2:12 p.m. EDT
MR PRICE: Good afternoon. Happy Monday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Another full house. I do not have anything at the top. My gift to you today will be a topper-free briefing so —
MR PRICE: — I will turn it over to you, Matt Lee.
QUESTION: Really? But so much happened over the weekend, though.
MR PRICE: You are welcome to ask about it.
QUESTION: You have nothing to say about any of it? Okay.
MR PRICE: You are welcome to ask anything that comes to mind.
QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s just start with – let’s just start with Iran, because we’ve been expecting now you guys to deliver your response to the EU – to the Iranians’ response to the EU. It seems to go back and forth like this. Has it been delivered yet? If not, why not? Are you waiting – there – the Israeli national security advisor is supposedly – is coming to town. We’ll be having meetings this week. Are you waiting for that meeting before delivering your response to the EU?
MR PRICE: Sure. So to take a step back and to remind of something we’ve said since the earliest days of this: we have taken a deliberate, we have taken a principled approach to these negotiations from the start. We have said, since we had first started down this road in the Spring of last year, that if Iran is prepared to fully implement its commitments under the 2015 deal, then we are prepared to do the same. That, of course, remains as true today as it was last year.
This negotiation, it is true – and you all in this room know this – has at times languished, and it has languished at times for months and months because of the action or, oftentimes was the case, inaction from Iran. The notion that we have delayed this negotiation in any way is just not true. We stated in March when there – after the – after months of painstaking diplomacy and dialogue, we arrived at the text essentially of a deal that we were prepared for a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA based on that text that was on the table at the time. It was Iran, of course, that was not prepared to say the same.
The EU, as you know, did table a text more recently. That is the text that has been the topic of some discussion between the various parties over the past couple of weeks. The EU based this text on the March text that we were prepared to accept. The High Representative Mr. Borrell has described this as the final text. Iran in turn responded with several comments. This is why it has taken us some additional time to review those comments and to determine a response of our own.
We are seriously reviewing those comments. At the same time, we are engaging with our partners, with the EU, with our European allies on the way ahead. These consultations have taken place at various levels. Rob Malley, of course, is deeply engaged in this, but even at the senior most levels – you saw yesterday the White House issued a readout of the President’s call with his E3 counterparts, where Iran was discussed.
We are encouraged by the fact that Iran appears to have dropped some of its nonstarter demands, such as lifting the FTO designation of the IRGC. But as you’ve heard from us over the past couple days, there are still some outstanding issues that must be resolved, some gaps that must be bridged if we are able to get there. We will respond to Iran’s response as soon as our internal consultations are completed and as soon as our consultations with our close partners —
MR PRICE: — are concluded as well.
QUESTION: Well, that was kind of a defensive answer, at least in the beginning, because I didn’t ask – I didn’t suggest – I don’t think I did – that you have delayed this negotiation, and you just seemed to come out and reject that without that kind of allegation being made. I realize that some may have said that, but that wasn’t part of my question, right. I’m just wondering when you’re going to respond so —
MR PRICE: We will respond as soon as —
QUESTION: So —
MR PRICE: — we have a response prepared, as soon as those —
MR PRICE: — those consultations —
QUESTION: Well —
MR PRICE: — that we’re undertaking internally, as well as our close partners – as soon as those are completed.
QUESTION: Okay. Well does that mean that – then that you’re going to talk to the Israelis first before sending in your response?
MR PRICE: We’ve been discussing this with our Israeli partners since day one, since going back —
MR PRICE: — to the start of this process in Vienna in the spring of last year and really before that. At every step of the process, we have been in touch with our Israeli partners to update them on where we are, to compare notes on the state of Iran’s nuclear program. Of course, Israel, just as we do, has deep concerns about the state of Iran’s nuclear program. For our part, we continue to believe that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is the most effective means by which to address those concerns, but we’ll continue to discuss this —
QUESTION: Okay. I —
MR PRICE: — with our Israeli partners.
QUESTION: I get that, but in – at this moment in time – Monday, the whatever it is – 22nd of August – are you waiting for – to speak with the Israeli national security advisor before you respond to the EU?
MR PRICE: We are taking – we are undertaking a number of consultation – some of them internal, some of them external, some of them we’ve spoken to, some of them we have not spoken to, but I’m just not in a position to detail all of them.
QUESTION: Ned —
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on Iran? Thank you.
QUESTION: — would you say –
MR PRICE: To follow up? Are you —
QUESTION: Yeah, just to follow up on what Matt just mentioned, Mr. Borrell said that he hopes to hear your response by the end of this week. Is this a reasonable timetable considering what you just said about March that there has been alteration and changes, and you need your time before you can respond. Is end of this week – are we talking about, like, days or we’re talking about weeks before we hear your response?
MR PRICE: We are working as quickly as we can to put together an appropriate response to the Iranian paper. This is a process that we want to make sure that we undertake with the rigor and with the attention to detail that is necessary for an issue that is as important as this one is. I can guarantee you that we will not take one day longer than is necessary to provide our response to the EU. As I’ve said before, we have been prepared, going back to last spring, to return to compliance with the JCPOA on a mutual basis. There has been a text – there had been a text on the table that we were prepared to accept this past March, March of 2022. It was Iran that was not in the position to say the same.
So we are working as quickly as we can, as methodically as we can, and as carefully as we can to see to it that our response is complete, it takes into account the Iranian feedback, and we’ll provide that to the EU just as soon as we’re able.
QUESTION: While you consult with Israelis regularly as part of this ongoing Strategic Dialogue, can you just tell us that if this visit specifically – and when it’s going to happen – between the national security advisor – Israeli – and the Secretary? Because my understanding was it supposed to be today, and his meeting with Jake Sullivan tomorrow, but I haven’t seen anything on the schedule. Can you confirm when he’s meeting with him?
And is it significant that basically as, what Matt was – alluded, is it basically part of the response? You’re waiting for him, is this part of the general pictures of briefing the Israelis, or specifically to coordinate a response to the Iranian proposal?
MR PRICE: I don’t expect we’ll be in a position to arrange a meeting between the national security advisor and the Secretary, but there will be high-level consultations between the Israeli national security advisor and individuals in this building, in addition to the other interlocutors that Mr. Hulata will be meeting with this week in Washington.
As you know, our relationship is deep with Israel. There are also a number of issues that we have to discuss together, including Israel’s security, our support for it, regional security – but as part of regional security, of course, Iran looms large. In just about every one of our in-depth engagements with our Israeli partners, Iran is a topic of conversation. Oftentimes, it is a central topic of conversation, and I expect that will be the case with the discussions this week.
