appropriate steps as necessary.


QUESTION: Can I go to Iran? We reported yesterday and there was a Wall Street Journal report in August as well Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to – up to 60 percent purity. I’m wondering if you guys have seen this report, whether you have any comment, and will repeat the question that I had at the time: whether there is any understanding with the Iranians that they’re going to be taking these steps.

MR PATEL: So first, we’ve seen those press reports about the rate of accumulation of uranium enriched – enriched up to 60 percent, but not going to comment on an IAEA report that has not been made public yet. I will also note, as you’ve heard us say before, that we’ve been clear that Iran’s production of uranium enriched up to 60 percent has no credible peaceful purpose. No other country in the world today utilizes uranium enriched to 60 percent for the purposes of its claim. I have no other updates on discussions or talks on the nuclear issue with the Iranian regime, and so would leave it to when we spoke about this a number of weeks ago.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with IAEA about this? And do you have any reason to believe that that report is not authentic?

MR PATEL: I’m just not going to comment on a report that is not public yet. But I will say that we have the full confidence in the IAEA and Director General Grossi, and, of course, they are a body in which we communicate with quite regularly. I’m certainly not going to speak to specifics of this case. Thanks so much.


QUESTION: Thank you. I have a couple of questions.


QUESTION: First, the report said that the U.S., UK, and EU are pressing UAE to halt shipments of goods to Russia that could help with war in Ukraine, including computer chips. Can you confirm that? And is there any U.S. official in the UAE at this time?

MR PATEL: So I don’t have a specific delegation list for you, Michel, but senior officials from the EU, the UK, and the U.S. are visiting the UAE this week to discuss the effective implementation of our sanctions in close coordination with our Emirati partners. This is part of our broader diplomatic engagement with a range of partner countries to discuss how collectively we can continue to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its war of aggression in Ukraine. But I don’t have any other specifics or updates on the talks to share at this time.

QUESTION: And what is your – what is your main concern?

MR PATEL: Again, this is, Michel, just a broader diplomatic engagement to discuss these issues with our partner countries, this issue and others, and so I’m not going to get ahead of that.

QUESTION: One on Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION: Can you confirm that Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf is in Saudi Arabia with Brett McGurk to discuss the normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

MR PATEL: So Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk will be in Saudi Arabia for routine consultations on a range of regional and bilateral matters. He is joined by Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf as well as Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking. This was a long-scheduled visit. Brett will also be stopping by to see the leadership of Bahrain before the visit to the Crown Prince to Washington next week as well. So again, as I said, this was a long-scheduled visit on a multiplicity of issues that – at the nexus of our bilateral and regional matters.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Patel. Two detailed question, one quick one.

MR PATEL: Okay. Let’s maybe do one question and then we’ll try and come back to you as I work the room. Go ahead, though.

QUESTION: Okay. So I hope you’re aware that now Imran Khan, the reason why he’s in jail is because of the case related to the cypher, so to the State Department. Has Congress asked State Department to do any investigation or anything with regard to this whole cypher scenario, or no, there is nothing?

MR PATEL: So we consult with our congressional partners on a number of issues. I’m certainly not going to speak to something like that to specificity. Again, though, as you’ve heard us talk about, we are continuing to monitor this case and monitor the situation closely.

QUESTION: Okay. One more thing. Yesterday, I had my first video log with this journalist from London, Adil Raja, and he raised a question about Pakistani Americans having their visas to their original motherland country being rejected. And has the State Department been approached by their – again, by – is the State Department is aware of this thing or has anybody approached the State Department with regard to this —

MR PATEL: I’m not aware. This obviously would be – if there were to any – be any issues that arise in this area, certainly would be something for Pakistani consular officials to speak to and not anything as it relates to the State Department, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Olivia, go ahead.


MR PATEL: I’m going to work the room a bit. I’ll try to come back with you, Jalil.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) State Department because it’s a personal thing, something on your team that I think you should be aware of.

MR PATEL: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I did find out that one of the staff members of the colleague of your State Department got fired because of sexual harassment, and you guys fired him. And I do want to give you congratulations, because in countries where I’ve been reporting from, women are working very pathetic conditions, so congratulations on taking the move for firing the gentleman.

MR PATEL: I’m not totally aware of the circumstance that you’re referring to, so I’m going to move on to Olivia, who’s had her hand up. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Vedant. I have two separate questions for you too.


QUESTION: Back on North Korea.


QUESTION: So as the U.S. is considering what steps it may take in response to this potential provision of aid to Russia, are there any updates on the well-being and whereabouts of Travis King? And does his case have any bearing on the U.S. response potentially here?

MR PATEL: So I unfortunately have no updates for you since when I last spoke about this a number of weeks ago. Our goal, our desire continues to be to try and ascertain as much information as possibly about Private King. That continues to be the case and have no updates on this matter since when we last spoke about it.

These issues are not related. I think first and foremost, as – in the matter of Private King, we’re just trying to get as much information as we can as it relates to this servicemember. But aside, there is – of course, continues to be this incredibly concerning deepening of relations between the Russians and the DPRK, specifically in the security nexus, and that’s of course something that we’re going to continue to pay close attention to and take appropriate steps as needed.

QUESTION: On separate matter but still involving American detainees.


QUESTION: Has the State Department had any additional contact with the Americans who were transferred to house arrest in Iran? Is there any update on their eventual transfer to the United States?

MR PATEL: So those five individuals, they remain on house arrest. We continue to monitor their health and welfare closely with the assistance of our Swiss partners. This is an ongoing process. The move to house arrest, of course, is a positive step, but we’re going to continue to work and do everything we can and won’t rest until the individuals are back in the United States, reunited with their families. But I don’t have any other updates for you on this at the moment.

QUESTION: You’ve been assured that their well-being is okay?

MR PATEL: We’re continuing to remain in close touch with our Swiss partners, which, of course – our protecting power in Iran, but no updates beyond that.

QUESTION: If I may just squeeze in one more –


QUESTION: Just because there was a Swedish citizen detained by the Iranian regime, and I’m just wondering if that individual’s detention has any bearing on the Americans’ cases.

MR PATEL: What I would just say, Olivia, is that I would widen the aperture a little bit. Of course the Iranian regime has a track record of wrongfully detaining individuals and nationals from a variety of countries. I am not aware of the specifics of this case. I have no reason to assume that it has any bearing on the circumstances regarding these five Americans.

We of course remain in close touch with our Swiss partners and are so thankful for their partnership and their – the role that they’ve been able to play in this circumstance. And we’ll just continue to monitor and assess the situation as it progresses.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Welcome back.

MR PATEL: Thanks.

QUESTION: A couple questions before I move on. Can you please expand a little bit on what you told Shaun and Matt about North Korea and Russia? What should we be bracing ourselves for if this – if this goes through? Are there weapons that could actually impact the course of the war? And secondly, in terms of accountability, you’re talking about a UN Security Council member. Are you trying to take any action within the UN if Russia goes with this plan?

