2:24 p.m. EST
MR PRICE: We just have one element at the top, and then we will return to your questions.
Secretary Blinken will participate this week in five virtual minister ministerial meetings related to ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. These are the U.S.-ASEAN – these are the U.S.-ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Mekong-U.S. Partnership, and the Friends of the Mekong Ministerial meetings.
The Secretary participated in the Special U.S.-ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting on July 13th and reiterated our U.S. – the U.S. commitment to our strategic partnership with ASEAN and our strong support for ASEAN centrality.
During this week’s meeting, Secretary Blinken will underscore that commitment and reiterate U.S. positions on pressing regional issues, including calling on the Burmese junta to immediately end the violence and restore Burma to the path of democracy. Supporting freedom of the seas in the South China Sea, improving resilience and transparency through the Mekong-U.S. partnership, and urging ASEAN members to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions on the DPRK.
The Secretary will share with ASEAN our plans for additional support in the fight against COVID-19, including through sharing additional vaccine doses. He will also discuss our plans to support ASEAN’s economic recovery and plans to combat climate change. He looks forward to a fruitful discussion with our ASEAN counterparts and regional partners this week, and we’ll have more details on that as the week progresses.
And so that that, happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Okay, let’s just start with Afghanistan.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: I’ll be really brief because I think that after the announcement and the background call and now the Secretary’s comment, we’ve probably got pretty much all the answers that we’re going to get, I think. But I just want to make a point. The Secretary talked about how this is a gesture of friendship and generosity from the United States to this new – this group of people who are now going to have P-2 status or eligible to apply for P-2 status. But isn’t it a kind of a hollow gesture if they have to leave the country at their own expense and at their own – on their – that they don’t any support in leaving the country and then have to – and then have to find a way to make ends meet for 12 to 14 months once they get to a third country, without any assistance from you guys at all? Don’t you think that significantly reduces the number of people who are going to be able to take advantage of this? Which I understand is done at your – it’s well-meaning, but I don’t – frankly, I just don’t see how it’s going to make much of a – much of an impact.
MR PRICE: Well, Matt, I would actually take issue with at least part of your premise, and let me just start with the requirement that you alluded to that Afghans do, in fact, need to be outside of the country in order for this processing to take place. And just to put it very simply, that is due to the security situation in Afghanistan and the lack of resettlement infrastructure, including personnel in place in the country, which is why Afghans eligible and referred to the P-2 program must be outside Afghanistan in a third by for their cases to be —
QUESTION: But —
MR PRICE: But just let me – let me
QUESTION: Well, not only is it —
MR PRICE: But let – Matt, let —
QUESTION: That’s worse than a Catch-22.
MR PRICE: Matt, I’m going to —
QUESTION: You’re telling them that they can leave because the situation is too dangerous, but they can’t stay because the situation – they have to leave —
MR PRICE: So there – there are —
QUESTION: — but they can’t stay —
MR PRICE: There are a couple —
QUESTION: This is level Catch-44.
MR PRICE: There are a couple elements to your question. If you would allow me to answer all of them, I certainly will.
QUESTION: Yeah, all good. Sorry.
MR PRICE: We recognize, as the Secretary said, that it is extremely difficult for Afghans to obtain a visa to a third country or, in some cases, to find a way to enter a third country. We recognize that. Like many refugees, as the Secretary just said, refugees all over the world – this is not, lamentably, unique to Afghanistan – they will face challenges seeking that safety.
We are continuing to review the situation on the ground as we have done in the context of this new P-2 program and the context of the launch of Operation Allies Refuge. We will continue to consider all available options and our planning will evolve. The fact that we are announcing this new P-2 program today is just the latest evolution of that process. It was a couple weeks ago that we announced Operation Allies Refuge, which was an evolution of our thinking taking into account contingencies and conditions on the ground.
But I also want to make very clear that once Afghans are – well, both for Afghans who are displaced internally within their own country and for Afghan refugees who have fled their country – Afghan refugees eligible to refer – to be referred to the P-2 program may contact the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the country office in the country —
QUESTION: Human Rights and Refugee – High Commissioner for Refugees. Or both?