QUESTION: Ned —
MR PRICE: Said.
QUESTION: Ned, would you say the two remaining obstacles, if there are two, the two remaining obstacles, that one is the – Iran’s insistence or Iran’s request or demand that the
IAEA inspections are stopped or reduced or whatever? And the second one is that you are really having difficulty with the members of your own party in the Senate. I mean, that’s what’s coming up? Are you convinced that you can convince members of the Senate that matter – and I asked you about this last week – to go along with whatever new deal there is?
MR PRICE: Said, we are looking at this, at Iran’s nuclear program as a national security challenge. We are consulting internally with our partners as well through the lens of foreign policy and national security. Any political considerations are not factoring in to the response that we provide back to the EU. We will continue to make the case, including to Americans here at home as well as the lawmakers, of the utility of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, especially in relation to where we are now with Iran’s nuclear program, a nuclear program that was in a position, has been in a position to gallop forward in ways that are of deep concern to us, to our Israeli partners, to our European allies, to partners around the world since the last administration left the JCPOA.
So we’ll continue to have those discussions with lawmakers, but we’re approaching this as the national security challenge this is. I’m not in a position, of course, to detail the negotiations that are taking place by and through the EU high representative, but we have been clear on a couple of issues. On the questions of safeguards, this is a question that goes really to the core of the mandate of the IAEA. Safeguard investigations are not political. They are not leverage or bargaining chips. No one should try to treat them as such. Once the IAEA director general reports to the Board of Governors that outstanding issues have been clarified and resolved, we expect Iran would come off the board’s agenda. Not before. There are no shortcuts to this.
Our position always has been and will be crystal clear on this, and we’ve communicated it both in public and indirectly to the Iranians. Iran needs to answer the IAEA’s questions. This is the only way to address these issues once and for all. Our position is not going to change regardless of where we express it – in the text of an understanding of mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA, in public, or elsewhere. We are unbending in our support of the IAEA, in support of the IAEA’s mandates, and the independence of the IAEA that is core to that mandate. We are in the midst of the ongoing NPT RevCon, the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. No one should require any reminders about the indispensable role of the IAEA amidst the many nonproliferation challenges we face today.
QUESTION: Last question. Are you concerned with the level and intensity of Israelis rallying opposition to this deal? I mean, this is – this comes out in modes of expression or statements by Senator Cotton, for instance, or Senator Lindsey Graham, or Senator Ted Cruz, and so on. Or are you just fine with that; they do whatever they want?
MR PRICE: I’m going to let lawmakers speak for themselves. What is our charge, what is our obligation, is to continue to ensure that our partners around the world, the American people, and American lawmakers understand the dynamics at play, understand the details of where we are, understand the advancements that Iran has been in a position to make since May of 2018. We continue to believe, on the basis of all of that – and I can tell you our Intelligence Community, this building, others throughout the interagency, constantly look at these issues. It is still the assessment of the United States Government that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA would be profoundly in our national security interest.
Still on Iran, anything else? Sure, Nike.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. So UAE is returning its ambassador to Iran for the first time in 60 years to improve relationship. Do you have a U.S. assessment on this diplomatic detente?
MR PRICE: Well, the UAE across a number of issues has demonstrated time and again that it can play a constructive role in resolving and de-escalating sources of regional tension, including by enhancing its diplomatic ties. They also recognize, as do we, that this cannot succeed, this proposition cannot happen unless Iran ends the nuclear crisis that it has precipitated and the United States, following a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, returns to that deal and lifts sanctions as part of that.
We are on the same page with the UAE and our other GCC partners. There is a broader trend towards de-escalation in the region; it’s a trend we fully support.
QUESTION: And in Secretary Blinken’s phone call conversation with his South Korean counterpart last Friday, do you know if there was any discussion on freezing the Iranian funds in South Korea banks?
MR PRICE: There was a public readout issued of that conversation. What I will say is that the Republic of Korea has been a stalwart partner in terms of sanctions enforcement, and our sanctions on Iran will remain in place until and unless there is a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.
QUESTION: Then, Ned, you mentioned that the U.S. is not going to remove IRGC from the FTO list. Did Iran decrease its financial and material support to foreign terrorists in the years when JCPOA was in effect?
MR PRICE: Did Iran – sorry, what was the —
QUESTION: Decrease its financial and material support to terrorist groups in the years when JCPOA was in effect?
MR PRICE: Well, I can tell you what we can say, at least on an unclassified basis, and that is something that observers of this dynamic were able to see with their own eyes. In – while the JCPOA was in effect, and actually in the period leading up to the conclusion of the JCPOA and its implementation, and while both sides were in full compliance with it, we did not see the types of attacks targeting our partners, targeting American diplomatic facilities, targeting Americans in the region. Of course, Iran became emboldened when the last administration opted to abandon the JCPOA, and in that period – whether this is causal, I couldn’t say – but in that period we did note a marked increase in the number and the tempo of Iran-backed attacks against our partners, against our interests, and against our personnel and facilities.
My recollection is that the pace of Iran-backed attacks after the last administration abandoned the JCPOA went up by about 400 percent. So the idea that a new strategy of so-called maximum pressure would somehow cow Iran into submission not only in the nuclear realm but also when it comes to its support for terrorist groups and proxies, that has been a demonstrable failure. I made this point last week. But it is no longer a question of a thought experiment what would happen if we tried an alternative path to constrain Iran’s nuclear program and to constrain Iran more broadly. We have seen that play out before our eyes over the course of the past four years or so.
We have seen an Iran with a nuclear program that has been in a position to gallop forward, the breakout time shrinking, in many cases month over month, going down from a year at the height to now weeks or less. We have seen Iran’s funding and support to terrorist groups and its proxies continue, and in some ways the implication of – the implications of that becoming even deadlier, certainly for a period during the final years of the last administration after the last administration left the deal.
When it comes to the FTO and the IRGC, look, the President has been clear. He’s been firm. He’s been consistent, that he will not lift the terrorism designation on the IRGC. Iran’s demand that we do so has been removed from the latest version of the text that we have seen, and that’s part of the reason why a deal is closer now than it was two weeks ago, but the outcome of these ongoing discussions still remains uncertain as gaps do remain. We in the end – President Biden in the end – will only sign off on a deal that meets our core national security interests.
QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. Are you saying that what you – your response to that, that between 2016, implementation day – 2016, January of 2016 – and 2018, the U.S. could not detect any increase in Iranian support for its proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria?
MR PRICE: I did not say that. Matt, what I said is that between —
QUESTION: I’m sorry, I thought that was – she asked, did you – while the JCPOA was in effect, did you see –
MR PRICE: And I said what I can say that is unclassified and that is apparent for at least observers of the region was the sharp uptick in the pace and in some ways the lethality of the attacks that the IRGC and its proxies launched against our partners and our interests in the region.
QUESTION: Okay, but that wasn’t – her question was about while it was in effect.
MR PRICE: And I’m just not in a position to speak to what would be intelligence information about any Iranian funding of the IRGC. This goes back to the points that you know well, Matt, from –
QUESTION: Right, exactly. That’s why I’m asking, because it surprises me —
MR PRICE: — from 2015 and 2016, that Iran did of course receive sanctions relief in return for the permanent and the verifiable limits that were imposed on its nuclear program in return for the assurance that we and the international community had at the time that Iran would not be in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon. That sanctions relief, much of it was obligated to outstanding debts and to other outstanding obligations that the Iranian regime had.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re not —
MR PRICE: I’m just not in a position to say with —
QUESTION: Right, you’re not in a position to say whether they increased their funding for these proxies or not, or if you’re —
MR PRICE: I’m not in a position to say from —
QUESTION: What you’re in a position to say is that after the withdrawal of the – after the Trump administration withdrew, you are in a position to say that you saw an increase.
MR PRICE: That was —
QUESTION: But you’re not in a position to say that the JCPOA actually stopped or reduced funding, Iran’s funding for these proxies.
MR PRICE: There are two questions. One is funding, and one is the conduct of these operations. I think in some ways the more important question is the conduct of these operations. What was the threat that American service members, American diplomats, our partners, were facing on the ground from the IRGC and from other Iranian proxies? There is no question that the pace of attacks, the loss of life that we saw owing to this Iranian aggression that came after May of 2018 when the last administration began – abandoned the JCPOA and pursued this strategy of so-called maximum pressure – there is no question that Iran was much more unbridled in terms of the attacks that we saw.
Now, it’s also true – and this would be true if this administration were to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA – we would continue to use every tool in our disposal to go after the IRGC, to go after proxies, Iran-backed proxies in the region who would do us harm. The JCPOA would not take any of those tools off the table, and in fact it would allow us to train our focus in some ways much more effectively on these threats were we to take off the table what would be the core, the central threat to all of us, and that would be an Iranian nuclear weapon.
On Iran, still? Yes, in the – in the back.
QUESTION: Going back to your response to Iran, your response and its nature, would it require Iran to give you a yes, a no, or how is the drafting? Is it going to open more space for even more negotiations and we are going to see more back and forth?
MR PRICE: Well, again, I am not in a position to detail negotiation that is taking place through the EU. We’re conveying our feedback directly and privately to the EU. But I will say this: Had there been a clean Iranian response, a clear yes answer, I’m not sure that we would be in a back and forth the way we are now. As we said at the time, the draft that the EU has put on the table, what the EU has called the best and the last proposal, that was substantially based on the March agreement that Rob Malley and his team were painstakingly involved in bringing to conclusion. It was Iran, not the United States, that was not in a position to accept that draft. We want to see this mutual return to compliance completed as quickly as we can, knowing the stakes of the status quo.
QUESTION: And at least —
MR PRICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Excuse me. Actually, in the last 10 days, did you have any negotiations about a prisoner swap with Oman and Qatar?
MR PRICE: So, again, throughout this process and actually before the process began in Vienna in the spring of last year, in the spring of 2021, we have been crystal-clear, including to the Iranians, about the priority we attach to the safe return of the American and dual-national detainees that Iran continues to wrongfully detain. We are in a position to convey those clear and unequivocal messages regularly, and it is not dependent on negotiations regarding the JCPOA, and in fact we have sought to see to it that the issues are not linked just because the JCPOA continues to be an uncertain proposition.
Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: Thank you. On South Korea.
MR PRICE: On Iran? Okay, Alex.
MR PRICE: Oh, okay. Go ahead, yes, Janne.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Ned. On South Korea, last weekend Secretary Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin hold a telephone conversation, and these two secretaries talked about the Inflation Reduction Act, where South Korea’s Samsung and Hyundai company – companies have promised a huge investment in the United States. But if they don’t generate a profit for electric vehicles production, it’s something to consider. But how does the Inflation Reduction Act affect South Korea?
MR PRICE: Well, this is a piece of legislation – and for much of this, I’ll defer to my colleagues at the White House – but this is a piece of legislation that redounds positively not only here at home but also for our positioning on the world stage. We’ve often talked about, for our part, how one of the key drivers of our influence and our strength on the world stage is what we are doing here at home. And this is an important piece of legislation that was worked on over the course of many months that will allow us to carry forward key elements of the domestic agenda that also will move us forward on the world stage. The – Secretary Kerry’s office has issued a statement on the climate elements of this deal and what this will enable us to continue to advance here at home, but we also recognize that as we continue to speak to partners around the world about the importance of meeting their ambitious climate goals and commitments, that we need to be in a position to demonstrate that we’re making progress here at home.
So across the climate issue, across a number of issues, this will be important for us. But for any implications for South Korea, I would need to refer you to colleagues.
QUESTION: On North Korea, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong has announced that North Korea has rejected the South Korean Government border plan proposal for North Korea. She also said that North Korea nuclear program cannot be negotiated with economic cooperation. After all, North Korea is not willing to give up its nuclear weapons. What is the United States position on North Korea’s unwillingness to denuclearize?
MR PRICE: Well, we’re not going to get into a back and forth with the DPRK on this. We’ve been clear about our support for the bold or the ambitious plan that the South Korean administration has put forward. It’s a plan that’s entirely consistent with our approach to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program, to its ballistic missile program, in that it sees the potential for practical if incremental advancements towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That’s really at the heart of our approach to the DPRK.
As part of that, over the course of many months now we have conveyed publicly, we’ve also conveyed repeatedly privately, to the DPRK that we are ready and willing to engage in that dialogue and diplomacy. The DPRK has more recently heard that same message from the new administration in South Korea. We believe it is incumbent on the DPRK to respond, and to respond affirmatively to that, knowing that and believing that we can achieve progress towards what is a collective goal.