MR PATEL: So first, let me just say we have not hesitated to take any actions against entities who have taken steps to support Russia’s unjust and unlawful war of aggression in Ukraine. And the best example that I would offer you that there is a very clear recent track record of is the provision of drones to Russia from Iran. We of course have taken multiple steps to continue to hold not just the Russian Federation but the Iranian regime accountable for this kind of relationship. And as I said to Shaun, I’m certainly not going to preview actions from up here, but of course we will continue to monitor and watch this space very closely and take appropriate steps to support our Ukrainian partners as we need.

As it relates to the specifics of the security relationship, I am just not going to speak to that, Alex. It’s something that we also are continuing to pay close attention to, and we’ll have more as the situation progresses.

QUESTION: Thank you. Separately, do you have any reaction to Putin’s today’s claims targeting President Zelenskyy and the West? I don’t want to dignify everything he said, but basically he was talking about the West installing Zelenskyy to cover up Ukrainian actions.

MR PATEL: Well, President Zelenskyy was elected to his role in Ukraine in the previous administration, if you’re looking at the calendar correctly. So it’s – again, to not dignify the – many of the false accusations coming out of the Russian Federation, it’s hard to even make sense of that false claim.

So, Julia, you had your hand up.



QUESTION: Well, first, quickly, does the State Department have a comment on Zelenskyy replacing his defense minister?

MR PATEL: So this is – this is a decision for Ukraine, and it’s a perfect segue from Alex’s question – a decision for Ukraine and its democratically elected leadership to undertake. We have a strong and deep partnership with our Ukrainian partners, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine. It’s of course up to President Zelenskyy and his government to make his own personnel decisions.

QUESTION: Then if I could get your response to a recent report that Chinese nationals sometimes presenting themselves as tourists have attempted or accessed military bases and other sensitive sites as many a hundred times in recent years, and U.S. officials calling those potential espionage threats. How does that affect diplomatic relations with China, with the fact that a hundred times they’ve accessed sensitive sites in the U.S.?

MR PATEL: So first, we’ve seen those reports, and we of course are incredibly concerned by them. And of course, our colleagues at the Pentagons and the Department of Defense can speak to any specific comments or questions. But I think collectively across the interagency, the security of our installations remains a top priority, and physical security standards of our installations take in a wide variety of potential threats. But again, I will let our Pentagon colleagues speak to this in more specificity.

Yeah, go ahead. I can come back to you, Julia, after. Go ahead, yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you for that, Vedant. Appreciate it.


QUESTION: I was just wondering if you could confirm that Acting Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley did in fact speak with the son of Shahab Dalili, I guess two weeks ago, and he told him that there was no progress, that his father was still not deemed wrongfully in prison.

MR PATEL: So that is accurate. Abram had the opportunity to speak with members of the Dalili family. Again, would reiterate what we’ve said previously – that he has not been determined to be wrongfully detained – but yes, we’ve been in touch with the family and we will continue to remain in touch with them, as we would in any consular situation like this.

QUESTION: Just to be clear —


QUESTION: Is that something you’re still looking into, whether to deem him wrongfully —

MR PATEL: I am just not going to speak to the specificity of these cases. What I will say broadly is that of course in any circumstance when an American citizen is detained or an American national is detained in this circumstance, we are – of course assess the situation for indicators that would be consistent with a wrongful detention designation. That work is always ongoing, and when we have updates to share as it relates to someone’s status, we of course will share those.

Diyar, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. A few questions about Iraq. The first: What’s your comment about the recent events in Kirkuk, which is disputed area in Iraq? There were protesting between the Kurds and Arabists. Four protesters were killed and dozens were wounded and arrested. What’s your comment on that, and what is the U.S. view about the current tension between Kurds and Arabists in Kirkuk?

MR PATEL: So we’re closely monitoring the tensions in Kirkuk. We condemn the violence that took place and express our condolences to the families of those killed. The U.S. calls on all parties to resolve any disputes through dialogue and through the activation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.

QUESTION: One more question between – the disputes between Baghdad and Erbil over the budget and also revenue sharing. There are still the Baghdad refuse to disburse the KRG shares, and the KRG accusing Baghdad that they are – they have an intention to fuel the current financial crisis in KRG just to have some to get more gains, strategic gains in the Kurdistan region. Have you any engagement with both Baghdad and Erbil on this?

MR PATEL: We of course engage regularly with partners in Baghdad and Erbil, and I will let our missions in both of those cities speak to this engagement with any more specificity.


QUESTION: Sorry if I missed this earlier, but —

MR PATEL: No, you’re good.

QUESTION: The Cuban Government says it disrupted a scheme aimed at recruiting Cuban citizens to fight in Ukraine. The Cuban foreign minister called the plan last night a human trafficking ring. Are you aware of these reports? Do you have any comment on them?

MR PATEL: So we’re aware of these reports and we’re currently just trying to assess some additional information. I don’t have anything to offer on the veracity or any of the information offered in that statement, but we are continuing to look into it.

Shannon, go ahead. I’ll come – on this, Kylie?

QUESTION: Yeah, just —

MR PATEL: I’ll come to you right after.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you have guys had been tracking that Russia has been carrying out such human trafficking efforts in multiple places around the world, or if this is the first that you guys are hearing of any possible effort like this?

MR PATEL: Well, Kylie, there has – there is of course a reported track record of the Russian Federation having citizens specifically from Ukraine participate in forced relocation efforts, so certainly this kind of activity would not be new.

Specifically as it relates to Nick’s question though, we’re still looking into those reports and trying to get additional information. And in – additional circumstances I just don’t have more specificity to offer from up here.

Shannon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to ask about Travis Leake, the American detained in Russia. He was in court the other day and he said that Russians are starving him while he’s in prison. Now, the NSC says the State Department has had some consular access to him. I was just wondering if you can give an update on if that is in fact the case, that he’s not getting adequate nutrition. And also, is there any updates on whether he is considered a wrongfully detained American or where that evaluation process is?

MR PATEL: So we are monitoring the ongoing detention of Michael Travis Leake in Moscow. We are continuing to seek consular access to Mr. Leake and continue to insist that the Russian Federation allow consistent, timely consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees consistent with the consular conventions that we have in place.

Embassy officials have the – attended his arraignment on June 10th as well as hearings on August 3rd and 21st and are closely monitoring the developments, including the recent hearing yesterday. We’re remaining in close touch with his family and we’ll continue to monitor his case.

As it relates to any update and designation, as I said to the earlier question, in cases, broadly, we review the circumstances surrounding the detentions of all U.S. nationals overseas, including those in Russia, for indicators that that they could be wrongful.

QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up.


QUESTION: On consular access, can you say when you last were able to obtain that in this case?

MR PATEL: So that’s what I’m saying: We are continuing to seek consular access for Mr. Leake. That has —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR PATEL: Correct. We have not been granted consular access to Mr. Leake yet.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: President Erdogan and Putin met in Sochi yesterday, and it seems like Russia has demands including a return of agricultural bank to the SWIFT payment system and insuring the ships involved in the grain initiative. Any comments on Russian demands?

MR PATEL: So Russia’s decision to terminate its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, it hurts communities vulnerable to food insecurity around the world. And we welcome the efforts of our Turkish partners, including President Erdogan, to try and convince Russia to return to the deal. And we are continuing to engage with the UN and Türkiye, both of which have worked very hard to make the BSGI possible, previously, and functional. We also thank our NATO Ally Türkiye for its important role in the efforts to try and get the Black Sea Grain Initiative back on track.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that?