MR PRICE: Sorry. I’m sorry. Yes, for Refugees – I’m sorry – in the country office. It is also quite relevant to this discussion that the United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. On June 4th of this year, we announced more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance. That brings our total assistance over the course of these years to nearly $4 billion. And now humanitarian assistance from the American people helps our international humanitarian partners provide support, as I said before, to Afghans who are displaced within their own country, but also to Afghan refugees in the region. The United States has been the world’s largest humanitarian donor, and that includes, as I said, to Afghan refugees in the region.
This funding allows our partners to provide life-saving food, nutrition, protection, shelter, livelihood opportunities that are essential, as well as other services like health care, water, sanitation, hygiene services, to respond to the humanitarian needs generated by conflict, by drought, and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. This humanitarian assistance provides protection to the most vulnerable Afghans, and that certainly includes Afghans who have forced – have been forced to make the grueling decision in some cases to have to leave their country.
But let me make one other point. We are talking about this program today, the P-2 program, but as you heard from the Secretary, the broader point is that we seek to establish the conditions in Afghanistan where all Afghans can achieve a level of safety and security. That’s not only our goal. That is a goal that we are working with the broader international community to bring about. As we have said repeatedly, it is not only in our interest but it’s in the interest of Afghanistan’s neighbors to —
QUESTION: All right. Well, how is that goal going so far?
MR PRICE: — to Afghans’ neighbors to see peace and security for the people of Afghanistan. So that is why we have not only invested tremendously in this humanitarian assistance, we have not only invested and will continue to invest in our partnership with Afghan security forces, but we are investing intensively, as the Secretary said, in the diplomacy, supporting the diplomacy between the Afghan parties, bringing together the international community, again, with an objective that all Afghans are able to live in peace and security within their own country.
The reason we’re talking about this program today, and the reason we’ve spoken to the SIV program and launched the very ambitious Operation Allies Refuge is because there is a subset of Afghans who, over the course of the years, owing to their extraordinary service to the United States, be it to our military, to the State Department, or in the case of P-2 the P-2 program, to NGOs, to media organizations, these individuals face an especially acute threat. And so that’s why, even as our goal is to bring about an Afghanistan where all Afghans can live in safety and security, we also have a special responsibility to these Afghans who face an especially acute threat.
And we have designed this program in consultation with a number of stakeholders. It was late last month that a consortium of nearly two dozen media organizations as well as the Committee to Protect Journalists and other NGOs wrote to Secretary Blinken and wrote to President Biden writing that: We urge the Biden administration to create the support the creation of a visa program for Afghans who worked with the U.S. press and now seek safety in the United States.
As I’ve said before, we are always looking at conditions on the ground, we are exploring contingencies. You have seen us act as those conditions have evolved in the context of these programs that we have announced and spoken to over the course of recent weeks, and we’ll continue to do that going forward.
QUESTION: Well, Ned, but even before the withdrawal is complete, we see tens of thousands of people fleeing, okay? And yes, while it is quite relevant that the United States is the largest humanitarian donor, isn’t it always quite – isn’t it also quite relevant that the reason that this is happening now is because you guys are withdrawing, and you bear not only a special responsibility to assist inside of the country, but also a special responsibility to those trying to get out?
And this program, the P-2 program in particular, which offers them no support other than the fact that they are eligible to apply if they get nominated or referred, they have to get outside the country, they have to stay there for 12 to 14 months while these things – while this is – stay wherever it is while this is processed. That’s just – the Secretary said that this is an – incredibly hard, it’s incredibly difficult.
MR PRICE: It is. It is. And —
QUESTION: And you keep mentioning all these other refugees from around the world. Well, this is a situation where this outflux, this outflow of people, is directly related to the fact that you guys are leaving, right?
MR PRICE: Let me address a couple elements. One, P-2 is a category of refugee status. You are right that the P-2 designation, the P-2 status, doesn’t automatically confer benefits to refugees once they’re outside of the country. But our point is, both through UNHCR and through the tremendous generosity of the American people, the largest humanitarian donor – $266 million just a couple months ago, billions of dollars over the course of the years – refugees, Afghan refugees do have support and are eligible to receive support from the United States Government, from the UN, from other humanitarian donors. So it’s not accurate to say that these individuals are necessarily and entirely left to fend for themselves.