In the meantime, we’re going to continue to stand by our treaty allies – the ROK, Japan, other allies in the Indo-Pacific – and to ensure that we are postured appropriately through defense and deterrence against any threats or provocations we may collectively face from the DPRK.
QUESTION: But no matter how much the United States and South Korea throw sweet candy to North Korea, North Korea will not take it because North Korea has already crossed a level of no return. Do you have any alternate – alternate tools for —
MR PRICE: We’ve seen periods of engagement from the DPRK. We’ve seen periods of provocation from the DPRK. It’s very clear that we are in a period that has been characterized by the latter. Far be it from me to try to surmise or to assess what it is that the DPRK seeks in its provocations, but we are going to be – continue to be clear about what we are prepared to do and what we seek collectively to achieve with our South Korean allies, with our Japanese allies, and we’ll continue to convey those messages both publicly and directly to the DPRK.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Earlier today Saudi minister of energy said that OPEC – OPEC+ has all the means to deal with challenges, including cutting production at any time and with – and in different forms. What do you make of this statement?
MR PRICE: We’re not a member of OPEC, we’re not a member of OPEC+, but of course we do have close relations with many members of OPEC+. It has been a topic of discussion ensuring a steady supply of global energy on a bilateral basis, on a multilateral basis with our partners around the world. Those conversations will continue, especially as we face an energy situation that has been made all the more acute by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
We, for our part, have done what we can both domestically here at home by tapping into our Strategic Petroleum Reserve at an unprecedented pace, by working with allies around the world including in regions literally halfway around the world to surge supplies of LNG to our allies and partners in other regions of the world that may experience a need for it, especially as the winter months approach. Together with our European partners, we have also launched a taskforce focused on the long-term implications of energy, how we can accelerate that transition to renewables, and how we can transition away from dependence on Russia and other unreliable, undependable sources of global energy. Those discussions are continuing as will our discussions with members of OPEC on this.
MR PRICE: I don’t have any travel for Amos Hochstein to announce at the time. We do – and he does – remain in touch with the parties in the region. For our part, we remain committed to facilitating negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to reach a decision on the delimitation of the maritime boundary. Progress towards a resolution can only be reached through negotiation by the two governments, and we welcome the consultative and open spirit of the parties to reach a final decision, which has, we believe, the potential to yield greater stability, security, and prosperity for Lebanon as well as Israel as well as for the region. And we believe that a resolution is possible.
QUESTION: One more question, please. Is the deal – is the agreement that you were working on between Lebanon and Egypt and Syria to bring gas from Egypt – is dead?
MR PRICE: Is that —
QUESTION: It’s now dead?
MR PRICE: Is that now dead?
MR PRICE: This is about the maritime issue. We’re speaking to the delimitation of the maritime boundary in this regard.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. A couple questions on Russia-Ukraine, but first thing first: this week, Ukraine celebrates its independence day. President Zelenskyy warned that there’ll be a particularly nasty Russian attack ahead of the holiday. I just wonder how much plays to your assessment – the intelligence information – how much you can back that assessment? And if so, what kind of reaction will that invite from the U.S.?
MR PRICE: I don’t have intelligence – you won’t be surprised – to share from the podium, but what I can tell you, Alex, is that we are going to mark together with our Ukrainian partners Ukrainian independence day on Wednesday. Not only will this be Ukrainian independence day – what should be a time for a joy and celebration on the part of Ukrainians in Ukraine, but also around the world – but of course it’s taking place in the context of what has been Moscow’s brutal aggression. And Wednesday, probably coincidently, will also mark six months of this brutal aggression.
There is no question in our minds that Russia will continue its brutal assault on the Ukrainian state, on the Ukrainian people, on Ukraine’s independence, its democracy, its territorial integrity as well. There’s also no question that we will continue to stand with our Ukrainian partners. You saw on Friday we announced an additional presidential drawdown, our 19th presidential drawdown – $800 million in that drawdown alone. That brought our total of security assistance to Ukraine to about $10 billion since the start of the invasion war, since the start of this administration, and we’ll continue to do more as will our partners around the world.
QUESTION: The State Department also was quoted today as saying that it does not support a blanket visa ban against Russian citizens. It’s important to draw a line between the actions of the Russian Government and the people of Russia – I’m quoting the official that was quoted in the media. You said from the get-go that it depends on Russian people to stand up against the regime, to address its behavior. I’m just wondering: how do you expect them to do so if they don’t share the burden?
MR PRICE: If – I’m sorry —
QUESTION: If they don’t share the burden.
MR PRICE: If they don’t’ share the burden.
QUESTION: Because you say that we need to draw a line between people and the government. If you don’t – if you don’t let them – because if you let them, say, enjoy a visa, let’s say, privilege in Europe and the U.S., how do you expect them to stand up against the regime?
MR PRICE: So just a moment ago, Alex, I spoke to one side of the equation, what we’re doing to support our Ukrainian partners. There’s another side of the equation, and it’s what we’re doing to hold President Putin and key decision makers in Moscow to account for this brutal, unjustified war against Ukraine. We have enacted the severe consequences that we pledged before February 24th, and we’ve done so consistently since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. Since that date, we have taken steps to impose visa restrictions on 5,000 individuals in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We’ll continue to identify those who are responsible for Russia’s invasion, and we’ll promote accountability for their culpability for Moscow’s aggression.
We are looking at all appropriate tools to hold Moscow to account for this war. At the same time, we want to ensure that we are not closing off potential pathways to those who are themselves fleeing President Putin’s repression at home, those who are seeking refuge or safety, the many Russian dissidents, Russian human rights defenders, Russian truth-tellers who have stood up to President Putin’s war and who may be vulnerable to human rights abuses because – merely for exercising what should be their fundamental and universal rights.
To your question, we’ve also been clear that we do have to draw a line between those who are culpable for this aggression – culpable in some ways – and the people of Russia. This is a brutal war that has taken a devastating toll on the people of Ukraine first and foremost, but the people of Russia have lost thousands upon thousands of their fellow citizens. The financial and economic costs that Russia has suffered because of this, costs that are in some ways passed on to average Russians, those are significant as well.
So we want to ensure that we’re including – we’re continuing to promote accountability, but that we’re doing so in a way that is targeted at those who, in the first instance, started this war and who, much more than others, could bring this war to a swift close if they chose.