MR PATEL: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: So, Vedant, can you confirm the reports that the U.S. is proposing the Danube River route as an alternative to the Black Sea grain corridor? And if so, have you evaluated the risks it may carry, including the risks of further military escalations there? Like, how are you planning to protect those ships from Russian attacks?

MR PATEL: So thanks for your question. I spoke a little bit about this a number of weeks ago. The one thing that I can say clearly is that it is our goal and our hope that Russia re-enters the Black Sea Grain Initiative so grain and food product can get to the places that it needs to go. We of course are continuing to assess and look at what other options are available to make sure that the flow of food product can get to the places that it needs to go. I don’t have any announcement to offer, and I certainly am not going to read into deliberative processes that are ongoing. But again, we of course want Ukrainian grain to get to the markets that it needs to get to. We think that’s incredibly important because we saw the Black Sea Grain Initiative have a track record of success of getting a food product where it was needed.

QUESTION: Can I have a quick one on Niger?

MR PATEL: Let me come back in case there’s anything else on —

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine?

MR PATEL: Yeah, on Ukraine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There are local reports in Ukraine right now that the Secretary is going to be visiting there. Do you have any announcement on his travel to make?

MR PATEL: I have no updates on any official travel from the department.

QUESTION: Okay. And then as Americans are, like, heading back to work and back to school, what is the department’s message to them about the status of the war in Ukraine right now and how long this is going to last? President Biden was elected promising that there wouldn’t be for-forever wars, and now this is going on on almost two years now. Just what is the message to the American people from the administration right now?

MR PATEL: What I would say, Kylie, is that I think the American people recognize the importance of ensuring that countries cannot act without[1] impunity, and what we have in this instance is Russia trying to totally subjugate and erase the borders of its neighbor. And you see the Russian Federation doing so with immense aggression and there continue to be immense follow-on impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine. We just spent a couple of minutes talking about them – food prices. There are global impacts to the ability of Ukrainian grain being able to flow to the places that it needs to go. And that of course is something that’s going to affect kitchen tables all around the world, including in the United States.

QUESTION: Do you – does the administration believe that a peaceful resolution to the war is any closer now than it was, say, six months ago?

MR PATEL: I’m just not going to speculate or prognosticate on something like that, Kylie. The important thing is, for us, is to continue to stand with our Ukrainian partners as they endure this. I will note to anybody asking questions about things like a conclusion or a negotiation, is that the Ukrainians and President Zelenskyy have very clearly laid out a proposal for a just and durable peace and a conclusion to this war. President Putin and the Russian Federation have continuously not been interested in engaging in these kinds of discussions. And so what the United States is going to continue to do – is going to stand with our Ukrainian partners and ensure that they have the ability to defend themselves, defend their territorial integrity, and their sovereignty as well.

QUESTION: Can I quickly follow up on Ukraine grain deal?


QUESTION: Does yesterday’s meeting between President Erdogan and Vladimir Putin – does the U.S. – did you guys see that as progress?

MR PATEL: It’s hard to put an exact pinpoint on it, Humeyra, because ultimately the conclusion that we and our allies and partners want is re-entry into the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and I don’t think it is helpful for me or anybody to be up here offering play-by-plays on – as these diplomatic engagements progress. What I can say is that we want the Black Sea Grain Initiative to be up and running again. We know that it worked. And we also are incredibly thankful for the UN and our Turkish partners for the role that they played previously in getting this deal together and the role that they continue to play to try and convince Russia to re-enter.

QUESTION: And what did the U.S. think about President Erdogan’s suggestion that Ukraine soften its stance on that —

MR PATEL: I – again, I’m just not going to get into the specifics of the diplomatic engagements. What I will just say is that we know countries around the world, including our Turkish partners, recognize how important this deal is, and that’s why you see collectively us, the Turkish – our Turkish partners, the UN, and others working to try and get this deal back on.

Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of topic?


QUESTION: The Secretary today spoke both to Palestinian leader Abbas and Israeli leader Netanyahu, and the readouts from the State Department – the one about the Abbas call mentioned continued support for a two-state solution, but the one about the Netanyahu call did not. It omitted that terminology. And I just want to know if that’s now the policy, not even to talk about the two-state solution when communicating about Israel (inaudible)?

MR PATEL: There is – there has – there has been absolutely no change in policy when it comes to that region of the world. Our viewpoint continues to be that a negotiated two-state solution is the best path forward, something that we believe will help bring stability and further peace to the region. So I would not read too significantly into the discrepancy.

QUESTION: Do you know why it wasn’t included? Just —

MR PATEL: I don’t. I have no doubt that things like that are discussed quite regularly with our Israeli counterparts, and it’s something we speak about from up here quite regularly. So.

Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure – also involves ships and wheat/grain, Russia.


QUESTION: South Africa.


QUESTION: President Ramaphosa said that South Africa —


QUESTION: — launched an investigation into the allegations that the Lady R ship had carried weapons to Russia, said that there’s no evidence to that, for that. Does the U.S. have any reaction to this and whether it still backs the assertions made by the ambassador of what the ship was doing?

MR PATEL: So we appreciate the seriousness with which the panel of inquiry in South Africa undertook to investigate irregularities surrounding the Lady R’s presence in South Africa in December of 2022. We’ve been in some – in direct communication with the South African Government on this matter and will continue these bilateral conversations via diplomatic channels, and we appreciate President Ramaphosa’s commitment to investigating this matter and look forward to advancing our relationship with our South African partners on a number of shared priorities, including trade and health. But as it relates to the specific findings, Shaun, I will just let the South African panel speak to the specifics of that.

QUESTION: Sure. But does the United States still back the initial allegation that was made there, or does this clear it up at all? Does this – does the U.S. still stand by what the ambassador said previously?

MR PATEL: So I – no change in policy or anything like that. We had raised our concerns in December and had continued to raise our concerns about the presence of this vessel and certain irregularities around it. But again, we appreciate the seriousness that – which the South African Government has acted and taken this.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to move to South Caucasus, but before that, just want to make sure I understood your response to Humeyra correctly.


QUESTION: Does the administration believe that BSGI is revivable, or was President Erdogan shooting in the dark?

MR PATEL: We have no reason to think that diplomacy is not possible to getting some of these done. Again, Alex, I think it is deeply unhelpful to – for me to offer diplomatic play-by-plays from up here. So our viewpoint is that the Black Sea Grain Initiative was incredibly helpful; it was a good thing. It was a good thing to the tune of millions of metrics – of tons of grain getting to the ports and markets that it needed to get to. And we will continue to work with partners to try and get the Russian Federation to rejoin. But we are also continuing to work with allies and partners to assess what other options may be available to get grain to the places that it needs to go.

QUESTION: Thank you. On the South Caucasus —


QUESTION: — Armenia and Azerbaijan. Matt had a statement last week on the current state of play in the region and the current situation of the conflict. Has the situation been developing since the statement, or what is your observation? Is it worsening? And has there been any communication with the sides? I know that Armenian ambassador was in this building. Besides that, has there been any communication?