We don’t want to sugarcoat this. This is an arduous decision for anyone to have to leave his or her country, especially if they’re forced to make the journey, at least in the first instance, alone. But there are forms of support and the United States will continue to be the largest humanitarian donor, knowing that it is the generosity of spirit of the American people, knowing that in this case, in the case of the P-2 program, in the case of the SIV program, we do have a special responsibility to these individuals who, in many cases, face an especially acute threat because of the work they have done on behalf of the American people or directly on behalf of the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: And how would you – a question about Afghanistan. First of all, you referenced and Secretary Blinken referenced the assistance the United States will provide to other countries that will be absorbing some of the Afghan refugees. Is there anything you can say about how, if at all, that money will actually go to the people who are going to go stay in Pakistan or wherever for the year or however long it takes for them to have their applications processed? My impression had been that that aid would go to – go through the government and maybe go to refugee camps, whereas many of these people will be setting up on their own, et cetera. Anything you can say about that?
Secondly, are you going to be surging new, like, personnel or resources to countries that are expected to have larger numbers of these people to be able to process their stuff? And then, in the announcement this morning it said that this P-2 designation included people who worked for U.S.-funded projects that were funded via grants or cooperative agreements, but it did not include subcontractors. And I just wonder why is that, because my understanding is that, at least in the past, contracts have represented at least half of the reconstruction funding, and so the sub – the contractor is usually a smaller group, the subs are like the Afghan NGOs or the Afghan employees. Why is that the case?
And finally, can you just give us an update on media access to Fort Lee? Thanks.
MR PRICE: Sure. So there’s a lot there.
MR PRICE: Let me see if I can remember all that and address them in turn.
QUESTION: Well, the last one is easy.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Sorry.
MR PRICE: So in terms of the – what we are providing, the tremendous humanitarian support that we have provided over the years to Afghan refugees, both internally displaced refugees within – internally displaced people within the country of Afghanistan and Afghan refugees outside of Afghanistan, much of this funding goes to our international and humanitarian partners, who are then in a position on the ground in neighboring countries or in the broader region to provide that support to some of the 18.4 million Afghans in need. And that includes Afghans both in Afghanistan and also Afghan refugees in the region. As I said before, these humanitarian partners then, in turn, can provide the sort of life-saving support that all too often is a lifeline for Afghan refugees: food, nutrition, protection, shelter, opportunities for livelihood, essential health care, water, sanitation, hygiene services.
That – those are the kinds of services that our humanitarian partners are in a position to provide. USAID and the department works closely with humanitarian partners not only in this region but also throughout the world in a well-honed process to see to it that that funding is distributed in an effective means.
In terms of personnel, we just announced this program today. We’ve obviously spoken, when it comes to the SIV program, of the universe of people who may – who are in that pipeline already. But we just announced this program today, so I think it would be premature for us to render an estimate as to how many may apply for this.
But that is relevant to your questions about eligibility, and just to recap, Afghan nationals are eligible for the P-2 program under certain conditions. Number one, Afghans who do not meet the minimum time and service for an SIV but who worked or work as employees of contractors, locally employed staff, interpreters and translators for the U.S. Government, United States Forces Afghanistan, the ISAF, or International Security Assistance Force, or Resolute Support. It also applies to Afghans who worked or work for U.S. Government-funded programs or projects in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. Government grant or cooperative agreement as well as Afghans who were or are employed by U.S.-based media organizations or nongovernmental organizations.
Now, this program was designed, as we’ve said before, to provide an additional form of support to those Afghans who by dint of their work on behalf of the U.S. Government or the American people face an especially acute threat. And so this really drove the parameters of the program, the distinction between contractors and subcontractors. This program, we have designed it – as we have in the Iraqi context as well – to apply to those Afghans who in our judgment face an especially acute threat. That is not to say that it will cover all of those who may come under threat. Again, there is the P-1 refugee program that remains available for broader groups of Afghan nationals. There is the SIV program for a separate set of nationals, and now the P-2 program for these Afghan nationals who have worked for the U.S. Government or for the American people over the years.