QUESTION: My last one on this topic. The Treasury Department on Saturday warned Turkey that Russian entities and individuals might be attempting to bypass sanctions in Turkey. Quite frankly, those of us who have been following this topic and also have been asking about it in this room for many months, we were surprised because you have been trying to refrain from naming the name when it comes to Turkey. Do you have any further information that you are jumping ahead right now and bringing it – raising this in front of Turkish officials?
MR PRICE: Nothing specific to share beyond the fact that senior officials do regularly engage with counterparts, including in person, around the world to share information to see to it that collectively we’re doing all we can to uphold the existing sanctions regime, to close loopholes and escape hatches where they may exist, and to work together with partners to identify potential additional targets that we can pursue against Russia to continue to promote that accountability.
QUESTION: When it comes to the Russian people, Russian citizens and individuals have been engaged in same activity in the South Caucasus – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia. Are you prepared to issue the same warning —
MR PRICE: These are discussions that we’ve had in many places around the globe.
QUESTION: Thank you Ned. This Friday, August 26th, will mark one year since a suicide bomber took the lives of 150 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members at Kabul’s International Airport, and next week will mark one year since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. You said last week that elements of this administration’s after-action report are being finalized. Is there an update on when it or parts of it will be released, and if you cannot preview its contents now, can you say whether it will discuss the August 26th explosion at the airport?
MR PRICE: What I can say about the after-action report that Secretary Blinken ordered in the aftermath of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is that it was led by Dan Smith, a career ambassador, someone who knows this institution as well as anyone, and perhaps in some ways better. We —
QUESTION: Former secretary of state.
MR PRICE: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Former secretary of state, if I’m not mistaken.
MR PRICE: Former acting, correct, yes. That’s right – one of his many accolades and positions. The review draws upon information that was classified at all levels. We wanted to see to it that the review could be as comprehensive and as accurate and reflective as possible. And so for that reason, the review itself is classified. It is – there’s always a process when it comes to speaking to documents and reports that are drafted on a classified basis. At the same time, the Secretary’s been clear that he wants this department, but, to the extent possible, we want the American people, to be able to benefit from the lessons of, yes, the final weeks in Afghanistan, but the final two years in Afghanistan – that’s the scope of this AAR – but also the 20-year experience that American had in Afghanistan over the course of successive administrations. That is in – that is beyond the scope of the AAR, but it’s also important that as we look back on a year after the end of the evacuation at Kabul International Airport that we take stock of those lessons, the lessons from that month – the lessons from that period, the lessons from nearly two generations that this country invested in Afghanistan.
So when we have more to say on the AAR, we will.
MR PRICE: So I don’t have anything to share beyond what you have all heard publicly, and that is that Ukraine has denied any involvement in the attack on this individual. We unequivocally condemn the targeting of civilians. We condemn the targeting of civilians, whether that’s in Kyiv, whether that’s in Bucha, whether that’s in Kharkiv, whether that’s in Kramatorsk, whether that’s in Mariupol, or whether that’s in Moscow. That principle applies around the world.
QUESTION: So the U.S. is confident that Ukraine was not behind this and rejects Moscow’s accusations that it was?
MR PRICE: I have no doubt that the Russians will investigate this. I also have no doubt that the Russians will put forward certain conclusions. All I can say from here is that Ukraine has denied any involvement, and for our part we condemn the intentional targeting of civilians anywhere.
QUESTION: And then on the deal to free Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, has there been any movement on that?
MR PRICE: There – this is something we continue to work with the utmost urgency. I said last week that we had engaged in discussions with Russian counterparts on this. Those discussions are ongoing. We’ve made very clear, as we have publicly, that we proposed a substantial proposal, as we called it, for the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. We have in our private interactions encouraged the Russians to respond to that proposal. But again, it’s just not something we’re going to detail because we’ve found that in order for – that our interests, and in this case our interest is seeing the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, that our interests are best served if these discussions take place in private.
QUESTION: And then can I quickly follow up on Camila’s question? I know you said the report itself will be classified, but will the findings be declassified? And if so, why is it taking so long for those findings to come out?
MR PRICE: Again, we seek to share as much as we can with the American people. There is an understandable interest in this. There is also a desire on the part of this building to be as helpful as we can in assisting the American people to harvest the lessons of the final years of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, but also 20 years of American involvement in Afghanistan. So those will be our guiding principles as we – as we finalize this.
QUESTION: Going back to Brittney Griner, of course, as you saw, Dennis Rodman has said he planned to go to Russia to try to secure her freedom, perhaps as soon as this week. I was just wondering if you could address: How does this kind of outside influence jeopardize your efforts to secure her release?
MR PRICE: Well, we have seen through the media, and really only through the media, that Dennis Rodman has said he does intend to travel to Russia. He – I want to be clear, he is – he would not be traveling on behalf of the U.S. Government. I have just reiterated what we’ve said now for the past several weeks. We put forward a substantial proposal to Russia to seek the freedom of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts. We’ve also provided very clear guidance to American citizens owing to a number of threats, not the least of which is the threat of wrongful detention, that Americans should not travel to Russia. That has been our message to private Americans across the board.
Yes, go ahead. Please, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you for this opportunity. On Venezuela, the position of the United States has been very firm in requesting that the Iranian-Venezuelan plane now in Argentina come to the United States. But if the pilot of the plane is related to the Iranian Qods Forces, what would that formally mean for the United States? That Maduro is directly associated with terrorist organizations or that they could be classified as a terrorist state?
MR PRICE: This is a question – the confiscation of the plane – it’s a matter of U.S. export laws. It is not something for us to speak to, especially as this is a matter before the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: I have another.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: The United States is asking its citizens not to go to Venezuela because they could be in danger. In fact, there are several Americans in Maduro’s regime prisons right now, but there are reports indicating that Chevron will return to Venezuela and that the Treasury Department has already approved their license. Aren’t they at risk too?
MR PRICE: So a couple things. To the first part of your question, we have warned Americans about the risk of travel to Venezuela, owing to, again, a number of threats, including the threat of wrongful detention. The Maduro regime does continue to hold on a wrongful and unjust basis a number of American citizens. It has been a matter of priority for the United States to seek to secure the release of all of them. Of course, one of them came home in recent months, and ever since we’ve continued to do everything that we can to secure their release.
On the questions of sanctions, sanctions on the Maduro regime remain in place. We will continue to enforce our sanctions regime against the Maduro regime. We’ve long made clear that we would review our sanctions policies in response to steps that would be constructive if the Maduro regime and if the Venezuelan parties were to make meaningful progress in the Venezuelan-led negotiations in Mexico. At the same time, we’ve also been clear that we will review our sanctions posture should the Maduro regime on the other hand fail to negotiate in good faith or to follow through on those commitments.