MR PATEL: So first, on the matters of communication, Alex, I will just say that this is something that we are going to remain deeply engaged on. I don’t have specific engagements to read out to you, but we are deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting from the continued blockage of food, medicine, and other essential goods. The U.S. has worked continuously with the sides over the past several weeks to allow humanitarian assistance to reach the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, and we reiterate our call to immediately reopen the Lachin corridor to humanitarian, commercial, and passenger traffic as well.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have one more on Georgia, if I may.


QUESTION: Georgian pro-Russian Government is now going after their own president who is trying to pursue European pathway, and they’re trying to impeach her. Does the U.S. have any comment on this?

MR PATEL: So we’ve been clear, as have the Georgian people, and we’ve been clear on what we’ve been seeing, which is that the Georgian people have been clear that they see their future with Europe and the European Union, and has given Georgia a clear roadmap to achieve a candidate status. And we urge the Georgian Government and all stakeholders to come together now and work towards that objective, especially to implement the reforms required to achieve EU candidate status, and the need of a unified Georgia has never been more urgent.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One on Syria, Vedant.


QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Goldrich is still in Syria? And what was his message to the SDF and the tribal forces?

MR PATEL: So Deputy Assistant Secretary Goldrich and OIR Commander Major General Vowell met in northeast Syria with the SEF and the SDC and tribal leaders from Deir al-Zour. They agreed on the importance of addressing the grievances of the residents of Deir al-Zour, the dangers of outsiders interfering in Deir al-Zour, and the need to avoid civilian deaths and casualties, and the need for de-escalation of violence as soon as possible. Deputy Assistant Secretary Goldrich and Major General Vowell reiterated the importance of a strong U.S. partnership with the SDF in the D-ISIS efforts.

QUESTION: Is he still there?

MR PATEL: I don’t have any specifics – updates on his status. I believe so.

QUESTION: What was that line? You talked about the dangers of outsiders —

MR PATEL: Interfering with Deir al-Zour.

QUESTION: Okay. And outsiders you define as?

MR PATEL: People from outside of the region.

QUESTION: Oh, like the United States?

MR PATEL: That’s – I take your point, Matt. That’s not —



QUESTION: I don’t think you do because it’s not all outsiders that you’re opposed to, quote/unquote, “interfering.” And I’m not saying you are interfering, but I mean, you would admit that the United States is an outsider in northeast Syria, correct?

MR PATEL: Certainly, and I think that statement is —

QUESTION: Okay. All right. That’s all.

MR PATEL: What I am referring to, Matt, is outsiders not committed to the convergence and joint partnership as it relates to the degradation of D-ISIS efforts.

QUESTION: Okay, just – okay.

MR PATEL: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: What is the State Department’s view on China’s ban on Japanese seafood after the release of the treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant? And do you think this can be classified as economic coercion from China?

MR PATEL: So I don’t have any specifics as it relates to that policy from the PRC. But what I will just say – and you saw the Secretary speak to this a little bit when he was down here – is that we are satisfied with Japan’s plans, which are safe and in accordance with international standards, including the IAEA nuclear safety standards. Japan has coordinated proactively with the IAEA on its plans, conducting a science-based and transparent process. We also understand that our Japanese partners have consulted scientists and partners from across the Indo-Pacific region on this matter.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Recently, China has released a new official map that lays claim to most of South China Sea and as well as contested parts of India. What’s your comment on this?

MR PATEL: We note that the PRC recently released national map has elicited a wave of protests from countries that reject the territorial and maritime claims depicted on it. With respect to the dashed lines in the South China Sea depicted on the new map, like many countries, we reject the unlawful maritime claims reflected on that map and call on the PRC to comport its maritime claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere with the International Law of the Sea, as reflected in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. China’s expansive and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea were determined to be inconsistent with international law by a unanimous tribunal in the Philippines China arbitration brought under the dispute settlement provisions of the convention.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. So the Biden administration has articulated its commitment to partners in Southeast Asia, but several Southeast Asian leaders expressed disappointment that President Biden wouldn’t be attending the ASEAN summit. Do you have any comment on this?

MR PATEL: I would say that the administration and President Biden are committed to Southeast Asia and ASEAN. President Biden and Vice President Harris have visited six ASEAN member states, and the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Energy, the U.S. Trade Rep, Special Envoy Kerry have all visited the region. Many of those were travels related to ASEAN meetings.

The engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN member states enjoys strong bipartisan support. In the past year, 85 different members of both parties of Congress have visited ASEAN member states. It’s also very clear that the President is interested and invested in what is happening in the region broadly, as he recently hosted the Republic of Korea and Japan at Camp David for a trilateral summit. This is a region that we will continue to engage in deeply, and I know that the Vice President looks forward to attending and representing the United States.

QUESTION: Well, okay, just along those lines —


QUESTION: — do you have any comment on neither President Xi nor President Putin going to either one?


QUESTION: Or the G20.

MR PATEL: These are sovereign decisions for —

QUESTION: Or apparently the UNGA. And —

MR PATEL: These are decisions for countries and their leadership to make.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the question was raised that Southeast Asian leaders are apparently upset that President Biden is not going to the East Asia Summit. The Vice President is going. However, neither the Russian president nor the Chinese president are going to that, nor are they, either of them, going to the G20, nor are they going to the UN General Assembly. So I’m just wondering if you think the question – questions along these lines are little bit misplaced.

MR PATEL: Well, I think what is clear is that the United States has a pretty stellar track record of not just investment prioritization and engagement in Southeast Asia but also certain multilateral fora. And we look forward to continuing to conduct our foreign policy in that manner. And I will let the Russian Federation and the PRC speak to their own reasoning.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Can I just one more —

MR PATEL: Oh, Shaun. And then we’ll wrap up.

QUESTION: Just war in Gabon.

MR PATEL: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: Just the new – I’m sorry – the new military leader says that he’s committed to elections and releasing prisoners. Does the U.S. have any take on these promises? Do you see any positive inklings to this?

MR PATEL: Well, we’re, Shaun, concerned by the evolving events in Gabon and remain strongly opposed to military seizures or other unconstitutional transfers of power. And we urge those responsible to release and ensure the safety of members of the government and their families to preserve civilian rule. And we call on actors to show restraint and respect for human rights, to address their concerns peacefully through dialogue following the announcement of the election results.

You had your hand up. Why don’t you go and you – one more and then we can wrap.

QUESTION: Just had one quick follow-up.


QUESTION: Would you say that President Biden’s decision to visit Hanoi instead of attending the ASEAN summit reflects a preference for bilateral meetings in Southeast Asia as opposed to larger summits?

MR PATEL: Absolutely not. As you just heard me say to Matt, the United States has a commitment to, of course, not just Southeast Asia but multilateral fora as well. You needn’t look further than the long litany of international travel that President Biden has undertook since coming into office, and I will just leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thank you, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:56 p.m.)

  1. …with…

Department Press Briefing – August 17, 2023

12:53 p.m. EDT

MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR PATEL: I have one very brief thing at the top and then happy to dive in.

So next week, on August 24th, Ukrainians will mark the 32-year anniversary of their declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. This will also be Ukraine’s second Independence Day since Russia’s full-scale, illegal, and unprovoked invasion began on February 22nd.