In terms of media access to Fort Lee, this is something that we have explored. DOD may be able to offer additional details, but we’ll continue to update you on the progress, as the Secretary did today, of the SIV relocation flights and the SIVs who have successfully arrived in the United States.
QUESTION: DOD has referred us to the State Department, just so you know.
MR PRICE: Understood. Understood.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan too. Afghanistan president has blamed today the American troops speed to leave – or speedy pullout for the worsening violence in his country. Do you have any comment on that?
MR PRICE: Well, there’s one party that is in most cases responsible for the outrageous and atrocious acts of violence that have been perpetrated against the Afghan people, and that’s the Taliban. Of course, other terrorist groups – ISIS-K – also active, but we have seen an increase in these ongoing Taliban attacks. They show little regard for human life, for the rights of the Afghan people, including the basic right of the Afghan people to live in safety and security. The targeted killings, the destructions of buildings and bridges, other vital infrastructure, other violent acts against the people of Afghanistan – we recognize they are in stark contravention to statements from the Taliban leadership.
We’ve seen from the loss of innocent Afghan life and the displacement of Afghans, the civilian population, the people – it is the people of Afghanistan who suffer the most and who bear the brunt of these horrific attacks. If the Taliban leadership truly supports a negotiated solution to this conflict, as they say they do, as their actions in Doha potentially suggest they do, they must stop these horrific attacks. You heard this from the Secretary just now; you’ve heard this from him before; you’ve heard this from me before. But the world won’t accept the imposition by force of a government in Afghanistan. The world will not accept a government in Afghanistan that doesn’t respect basic human rights – the rights of women, the rights of minorities, the rights of Afghan girls to pursue an education. The key point is that legitimacy and, importantly for the durability of any future government of Afghanistan, assistance can only be possible if that government – whatever form it takes – has basic respect for human rights.
And so that’s why we continue to do all we can to galvanize, to support the intra-Afghan negotiations in an effort to arrive at an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned government that fulfills the rights of its citizens and that will support especially the rights of the Afghan people, including that paramount right to live in safety and security, free from violence and, in some cases, persecution.
QUESTION: Ned, can you give one example of something that the Taliban have done on the ground that supports your theory or your wishful thinking that they care about international acceptance? One thing.
MR PRICE: Matt, we know that the Taliban seeks a role in Afghan society, seeks a leadership role in Afghan society.
MR PRICE: Of course. That we can agree on. It is absolutely indispensable – and I think this should be a pretty obvious point too – that any government in Afghanistan will require international assistance.
QUESTION: No, it won’t. The Taliban did not require international assistance when it ran the country the last time around. They didn’t care. They didn’t want it. I know that I’ve gone on; I’ll stop.
QUESTION: And literally one country recognized it.
QUESTION: It’s – it – this is nuts what you guys keep saying. The Secretary himself said they say that they want international – they want their leaders to be able to travel, they don’t want sanctions. There’s nothing that has happened, that they have done on the ground over the course of the last several months – since April, since this was announced – to suggest that they, in fact, do want what you guys hope that they want.
MR PRICE: The Taliban —
QUESTION: Is there? Can you name one thing?
MR PRICE: The Taliban continue to engage in Doha. There has been progress in Doha.
QUESTION: Ned, you know what? If I had a room at the Four Seasons in Doha and was negotiating on – I would say whatever, but that doesn’t matter what happens in Doha, frankly.
MR PRICE: It absolutely does.
QUESTION: No. What matters is the atrocities that you even said are being committed on the ground right now and are getting worse every day.
MR PRICE: Matt, I’m afraid we might be mixing —
QUESTION: I’ll stop.
MR PRICE: — personal opinions with —
QUESTION: It’s not – it’s fact. You admitted – you acknowledged it, that it’s getting worse. You acknowledged that there are horrendous – I’ll go back to my notes.
MR PRICE: It is – any Afghan government will seek a few things. Number one is durability. It will not be to – it would not be to the Taliban’s benefit, it would not be to anyone’s benefit to have a government that is beset by civil war and violence.
QUESTION: Fair enough, but you’re the one – your words – outrageous and atrocious attacks —
MR PRICE: Absolutely, absolutely.
QUESTION: — against the Afghan people that are only getting worse.