QUESTION: But is that official that Chevron will return to Venezuela to handle the export of Venezuelan oil? Can you confirm that?
MR PRICE: I can’t confirm that. I’m not going to speak for a private U.S. company, but what I can say is that our sanctions on the Maduro regime remain in place. They will remain in place until and unless there is demonstrable progress towards fulfilling the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people. If the Maduro regime fails to make good on its pledge to negotiate in good faith, we also have the potential to calibrate those sanctions in the other direction.
QUESTION: Just a last one. Analysts suggest that the United States could exchange Alex Saab or Maduro’s nephews, who are serving sentences here in the United States, of – for American hostages there. Is that a real possibility?
And also if you can confirm that, as Maduro said, that U.S. is going to reactivate Caracas-Miami flights and if there is a plan to open the embassy in Caracas? Thank you.
MR PRICE: On American detainees, the same points I made about Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner applies to the wrongful detainees in Venezuelan custody. It does not do their cases, their prospects for prompt release any good if we were to speak about them publicly. I can assure you we are working these cases as a matter of utmost priority. Our special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, has now made a couple trips to Venezuela to work on these cases, and we’ll continue to do that quietly in an effort to make progress.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Pakistan, I wonder if you had any reaction to the charges that were brought against former Prime Minister Imran Khan for anti – under an anti-terrorism law because of a speech that he made where he accused – he made some comments about the police and a judge. And specifically, this anti-terrorism law that’s been used, do you support or do you believe that that’s appropriate to use an anti-terror law against a speech given your focus on human rights at the center of foreign policy?
MR PRICE: We’re of course aware of the reports about the charges. This is a matter for the Pakistani legal and judicial system. It is not directly a matter for the United States, and that’s because we don’t have a position on one political candidate or party versus any other political candidate or party. We support the peaceful upholding of democratic, constitutional, and legal principles in Pakistan and around the world.
QUESTION: Just a separate issue. I wonder if – you said last week you were studying the case of Salma al-Shehab, who was sentenced to 34 years in Saudi prison. Has that study garnered anything? Have you come up with an assessment of whether that’s a reasonable sentence for an activist?
MR PRICE: Well, reports of Salma al-Shehab’s 34-year sentence are deeply troubling to the United States. We have raised our significant concerns with Saudi authorities. We have made the point to them that freedom of expression is a universal human right to which all people are entitled and exercising those universal rights should never be criminalized. Advocacy for women’s rights should of course never be criminalized or punished. We note the exceptional length of this sentence; we note the exceptional travel ban that would be imposed after she were to finish this sentence.
As I said last week, we’re following this case very closely. We’ve had a number of conversations with our Saudi counterparts in recent days. We’ll continue to have those discussions and conversations and to raise our concerns privately with the Saudi Government.
QUESTION: Can you say off the top of your head just what was new in that since what – since you spoke to it last week?
MR PRICE: We’ve – our language is somewhat different. Of course, we’ve called it deeply troubling. That itself —
QUESTION: But has anything happened between then – between when you last spoke to it and now in terms of your discussions with the Saudis or anything like that?
MR PRICE: We’ve – we’ve had a number of discussions with the Saudis, yes.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. On the Palestinian organizations, The Guardian just wrote a lengthy report that the CIA is not convinced that the evidence that the Israelis submitted amounts to what it purports to be. And my question to you – I mean, someone who appreciates the veracity of the CIA’s findings – will you now use this or – to backtrack on this issue and perhaps take a different position in support of these human rights organizations?
MR PRICE: Said, I believe the article you’re pointing to cites what it purports to be a leaked intelligence assessment. Of course, I’m not in a position to confirm or to speak to any intelligence assessments. What I can tell you is what I said last week: We’re in direct communication with our Israeli partners regarding further information about the actions that Israel took against these NGOs. We continue to seek additional information from our Israeli partners. We – the fact has not changed that we remain concerned about the impacts of the closure of the offices of these Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah, and we’ve made clear to our Israeli and to our Palestinian counterparts that independent civil society organizations in the West Bank and in Israel must be able to continue their important work.
We value the work of civil society, including the monitoring of human rights violations and abuses that independent NGOs undertake in the West Bank, in Gaza, in Israel and elsewhere around the world. As you know, we have long designated the PFLP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, also as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization. We at the same time have not designated any of these NGOs nor have we funded any of these groups over the years. But we’re continuing to seek additional information from our Israeli partners.
QUESTION: Ned, I mean, the article notwithstanding, nine of your allies – among them Germany and France and other countries and so on – basically said – I mean, to use the President’s favorite word – that this connection with the PFLP is a lot of malarkey, is nonexistent. It’s – they are basically trying to dry up the funds to these organizations that speak on behalf of Palestinian human rights. So there is nothing there there, so to speak. So my question to you – I mean, it’s been – and we talked about this; Matt asked you, I asked you last week – it’s been since October 26th last year. How much longer do you need? I mean, I spoke today with one of the organizations and basically they threatened Shawan Jabarin, his name for the record, the head of the organization. Then when he did not respond to them, they called one of the staff members, a woman, and they threatened her and threatened her 14-year-old daughter. I mean, this cannot go on. This is something that really just gnaws at the crux of what you stand for on the issue of human rights.
MR PRICE: Said, to your question, the fact has not changed. We are concerned by what we saw last week. We’ve had conversations with our Israeli partners. We have sought additional information. They have pledged to provide additional information. We have continued to be in touch with them. This goes back, as you alluded to, to last year. In the aftermath of the designation of these organizations, the Israelis provided us with a rather large amount of information on the basis for their designations. This was a lot of information. It was information that we in turn provided to our partners throughout the U.S. Government, some departments and agencies with expertise in these matters who could analyze this information along with us. As I said last Thursday, we have not seen anything to date, anything that has been provided to us privately or anything that we’ve seen publicly, that has caused us to change our position on or approach to these organizations.
Now, our relationship with these organizations has always been slightly different than the relationship that our EU allies have had. We, for our part, have not funded these organizations, but neither have we designated them. And again, we have not seen anything in the information that was provided last year or that has been provided more recently that would change our position.
QUESTION: I —
QUESTION: So has there been – has there been any information provided? I mean, you were talking in – with great anticipation that the Israelis had promised something to you on Thursday, and that you were expecting to get it, but you haven’t gotten it yet?