This year’s celebrations will be bittersweet for Ukraine’s people because, for the past 18 months, they have continued to face the Russian Government’s onslaught of brutal attacks. In addition to the Kremlin’s relentless bombings, they are also engaging in the systemic abduction and forced deportation of thousands of Ukraine’s children. And yet when faced with this kind of brutality, Ukrainians responded by continuing to support the defenses of their country and inspiring the world with their extraordinary courage and dedication to freedom.

As we approach the 18-month mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, let us remember President Biden’s words when he said that winning the war in Ukraine is to get Russia out of Ukraine completely. And as we support efforts toward a just and lasting peace, Ukraine is and will remain an independent, sovereign, democratic, and prosperous nation.

The U.S., along with our allies and partners, will continue to support to Ukraine for as long as it takes so Ukraine can defend itself from Russian aggression and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table when the time comes.

So I’d like to take the opportunity to say happy Independence Day to the people of Ukraine.

Matt, please take us away.

QUESTION: All right. Thanks. I’ve got a couple but they’re all kind of logistical and I think they can be dispensed with in less than a minute. One, the Secretary met this morning with Ron Dermer. Where is – we were – it was suggested there would be a readout of that. Do you have one?

MR PATEL: So I am sure that a readout will be forthcoming. But yes, the Secretary met this morning with Strategic Affairs Minister Dermer. This was a routine engagement where they discussed a wide variety of issues. A number of those, of course, as you can imagine, were the United States’s ironclad commitment to Israel and Israel’s security. They of course talked about the importance to de-escalate tensions and the United States commitment to a two-state solution. They also discussed regional challenges like the continued threat posed by Iran and its proxies, and as well as they discussed Israel’s further integration into the region as well. But I am sure there will be a formal readout coming soon enough.

QUESTION: And visa waiver, did that come up?

MR PATEL: I’m sure it was discussed, but I don’t have a specific list for you.

QUESTION: All right. And you would not expect that the written readout is going to go beyond anything you just said, right?

MR PATEL: I do not expect that, but I guess only time will tell.

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, has the Secretary left for Camp David yet?

MR PATEL: I do not believe so.

QUESTION: But he is going to be going this afternoon?

MR PATEL: He will be joining the President for the trilateral summit that we spent a good amount of time talking about earlier this week.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one, which is logistical as well, which is the sanctions that were announced for the alleged – for the people you believe who are responsible for the poisoning of Navalny. Can you explain why you have publicly identified these people as being – been subject to travel bans?

MR PATEL: So Matt, that – therein lies in the specific designation, which is a 7031(c) designation, which is a unique authority that allows the public identification of those who have been designated. I know that there’s probably some confusion out there with some of the other authorities that exist in the – on the subject of visa restrictions.

QUESTION: No, there’s actually not any confusion. It – no, what it is is that you guys decide to make these names public when you want to even when they are covered by other parts of the law. And so I just want to know why in this case —

MR PATEL: And again, it is because they are – they are 7031(c) designations, which are different from 212(a)(3)(C) designations under the INA, in which we are not able to publicly identify —

QUESTION: So in other words (inaudible) complain about this should go to Congress rather than to you? Is that what you’re saying?

MR PATEL: I mean, you’re welcome to take your complaint anywhere. I’m just sharing with you the facts.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll file it with the – whoever. Okay.

MR PATEL: All right.

QUESTION: That’s all.

MR PATEL: All right. Simon.

QUESTION: Thank you. If we could move on to Niger?


QUESTION: So I guess you’ve seen comments coming out of ECOWAS, the West African states, a lot of tough rhetoric and sort of talking about their commitment to a military intervention if things don’t change in Niger. So I wonder, do you – does the U.S. have some concern about this, heightened concern given that – about this sort of spilling over into a regional conflict?

MR PATEL: I would echo what many of you heard the Secretary say earlier this week, which is that we support what ECOWAS is doing, and this is the moment to continue to focus intensively on diplomacy, which ECOWAS has also stated that continues to be their priority, and that any kind of military intervention is a last resort. So we’re focused on finding a diplomatic solution and we’re working in close contact with ECOWAS, but I am certainly not going to get ahead of this or go into hypotheticals.

QUESTION: But you support the use of – the threat of military action as a last resort —

MR PATEL: Again, I am not going to get into hypotheticals. What we are – have said is that we want to find a diplomatic solution to this. This is something that ECOWAS and other regional partners share as well, and it’s something that we’re going to continue to work in close coordination with with ECOWAS, with the African Union, with others as well.

QUESTION: And if it continues to – if the junta continues not to heed these warnings, are you concerned that that’s going to lead to – would you have more specific in terms about the safety of President Bazoum given, I guess, what we’ve heard could happen to him in the event of a conflict?

MR PATEL: Our – the safety and well-being of President Bazoum and his family has been an area of immense concern to us since this attempted takeover took place, and that continues to be the case. And of course that’s something that we have been very clear about to the CNSP, is that President Bazoum’s well-being and his safety continues to be their responsibility. It’s something that we are continuing to pay close attention to, and we’ll hold appropriate actors involved accountable should that – should that change.

On top of that, though, we continue to maintain our strong desire for seeking a diplomatic solution that we believe and that we hope will respect the constitutional order in Niger.

QUESTION: And just finally, is there – is there an ongoing conversation or contacts between U.S. officials and members of the junta that —

MR PATEL: We have remained deeply engaged in this since it took place, but I don’t have any specific calls to read out or offer.

Yeah. Kylie, go ahead.



QUESTION: If no one has Niger – okay. So CNN put out new reporting today about a gruesome massacre on June 15th in West Darfur, Sudan by the Rapid Support Forces and allied militias, where they hunted down non-Arab people, and according to one humanitarian worker, more than a thousand people were killed that day. Does the State Department have any response? Did this building know anything about what appears to be one of the bloodiest days in that country that we’ve seen to date?

MR PATEL: So on August 9th, in her remarks to the UN Security Council, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield spoke a great deal about this and stressed the U.S. Government’s condemnation in the strongest terms to these reported atrocities, which are horrific reminders of the events that led us to determine in 2004 that genocide had been committed in Darfur. While these atrocities have been taking place in Darfur – reportedly have been committed by the RSF and affiliated militia – our view is, though, that both sides have been responsible for abuses and both the RSF and the SAF must cease fighting, ensure their forces respect human rights and international law, and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities and other abuses, as well as allow for the unhindered humanitarian access as well.

And we are going to continue to condemn and confront these kinds of actions in the strongest terms, but I don’t have anything additional to offer on that from here.

QUESTION: Has anyone from the U.S. Government reached out to members of the RSF after these days, which appear to have amounted into a massacre?

MR PATEL: I’m not aware of any specific engagements to read out or read out from here, but I’m happy to check if there – if we have any additional information as it relates to that.

QUESTION: So really it’s just condemnation from the U.S. Government right now, no action to try and hold those accountable, even though you say both sides are to fault here?

MR PATEL: Look, we – I’m certainly not going to preview actions or steps from up here. The United States, when it’s come to atrocities like this, we have taken steps to hold relevant parties accountable, and we continue to work with regional partners on this, and we’ll take appropriate steps as needed. I’m just not going to preview them from up here.

Okay. Nike, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can I go to China?