MR PRICE: Absolutely. And that’s why we are supporting the intra-Afghan talks. We are seeking to do all we can to support the arrival at an outcome that is just, and then importantly, is durable. All parties want a solution that is durable. Now, clearly, they may have different visions at the moment of what that durable solution might look like, but that’s the point of these talks: to arrive at a solution and an outcome that is Afghan-led, that is Afghan-owned, and importantly, a solution that, at least in our estimation, has to respect the basic and fundamental rights of the Afghan people. That’s not a sentiment that is unique to United States. We have heard that from any number of Afghanistan’s neighbors, from other countries in the region, from other members of the international community as well.
QUESTION: Thank you. I want to move on to another topic, to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. First, the Israeli court today put off enforcing the eviction of the Palestinians from Sheik Jarrah. I wonder if you would urge them to sort of nullify the judgment to begin with on that issue. Then I have a couple more.
MR PRICE: Well, these reports were just emerging, but we are closely following the reports regarding the Sheik Jarrah hearing. We have made this point before: Families should not be evicted from homes in which they have lived for decades. We’re not going to get into these emerging reports or to comment on various detailed legal discussions, but we’re closely following them and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Also, last month, maybe a couple of weeks ago and so on, Mr. – the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hadi Amr warned the Israelis that the PA was on the verge of collapse and so on – on the verge of collapse. Are you – you still believe that, that the PA is about to collapse? Are you taking any sort of emergency or urgent measures to sustain it, to augur it, if you would?
MR PRICE: Well, DAS Amr, the State Department, the administration, we remain engaged with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts to take tangible steps that will improve the quality of lives and advance freedom, security, prosperity for all. Obviously, you have heard us speak to additional humanitarian assistance that we’ve been able to offer even in recent days. We’re doing all of this – the diplomacy, the assistance, the engagement – in an effort that at its core is really predicated on the simple idea that Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of safety, of security, of freedom, and importantly, of dignity.
DAS Amr was in the region just a few weeks ago. He met with both representatives of governments – the Israeli Government, the Palestinian Authority – but he also met with elements of civil society. And that is a partnership, and especially when it comes to that partnership with the Palestinian people, that we are in the process of rebuilding, and we’ve been able to make some tangible steps there, including with the announcement of the additional humanitarian support.
QUESTION: Is he back – is he back in the building? Is he back in town?
MR PRICE: My understanding is he is.
QUESTION: Okay. One last thing regarding the conflict. It was contingent on – apparently contingent on passing the budget, and it seems that it has done that. So do you have any sort of target date for reopening the consulate in Jerusalem?
MR PRICE: Well, Secretary Blinken was very clear when he was in Jerusalem, when he was in Ramallah that the United States will be moving forward with the process to reopen our consulate in Jerusalem. I don’t have any additional details to share at this time, but we’ll be happy to do so when we do.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the report that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has said there’s 24 Russian diplomats who’ve been asked to leave the country by September 3rd after their visas expired. So why are they being asked to leave? Were any of these people acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status? And is this a retaliation against something Russia has done?
MR PRICE: Well, let me first address Ambassador Antonov’s remarks. I understand he made these remarks during a media interview. But his characterization of the situation is not accurate; it’s incorrect. The three-year limit on visa validity for Russians, it’s nothing new. When visas expire, as you might expect, these individuals are expected to leave the country or apply for an extension. That is what is at play here.
But since you did raise the – this issue, let me take an opportunity to speak to the broader issue, and that is a statement that you all saw from us – from Secretary Blinken – on Friday. And we issued this statement in response to what the Russian Government has mandated and what took effect yesterday, and that’s namely that the prohibition on the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff except for our guard force, which very lamentably has forced us to let go of hundreds of staff members across Russia, across embassy and the mission community there. It is unfortunate because these measures have a negative impact on our – on the U.S. mission to Russia’s operation, potentially on the safety and security of our personnel, as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian Government.
I will say that we reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions. The Russian Government has also indicated that it will impose similar measures on the embassies of some other – some of our partners and allies. We also strongly object to this and will stand in solidarity with the other countries, the other members of the diplomatic community there who are affected by this.