MR PRICE: We’ve been in communication with our Israeli partners regarding further information. I imagine those discussions will continue.
QUESTION: So nothing that they have said since Thursday – I just want to make sure I understand – has caused you to change your mind at all?
MR PRICE: That is correct.
QUESTION: All right. And then when Said asked about your European allies and their statements, I mean, it’s not just the foreign ministries that are saying this; it’s also – and I guess he speaks for the foreign ministries, but Mr. Borrell, who is your pal, particularly – and interlocutor on the Iran nuclear deal – said today, repeating what the foreign ministries of those nine countries said that these actions, meaning the Israeli actions, are not acceptable. Why is it that the United States can’t come out and say something similar? Do you think that there is a world in which or a situation in which these actions are acceptable?
MR PRICE: I said last week, Matt, and I reiterate it today: We are concerned by what we’ve seen. Made the point that there has to be an exceedingly high bar for any government anywhere in the world to take action against independent nongovernmental organizations. The Israelis have told us that they have information in their possession that would meet that bar. But we are concerned; we have not yet seen anything that has changed our position on these discrete organizations or our assessment – the level concern we have with Israel’s actions last week.
QUESTION: Is it something that you’re going to be raising – whoever it is – from the State Department and potentially elsewhere in the administration with the Israeli national security advisor when —
MR PRICE: This has been a topic of high-level discussions since last week, since last Thursday. I imagine it will continue to be a topic of discussion going forward.
QUESTION: But you are still – but you’re not prepared to join the EU saying that this is not acceptable – these actions are not acceptable?
MR PRICE: We have expressed a level of concern along with our European allies on this.
QUESTION: Well —
QUESTION: But – but —
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, but a level of concern along with your – your level of concern is not nearly what the European level of concern is.
MR PRICE: It is true that our European allies have a slightly different relationship with these organizations than we do. But —
QUESTION: But that shouldn’t matter, should it?
MR PRICE: They are – they are concerned.
QUESTION: Because you’re talking about how – the importance of civil society working —
MR PRICE: We too are concerned – absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: And —
MR PRICE: And the exceedingly high bar that needs to be met before —
QUESTION: What does that mean – I’m sorry to interrupt – where is the high bar?
MR PRICE: — such action can be taken?
QUESTION: What is a high bar? What does that mean, a high bar?
MR PRICE: There needs to be an adequate predicate before action can or should be taken against independent NGOs.
QUESTION: Ned, you know perfectly well there is not an hour that goes by without Israel violating dozens of human rights violations against the Palestinians. Now they don’t have these organizations as a recourse. They don’t have – they can’t go to the ICC; they can’t go anywhere. What should be the recourse for the Palestinians on human rights issues?
MR PRICE: So a couple things, Said. Number one, there is no question that Israel faces legitimate security threats. We have been reminded of those security threats even in recent days. It is also true that civil society and human rights organizations play an indispensable role – they play an indispensable role in Gaza, in the West Bank, inside Israel too. That is why we have expressed our concern about the actions that Israel undertook last week.
We made the point that there needs to be a very high bar before any country, whether it is a dear friend or otherwise, should be able to meet before taking such action against independent organizations. We have continued to have these discussions with our Israeli partners, and in those discussions we have conveyed repeatedly our concern. Our Israeli partners have in turn conveyed that they have information that forms the adequate basis for their actions. So we are going to continue to seek that additional information to understand the basis that they point to, but as of yet, we have not seen anything that mitigates our concern.
QUESTION: Just a follow up on this, you repeated the word concern maybe ten times. I didn’t count but maybe around ten times. I’m just intrigued to know how do you translate concern? How do you translate it when you talk to the Israelis since you are really very concerned? Practically, how do you translate this concern?
MR PRICE: There’s no need to translate. We are plainspoken. We are conveying this very clearly and directly. We don’t want there to be any ambiguity about the level of concern. Now, again, our Israeli partners have pointed to information that they have in their position – in their possession – excuse me. That’s why we continue to seek additional information to try to understand what they are pointing to, but we have been very clear in public but also in private about the level of our concern.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Just quickly on Serbia-Kosovo talks, the path forward. Specifically, can we expect Secretary Blinken to convene a meeting either by phone or in person here in D.C. before September 1st – that we know that’s the deadline for the solution to be found with President of Serbia Vučić and the Prime Minister Kurti? I also understand it was announced today that Ambassador Hill in Belgrade is having a meeting with the Serbian president tomorrow. So what is the expectation for that meeting as well, if you can speak a little bit to that as well? Thank you.
MR PRICE: So we’ve been deeply engaged in this. We’ve been deeply engaged as an observer to the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Just as I said last week, our understanding is that talks are ongoing. We are watching. We’re doing so in partnership with the EU. We’re encouraging both sides to use the dialogue effectively. It’s a dialogue that we very much support, and we think that it’s incumbent on both parties to use this opportunity to the fullest extent to advance their discussions on normalized relations centered on mutual recognition as well.
I can also say that in addition to the observer, DAS Escobar, we had in Brussels – DAS Escobar is traveling to Pristina and to Belgrade to support the dialogue, to continue to show our high-level interest and engagement in this issue. He traveled, of course, to Brussels last week, and he’ll soon be traveling to Pristina and Belgrade to continue our support for the dialogue.
QUESTION: And Secretary Blinken – specifically asked at the beginning – can we expect him to convene a phone call or a in-person meeting with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo?
MR PRICE: If we feel that the Secretary’s engagement over the phone or in person is the indispensable ingredient to getting something like that over the finish line, Secretary Blinken doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and to have those conversations.
QUESTION: Yes, this question is on Mexico. It has been reported that Secretary Blinken is planning to visit Mexico sometime around mid-September, this in the middle of a security crisis in Mexico and the trade tensions between both countries. Can you confirm whether the trip is on the works?
MR PRICE: I’m not in a position to announce any travel, but of course we have a number of interests with Mexico. We held a high-level economic dialogue I believe it was last year – extraordinarily successful engagement in our mind. We want to continue those discussions on economic issues. There are a number of opportunities to discuss the other shared interests that we have with Mexico whether it is security, whether it’s counternarcotics, whether it’s trade, whether it’s investment, and we’ll take advantage of every opportunity to do that.