MR PATEL: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Americans wrongfully detained in China? Secretary spoke to Paul Whelan on Wednesday, and five Americans detained by Iran have been released, now put on house arrest. Those Americans wrongfully detained by China, their families are asking when can they see their loved ones return home. Do you have any update on that? And is this something that the Secretary plan to discuss when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is –

MR PATEL: So, I – Nike, I would want nothing more than to be able to stand up here today and say that every American national who has been deemed wrongfully detained is on their way back home to the United States. As it relates to the Americans who we have wrongfully detained in the PRC, I don’t have any updates. Our work to bring them home continues.

But yes, you can absolutely expect that in every opportunity this administration, this government will press for their release and for their swift return home. That is something we have done, and that’s something we will continue to do.

QUESTION: South China Sea.

MR PATEL: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on reports by the Associated Press that China appears to be constructing an airstrip on a disputed South China Sea island that is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, the Triton Island, according to satellite photos? Does that conflict with the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific? Thank you very much.

MR PATEL: So freedom of the seas and adherence to international law in the South China Sea are vital interests for the international – entire international community. Our view is that the PRC’s reclamation and militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, its willingness to use coercion and intimidation, along with other provocative actions undertaken to enforce its expansion in unlawful – in the South China Sea, these kinds of activities undermine the peace and security of the region. And Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea. And in the name of its – of enforcing its expansive and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, the PRC is interfering with the navigational rights and freedoms that accrue to all states.

Julia, you had your hand up. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Sticking with the wrongfully detained Americans, I wanted to ask you about the Secretary’s call with Paul Whelan.


QUESTION: I know that the word “frank” has been one going around to characterize it. If you had anything to add on that?

MR PATEL: So I can confirm that Secretary Blinken spoke with Paul Whelan yesterday, on August 16th. I’m not going to get into the details of that call, beyond noting that the Secretary was able to hear directly from Paul about his condition and was able to tell Paul that President Biden and he remain committed to bringing him home and are doing everything they can to do so. I will just note, again, that Secretary Blinken offered Russia a serious proposal for Paul Whelan’s release, and that our view continues to be that Russia should immediately release Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich.

QUESTION: Paul’s brother released a statement earlier today saying that the substantial proposal from ’22 – 2022 has, as you all have noticed, I’m sure, dropped from State Department’s messaging. You just referenced it just now, but is there another proposal perhaps in the works that Russia would be more willing to look at, with different concessions, given that they haven’t seriously responded to this one?

MR PATEL: So I’m just not going to get into the specifics of the ongoing discussions and negotiations around Paul’s release. What I can say is that we have been clear and consistent about the need to release Paul Whelan. We did so when Secretary Blinken briefly spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov in New Delhi on the margins of the G20 summit, when the Secretary again spoke to —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: The G20 foreign ministers ministerial. Thank you, Matt. Always here to correct us.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: He had the opportunity to raise this with Foreign Minister Lavrov again when he spoke to the foreign minister shortly after Evan Gershkovich’s detention. And so we have been clear and consistent that the Russian Federation should immediately release Paul Whelan and Evan as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) all that. The offer that’s been on the table is the offer; there isn’t an updated or new one?

MR PATEL: I have no updates or anything to offer on the discussions on this.

QUESTION: Switching topics, I just have one more related to Russia. Reports of Putin speaking with his Iranian counterpart, discussing Iran’s future membership in the BRICS grouping. I was wondering if the State Department has a comment on that possibility.

MR PATEL: I’ve not seen the reports of that call. I would let those two countries speak to their own engagements. And the United States, of course, is not a party to BRICS.

But what I will say again – and you’ve heard me say this week and will reiterate in this context – is that Iran continues to partake in a number of malign and destabilizing activities. At the nexus with Russia is their provision of drones to the Russian Federation for use in Ukraine. That is something, of course, that the United States takes serious issue with. And we, of course, in coordination with our allies and partners, will continue to hold both the Iranian regime as well as the Russian Federation accountable for the use of these drones on our Ukrainian partners.

QUESTION: Follow up on that?

MR PATEL: Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Excuse me.

MR PATEL: I’ll work – come to the room in the back in a second. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a couple; I’ll be – very briefly. On Paul, can you give us an idea of how the idea was formed, the Secretary call —

MR PATEL: I am just not going to offer additional specifics on the call, Alex.

QUESTION: This week marked 11 years of Austin Tice’s being kidnapped. In light of today’s sanctions, some of us have heard from his mom in town earlier this week. Did the Secretary have – or anyone in this building had a chance to meet with his mom this week?

MR PATEL: So I don’t have any meetings or engagements to read out. What I will say is that the Secretary, Ambassador Carstens, this department has the opportunity to engage with family members of our wrongfully detained or held hostage American citizens frequently. It’s something that we take really seriously, and it’s something that we’ll continue to do over the course of their cases.

Jackson, go ahead.


MR PATEL: Alex, I’m going to work the room.

QUESTION: Please come back —

MR PATEL: You get a lot of questions. Jackson, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I did not see the schedule change. Regarding Iran allegedly assisting Russia to build 6,000 attack drones, according to The Washington Post, does that throw a wrench in the negotiations over the hostages?

MR PATEL: So first, it’s not alleged. We know quite clearly that the Iranian regime is providing drones to the Russian Federation and that they’re being used in Ukraine. Number two, what the news that we shared last week about these five American citizens who have been released from the Evin Prison and moved to house arrest – that issue is separate from all of our other issues as it relates to the Iranian regime. And we will continue to take steps to hold the Iranian regime accountable for their malign, destabilizing activities in the region, as well as more broadly as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PATEL: Jalil, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Patel. Nice to see you. So now when the U.S. has accepted the cypher reality, does the State Department agree that now basically the fabric of democracy is shattered in Pakistan or not?

MR PATEL: I don’t understand what you’re referring to, Jalil.

QUESTION: After the regime change of Imran Khan, now how the democracy is going in Pakistan, does the State Department see as being democracy or shattered democracy?

MR PATEL: So what I will just say – and I spoke a little about this earlier this week – there was a caretaker prime minister in government put in place in Pakistan. We look forward to continuing to partner with Pakistan on a number of issues, but especially as they gear up for elections to take place in the forthcoming time. So I will just leave it at that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one more question.

MR PATEL: I’m going to work the room a little bit. We’ve got new people in the room today.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: Go ahead. That’s right.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.


QUESTION: If I could turn your attention to Nicaragua. The University of Central America – they’re a topnotch Jesuit school – property, money, and assets all seized by the Ortega government just the other day, the latest attack on the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. Your – the administration’s response, please?

MR PATEL: So the Ortega-Murillo’s seizure of the Jesuit-run Universidad Central Americana represents the further erosion of democratic norms and a stifling civic space. This is a premier center of academic excellence, independent inquiry, and hope for future in Nicaragua. The U.S. condemns the regime’s ongoing repression of religious figures and institutions, and we call for the immediate, unconditional release of individuals of conscience imprisoned in Nicaragua, including Bishop Álvarez. The decision is a further sign that Ortega and Murillo continue to embrace authoritarianism and undermine all independent institutions in Nicaragua. Despite their efforts, they cannot extinguish freedom of thought, and we’re going to continue to use diplomatic and economic tools to promote accountability for such acts.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. believe Álvarez is still alive? There’s, like, one lawmaker, Representative Chris Smith – he’s demanding proof; the Nicaraguan Government, Ortega, show proof that Rolando Álvarez is alive. Is the U.S. going to demand proof, to see that?