The point we’ve made before is that our actions on March 2nd and April 15th, the measures we put into place to hold the Russian Government accountable for its range of threats to our interests and to our people – those were a response. We did not escalate; we did not seek an escalation. Those were a response to the Russian Government’s harmful actions, and we continue to believe that at times like these, we do need open channels of communication between our governments, including through our respective embassies. So we’re continuing to evaluate the situation and will update you as we have new developments.
QUESTION: Could we pursue that a bit? The ambassador – another thing that he said was that three-year validity is unique or almost unique to Russia. Is that accurate as far as you see?
MR PRICE: So the Office of Foreign Missions did issue some guidance recently. What we have said – and we can get you more details if we’re able to share on how this applies to Russia – but we have – we announced last week that the department will limit the assignment duration of most newly arriving members of foreign, diplomatic, or consular missions in the United States to a maximum of five consecutive years. Now, of course, that doesn’t apply to all missions, but the limitation on duration does help us to balance the lengths of tours for bilateral diplomats assigned to foreign missions in the United States and for U.S. diplomats’ assignments overseas.
QUESTION: Five years. Is that not the —
MR PRICE: The maximum is five years across the board.
QUESTION: So when he’s talking about three years, is that accurate? I mean, is that something that’s the case with Russians?
MR PRICE: I couldn’t comment as to whether that is unique to Russian diplomats or not.
QUESTION: Well, can they apply for renewals?
MR PRICE: We’ll see if we can get you more information on that.
QUESTION: Well, because, I mean, you said that after the three years for the Russians, when they either have to leave or they —
MR PRICE: Apply for an extension.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can they get an extension? Or you say no —
MR PRICE: They can apply for an extension. They can apply for an extension, and just as —
QUESTION: But have – and have you – but have you said that we will not accept any extension requests?
MR PRICE: What we’ve said is that they can apply for an extension. As in all cases, applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
QUESTION: All right. But this – but this – but you’re saying in response to his question is that this is not like a retaliatory move for the broader issues or the —
MR PRICE: This is not – the characterization that he put forward is not accurate.
QUESTION: He also said that you make it impossible for them to get visa again to come back. He said they likely will not come back because you guys make it impossible for them to get visa renewal. Is that – do you dispute what he’s saying?
MR PRICE: What we have consistently said is that we believe that in a relationship like this that, at least at the present, is characterized by disagreement, by tension, by friction, and all of that is probably putting it lightly, that we need more communication rather than less. We think it is in our interest. We tend to think it’s in the interest of our two countries, that we are able to communicate effectively and openly, and we can do that through our embassies, but our embassies need to be adequately staffed. The measures that the Russian Federation put in place on Sunday has, as we said before, forced us to let go of hundreds of our employees across our facilities in Russia. That, in turn, has a ripple effect on our ability, on the ability of our diplomats in Russia to do their jobs. We think that is quite unfortunate.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. The U.S. NSA met with the Pakistani counterpart last week. There are reports of Pakistan supporting the Taliban. Was this conveyed in this meeting to Pakistan? And what is their response?
And my second question is: As – what’s the U.S.’s assessment with the meeting between the Chinese foreign minister and the senior Taliban leaders last week?
MR PRICE: Well, as you know, the White House I believe did put out a readout of National Security Advisor Sullivan’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, so I would refer you to that document. When it comes to Pakistan and its role in the region, we do appreciate Pakistan’s efforts to advance the Afghan peace process and stability in South Asia, including by encouraging the Taliban to engage in substantive negotiations. Pakistan has much to gain and will continue to have a critical role, be well positioned to have a role in supporting the outcome that not only the United States seeks, but that many of our international partners, many of the countries in the region also seek. So we’ll continue to work and to communicate closely with our Pakistani partners on this.
MR PRICE: Oh, on China. Well, we’ve made the point before when it comes to the PRC that this is a relationship that, to use one word, is complex. To use three terms, it is one that is oriented around competition; in some areas, it is adversarial; in some areas, it is cooperative.