MR PATEL: I have no different assessment to offer from up here. Again, our call is for the immediate and unconditional release.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today the —

QUESTION: Can we – for one second?


QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure that – because I didn’t – I forgot to look earlier. What you just said in response to that question was pretty much exactly the same as Brian Nichols, the assistant secretary, tweeted yesterday, or X’d yesterday. Right?

MR PATEL: Well, he is the assistant secretary for the region.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But to your knowledge, is there anything new that you just added that —

MR PATEL: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So today the Treasury Department sanctioned two Syrian-based militia responsible for human rights abuses in northern Syria. So these groups and others close to Türkiye have displaced tens of thousands of Kurdish people used to live in Afrin. So does the United States Government take Türkiye and this group as responsible for the demographic change in Afrin?

MR PATEL: So our view is that we believe the rights of all Syrians should be respected, and we’ll continue to identify and seek to hold to account individuals who abuse or violate those rights, including those related to housing, land, property rights in – those remaining in Syria and those who have been displaced. And we continue to encourage all parties to act in a manner that promotes peaceful coexistence and respect for human rights as well.

Diyar, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant.


QUESTION: After her return from the Washington to Iraq in the last 30 days, Ambassador Romanowski, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has met almost all the Iraqi leaders, including the political parties, but not the Iraqi president and also the Kurdish leaders. And yesterday the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. was here at the State Department, and he met with the Assistant Secretary Lee. Were there any new message to the Iraqi leaders? And why all these meetings are happening at this current time?

MR PATEL: So I’m not going to get into the specifics of private diplomatic conversations. But what I will say is that when Ambassador Romanowski returned to Iraq following the joint security and defense dialogue here in D.C., she met with Iraqi political leadership to share the outcomes of the discussion. U.S. officials here in D.C. meet regularly with Iraqi diplomats, including the Iraqi ambassador, and it is of course normal business for diplomats of all countries to meet with counterparts across the government. And I don’t have anything additional to add beyond just reiterating that the U.S. supports a stable, secure, and sovereign Iraq.

QUESTION: Why there were no meetings with the Iraqi president?

MR PATEL: Again, I just don’t have any other information to provide on this.

Kylie, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a sort of non-news of the day question for you, but we won’t see you up here for a while, so I wanted to ask about the closure of the Anglo-American School in Russia. It happened this spring. We all know that. But I’m just wondering if you have any response to that school closing after decades, where U.S. diplomats’ children went to that school, and what it means for the diplomatic community.

MR PATEL: Certainly. So of course I think the closure of any school that has been integral to an American mission in any country, of course, has serious unintended consequences, especially as it relates to the families of our diplomats and our personnel abroad. I don’t have any other specifics to offer on this situation, Kylie, but I think this is yet another example of when actions by the Russian Federation make it more challenging and more complicated for our mission and embassy personnel and the facility itself to function when aspects that impact family life end up being more challenging.

QUESTION: And are you able to share with us where the State Department has suggested that diplomats with children send their children to school in Russia now?

MR PATEL: I certainly just wouldn’t get into those kind of specifics from up here.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you. And I apologize for being late.

MR PATEL: All good. Keep you on your toes a little bit on a Thursday, so.

QUESTION: So two quick questions on the Palestinian issue.


QUESTION: Israel is allocating about $180 million to expand and build illegal settlements and outposts in the West Bank – illegal outposts in the West Bank – to expand them. I wonder if you’re aware of this report and if you have any comment on that.

MR PATEL: So our views on this, Said, have been clear and consistent that the expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution. It incites tensions and it further harms trust between the two parties. And we strongly oppose the advancements of settlements and urge Israel to refrain from this activity, including the promotion of outposts. We take this issue very seriously, and it impinges on the viability of a two-state solution, as I just said.

QUESTION: I mean, I know. Your position is very clear, and I think the Israelis see this. They definitely watch this briefing. But, I mean, again, I hate to keep revisiting this issue over and over again, but without leverage, it seems that the Israelis will just dismiss this as just another statement – old, worn-out statement.

MR PATEL: Said, I think you are minimizing the impact that diplomacy can have, the potential impact that it can have, not just in that region but in any part of the world. We, this government, speaks in unison when talking about this issue, and it’s something that the Secretary is clear about with his counterparts, the President is clear about, others in this building who work on these very important issues are clear about with their appropriate interlocutors as well.

QUESTION: So, I mean, speaking of leverage and so on, the United States just greenlighted, basically, a deal that Israel concluded with Germany to the tune of $3.5 billion. I mean, that’s almost as much as the United States gives Israel a year in military aid. My question to you: if they can cut this kind of deal on weapons and so on, why are the American taxpayers obligated to subsidize Israel with $3.8 billion? Obviously they don’t need this aid that you send them.

MR PATEL: Said, the United States’s role here, in my understanding, is a – there is a third-party transfer equity piece of this that the United States approved. But beyond that, I will let our Israeli and German partners speak to the further details of this.

QUESTION: One last thing. Anything new on the nomination of Jack Lew for ambassador?

MR PATEL: I have no personnel announcement to announce. Thank you.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Speaking of Lew, I know you can’t speak to hypotheticals, but at the time you’re looking at a U.S.-Israeli relationship that’s incredibly complicated as it is, a bruising confirmation process in the Senate right now; you’ve got a presidential election coming up. Broadly speaking, regardless of who the nominee might be for the ambassadorial position, what in the administration’s view is the worthwhileness of floating a nomination at this point in time before the next presidential election?

MR PATEL: Well, let me say a couple of things. First, to take a step back, we think it is important to have confirmed ambassadors in as many capitals as we can. You saw the Secretary come down here and make that point a number of weeks ago. We of course – it’s important when, before those nominations become public, that the appropriate processes are run before any individual is announced. That is, of course, the case in any situation.

But also, in the meantime, we of course have incredibly qualified CDAs in charge of our missions in places where we don’t have confirmed ambassadors. But it is clear that a confirmed ambassador conveys the approval and the strength of confirmation of Congress, as well as being personally nominated by the President of the United States. So not just in Israel but in any country, it is incredibly important to have as many confirmed ambassadors as possible.

QUESTION: So how do you balance that against Israel becoming what is likely to become a political football issue in the Senate right now? How does the administration balance those two interests?

MR PATEL: So I – one, we have a number of ambassadorial nominations pending before the Congress still. We think our colleagues in Congress should move on those and get those individuals confirmed as soon as possible. And whenever this administration announce its – announce its nominee to be the ambassador to Israel, we look forward to working with our partners in Congress on moving that forward. I don’t think it is lost on anybody how vitally important American interests are in that region and how important it is that when the time comes, to have a confirmed ambassador there.

Yeah. Goyal, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. India just celebrated 77 years of independence, and 1.4 billion people are now waiting G20 leaders from around the globe, including, of course, President Biden and the Secretary of State, I’m sure. Secretary of State must be working, sir, on the background. Many issues will be discussed there between the President Biden and the Prime Minister Modi and other leaders in New Delhi, two days’ conference.