Now, as you know, our deputy secretary was recently in the PRC. She had an opportunity to explore all three of those areas in a conversation that was candid and expansive. One of those areas where there is at least the potential for some level of cooperation is Afghanistan. As we’ve said before, it is in no one’s interest to see the country descend into all-out civil war, to see the country wracked by violence for years to come. It is in everyone’s interest for – to see a solution to the conflict that is just, that is durable, that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. If I’m not mistaken, I think I saw a statement from the PRC that used that exact term: an outcome that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
So there is an alignment of interests, at least in some areas, when it comes to what we seek in Afghanistan, what the PRC seeks in Afghanistan, and what the broader international community seeks in Afghanistan. And we’ll continue to explore how we might be able to coordinate and work together towards that shared goal.
Take a final question or two. Kylie.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Russia for one second?
MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So you said that the U.S. is continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing. What do you mean by that? Do you mean the U.S. is questioning if they should keep open this embassy in Moscow? Do you mean you’re looking at how to respond both of those things? Can you just be a little more explicit?
MR PRICE: Well, so of course, our embassy in Moscow does remain open. When it comes to our other facilities, operations remain suspended at the U.S. consulate general in Vladivostok. All public-facing services were halted earlier this year at our consulate general in Yekaterinburg. The CG there no longer provides consular services, including U.S. citizen services such as passport issuance, notarial services, and consular reports of birth abroad.
What we have voiced strong objection to, including from the Secretary that you saw on Friday, was the idea that because of the prohibition on the use of Russian or third country staff, that we would have to diminish some of the services and some of the operations that are – that take place at our embassy in Moscow. What I was referring to there – and obviously, we regret this decision that the Russian Federation has taken. Of course, we are going to continue to evaluate what might be appropriate – what may be an appropriate response for us to take going forward.
Said – or (inaudible).
QUESTION: Ned, at what level the U.S. will participate on the International Conference on Lebanon on Thursday – or Wednesday?
MR PRICE: I will let you know if we have anything to say ahead of that when it comes to events later this week. But you heard us reinforce last week, with the most recent developments, that we have renewed our calls to quickly form a government that is empowered and that is committed to implementing critical reforms. It is critical that Lebanese political leaders set aside their political differences and form a government that is committed to and empowered to enact these reforms. The Lebanese people for far too long have been left to, in many cases, suffer because of the political impasse, the political intransigence and inflexibility that Lebanon’s political leaders have demonstrated. With the appointment of Mikati as prime minister-designate, we are renewing our calls for the Lebanese Government to make that progress, to show flexibility, and to put the interests of the Lebanese people ahead of their own political or personal interests.
QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to ask about Secretary’s travel to India last week. How was it and what do you think were the key achievements of that trip?
MR PRICE: I’m sorry, what was the last part?
QUESTION: What are the main point – main achievements of his trip to India last week?
MR PRICE: Yeah. Well, it was – as I think you heard from us at the time, it was the Secretary’s first opportunity as Secretary of State to travel to India. It was also an opportunity for us to explore ways that we can strengthen and deepen the global – the comprehensive global strategic partnership that we have with India.
The other point that we made is that we have a number of shared interests and shared values with the Government of India. We have talked about this in terms of our economic ties, in terms of our trade ties, in terms of our cooperation on climate, in terms of regional security issues, in terms of India’s role as an important member of the Quad and our joint cooperation to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, including with the enhanced vaccine production capacity that the Quad arrived at earlier this year. And as you know, President Biden is very much looking forward to a leader-level Quad summit later this year.
But with all that, our relationship with India is one that also extends to the Indian people. The ties between the American people and the Indian people are deep, they’re enduring, they are predicated on familial ties, they are predicated on mutual respect for one another’s heritage and culture, and these are also ties that were on full display during not only the meetings with our government counterparts but also with elements of civil society. And the Secretary, as he almost always does, had an opportunity to visit the embassy in New Delhi and to thank not only the American diplomats who are there, but also the Indian nationals who are so important and so vital to our mission to deepen and strengthen that comprehensive global strategic partnership.
So – go ahead.
QUESTION: So – yeah. Sorry if I missed this. Has the Pakistani NSA, did – he had any meetings in this building, including with the Secretary?
MR PRICE: The national security advisor did not meet with the Secretary. As you know, we were traveling all last week. But the White House did read out his meeting with National Security Advisor Sullivan.
Thank you all very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:07 p.m.)