Two things are there. One, terrorism is on the rise in the region, and climate problems are there. Do you think some of these issues will be discussed, including, of course, Russia’s war against Ukraine, among others?

MR PATEL: I’m not going to get ahead of the G20 Summit that is taking place in – to get the word right for Matt – in a number of weeks.

QUESTION: No, no, it wasn’t (inaudible).

MR PATEL: I’m teasing. I’m teasing. I’m teasing.

QUESTION: What you were talking about happened at a G20 foreign ministers meeting —

MR PATEL: Yes, you are right. You are right.

QUESTION: — not a summit.

MR PATEL: You are right. We – I don’t want to get ahead of the summit, Goyal, but the issues that you outlined, of course, are important bilateral issues that we look forward to discussing with India in any context as well as other members of the G20, whether that be security cooperation, the opportunity to discuss climate and energy issues, and, of course, Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine.

QUESTION: A follow-up (inaudible).

QUESTION: Sir, just quickly follow – quickly.

MR PATEL: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Now Russia’s war against Ukraine is over 500 days and most powerful leaders from around the globe will be in New Delhi. You think there will be a – some kind of solution or some kind of agreement, some kind of – to stop the war? Because millions and millions of people are suffering around the globe in one or another way because of this war.

MR PATEL: We would welcome any country that, one, wants to take steps to support our Ukrainian partners, and two, we would welcome any country playing a role in conveying, continuing to convey to the Russian Federation that – how important and dire it is that they leave Ukraine altogether and stop attempting to violate Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Jalil, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Goyal was talking about just the increase in terrorism in the region.


QUESTION: I’m sure you know about Benazir Bhutto being assassinated, I’m sure you know about a guy named Mangal Bagh from Pakistan who was shot dead by a U.S. drone in Afghanistan. Is the U.S. at all concerned about the safety and security of Imran Khan being assassinated in jail because – has the U.S. shown any concerns at all?

MR PATEL: So our message continues to be clear to our partners in Pakistan that anybody held in detention should be [afforded] human rights consistent with international law and that continues to be the case here. I will let Pakistan speak about any other details as it relates to Imran Khan’s case.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I have two more questions since we’re not going to see you the next couple of weeks. Iran.


QUESTION: The Secretary told us earlier this week we will not – we will continue to hold the regime accountable for its human rights abuses. Yesterday marked 11 months since Mahsa Amini was murdered and next month will be first anniversary. There are calls from the Hill to sanction Iranian leadership including the supreme leader. Is it something that the department is considering?

MR PATEL: I am just not going to preview sanctions or designations from up here, Alex, but in the very tragic and brutal case of Mahsa Amini, we, of course, have not hesitated to take steps to hold perpetrators and violators of human rights in Iran accountable. You saw us do so at regular intervals over the course of the last year and we’ll continue to take steps to do so. And of course, the Iranian regime’s crackdown of human rights and its clear violations of human rights continues to be a threat posed by them that we will continue to tackle and challenge in close coordination with allies and partners in the region, but across the world broadly also.

QUESTION: Thank you. And on Azerbaijan, the case of Gubad Ibadoghlu, there are calls from the Hill, among civil society members, and most recently UN human rights body urging the government to release him on humanitarian grounds because of his deteriorating health situation. Is this the sentiment that you guys’ share?

MR PATEL: I’m going to have to check on that case, Alex, and we can follow back up with you.

QUESTION: I asked this question, like, three times and the line the State Department came up with was urging the government to respect human rights, some vague language for the Azerbaijani Government. Why not calling for his release if you want him to be released?

MR PATEL: Again, Alex, this is just a case I’m going to have to check back on and I’m happy to follow up with you offline.

All right. Thanks, every —

QUESTION: No, no. Wait, wait, wait.

MR PATEL: Go ahead, Matt. You want to close it off?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) They both have to do with letters sent to the department —

MR PATEL: Oh, joy.

QUESTION: — one to Secretary Blinken. Yes, exactly. This has to do with South Asia. Can you say whether or not the Secretary has gotten a letter from a lawyer for – and I’m going to screw up the pronunciation of this, but a Dr. Tahawwur Rana, who is wanted – India is seeking his extradition in relation to the Mumbai attacks a while ago. He was a co-defendant of David Headley, who you’re probably aware of. Anyway, he was acquitted here in the U.S., but the Indians are seeking his extradition, and his lawyer sent a letter saying that – asking the Secretary to deny this surrender certification on this.

Has – I know that you don’t like to talk about extradition requests, but can you at least say whether he’s gotten the letter, and is it going to be responded to?

MR PATEL: So this, Matt, as you so note, is a pending extradition matter, and so given the fact that it is pending, I don’t have any specific comment to offer.

QUESTION: And you said you – can you at least confirm that he has received the letter —

MR PATEL: Again —

QUESTION: — or that his office has received the letter?

MR PATEL: — I’m just not going to comment on a pending extradition matter, but —

QUESTION: Is it correct or not that when the Secretary of State signs off on the final – It’s usually a rubber stamp. But is it correct or not that the Secretary of State signs off on the final surrender, on the extradition request?


QUESTION: Or his designee?

MR PATEL: I’m sure the Department of Justice can outline the specific steps that are required in an extradition matter.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Department of State can also confirm that – what I know to be true, which I don’t understand why you’re not saying it here, is that the Secretary of State has the final signature on a surrender.

MR PATEL: That is a – broadly speaking, that is my understanding of the process, but I’m sure —

QUESTION: And so why can’t you say whether or not you’ve gotten a letter (inaudible)?

MR PATEL: Because the process continues to be pending, Matt. But what I can say is that —

QUESTION: Well, I don’t see why that – why that means that you can’t speak to whether the Secretary has received a letter.

MR PATEL: What I can say is that we are committed to confronting terrorism across the world, and we continue to call for those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks to be brought to justice. But I’m not —

QUESTION: Okay. But that’s not my question. My question is whether the Secretary has or has not received a letter seeking – asking him to deny or reject the surrender order for this —

MR PATEL: I am not confused by the question you’re asking. I am just simply stating to that —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: — I don’t have additional comment since it’s pending.

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, and then on another one.


QUESTION: On Bahrain.


QUESTION: There are a number of human rights activists, there are others, who have – who have been imprisoned, some of whom are now on hunger strike. There is one in particular whose name escapes me at the moment. He’s a Danish-Bahraini citizen. You – I recognize he’s not an American citizen or an LPR —


QUESTION: — but you have spoken about his case in the past. He’s on a hunger strike, and I’m just wondering – there are a couple of important dates coming up in his detention. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR PATEL: Yeah, let me say a couple of things. First, we are aware of and concerned of the reports of this hunger strike at the Jaw Rehabilitation and Reform Centre. We have raised human rights issues with Bahraini officials, including as recently as the Secretary’s July 20th meeting with the Bahraini foreign minister, where we also expressed concern about some of these reports. Broadly, though, Matt, the U.S. is committed to promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world, and we urge Bahrain to continue to make progress on criminal justice reforms and ensure human rights standards are upheld.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thank you, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

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U.S. Department of State

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