On a related question, President Lopez Obrador from Mexico has denounced repeatedly, most recently last month, a tweet by Secretary Blinken where he expressed concern about violence against journalists in Mexico that was published back in February. Does these attacks by the Mexican president would prevent the Secretary to continue advocating for Mexican journalists which are facing a record year of violence?
MR PRICE: The – what the Secretary pointed out is the danger that journalists around the world face, and there is no question that journalists in Mexico have come under threat. Too many have lost their lives. There is also no question that President Lopez Obrador has voiced his full support for accountability for these killings. We certainly welcome the statements that we’ve heard from the Mexican Government condemning these actions against independent media voices who have been silenced by non-state actors. We’ll continue to work with our Mexican partners to address some of the underlying security challenges that have posed an increased level of danger to – not only to reporters but to those in parts of Mexico.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thanks. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. After Secretary Blinken’s phone call with South Korean foreign minister last Friday, the readout referred to the importance of bilateral cooperation for the stability in the Taiwan Strait. Could you provide more detail about what was discussed on this topic? And also, could you talk about the significance of U.S.-Korea bilateral and U.S.‑Korea‑Japan trilateral cooperation in the context of tensions in Taiwan Strait, as well as North Korea threat?
MR PRICE: Sure. So I’ve already said this once today, but I’m not in a position to specifically be go beyond the readout of that call. But the point you allude to refers to the fact that we share not only values but a number of important interests with our allies in the ROK, and one of those important interests is stability across the Taiwan Strait. This is an important global crossroads. An enormous amount of global commerce passes through the Taiwan Strait. Over the course of some four decades now, the United States and our allies and partners in the region have stood up to defend and to preserve that status quo, knowing just how important it is not only to the people on Taiwan, but to other countries and stakeholders in the region.
When it comes to Japan and the ROK, we have made clear that we view trilateral cooperation between and among these three countries as pivotal to a number of shared interests we have. We most often speak about it in the context of the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction programs, but at our heart, at our core, we share an enduring interest in a free and open Indo-Pacific region. That is really what connects us in terms of our interests, in terms of our values as well, to the – to Japan and the ROK. It is at the heart of our desire to see the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and stability across the Taiwan Strait be preserved. It’s something that we regularly discuss with Japan, with the ROK. And of course, it’s been a topic of discussion recently given some of the efforts on the part of the PRC to undermine stability and to undermine the status quo that has been at the heart of cross-strait relations for some 40 years.
MR PRICE: I don’t beyond what I said earlier that we’ve remained in touch with the parties. Senior Advisor Hochstein was in the region several weeks ago. Since returning he’s been in regular contact with the parties.
QUESTION: And any comments on the regional summit that was held in Egypt today? Is it related to the U.S. possible return to the JCPOA do you think?
MR PRICE: I understand this was a summit between Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, and Iraq. Would of course defer to those governments to speak to their objectives. But generally speaking, we support efforts to bolster regional cooperation and security, but I’d need to refer you to those governments to characterize their meetings.
QUESTION: Last question, then —
MR PRICE: Yes.
MR PRICE: We have, and we made a point of this last week. But we’ve been in regular touch with our partners in Baghdad, with our partners in Erbil. We want to see a de-escalation of tensions between our partners. We of course have good relations both with the central government and with the KRG. It’s our goal to do everything we can to support the improvement of relations between Iraqi and Kurdish authorities.
I’ll take a couple of final questions. Gitte?
MR PRICE: Go ahead, Gitte. Gitte, go ahead. Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. I want to go back to Iran very briefly. You said that Iran has dropped the IRGC FTO demand. Is it your understanding that this is a permanent decision on the part of Iran, or should the JCPOA be revived, it may be brought back up again by them?
MR PRICE: You’ll have to ask them their ultimate intentions. What I can tell you is that the demand had been removed from the latest versions of the text that the EU had circulated.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Going back to Russia for a minute, the New START. Both you and a number of other senior U.S. officials are publicly saying that the U.S. is committed to the New START and to upholding its key provisions. The Russians, when they announced their decision to suspend inspections, cited very specific reasons for that such as problems obtaining visas for Russian inspectors, problems transiting both air crews – as far as I understood – and inspectors transiting the third countries while en route to the United States, and so on.
So my question is: Is the United States doing anything specifically to address those issues, to take care of those concerns as they were announced by the Russian Government?
MR PRICE: We remain committed to continued implementation of the New START Treaty. We believe its indispensability is as relevant today as it was when the treaty came into force. As you know, we had paused inspection activity due to COVID in the spring of 2020. Nevertheless, both sides, both the United States and Russia, have continued to provide data declarations and notifications in accordance with the treaty. Our sanctions and restrictive measures imposed as a result of Moscow’s brutal, unjustified aggression against Ukraine are fully compatible with New START. They don’t prevent Russian inspectors from conducting New START Treaty inspections in the United States.
This is something that we have engaged Russia on. We will continue to engage the Russian Federation in an effort to resume inspections through diplomatic channels.
QUESTION: Well, they’re not saying that the sanctions per se prevent them from doing – from carrying out the inspections. They’re saying that as a secondary, maybe even an unintended result of the sanctions and some other things, those problems did arise. So anything – are you doing any – are you working on that specifically?
MR PRICE: We’ve engaged the Russians on this. It’s – we’ve been clear from our side that the sanctions and other measures we’ve imposed in no way restrict or are in no way incompatible with our obligations under New START.
Final question? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Taiwan and China – you just mentioned Taiwan Strait, the stability of Taiwan Strait. How close are you – is the United States monitoring Chinese action after the visit of Indiana governor, who visit Taiwan with – was first governor to visit Taiwan since the pandemic? And does the United States assess the Chinese military escalation and provocation near the Taiwan Strait a result of the PRC’s domestic political calculation?
MR PRICE: That’s really a question for the PRC, what they would point to in terms of what is unquestionably their aggressive and in many ways unprecedented provocations and military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait and around the Taiwan Strait. For our part, we are – we are monitoring things very closely. We have made clear to our partners on Taiwan, to other countries in the region, that is our goal. It is our goal to defend, to preserve stability across the Taiwan Strait, to preserve the status quo that has served the interest of countries and other stakeholders in the region for 40 years now.
To the point I was making earlier, it is the PRC that has sought with its recent actions, but also with actions over the course of several years now, to undermine the status quo that has been at the heart of that stability across the Taiwan Strait.
QUESTION: Does the United States subscribe to PRC’s “one China” principle?
MR PRICE: We have our “one China” policy.
QUESTION: Ned, just to clarify something. You said our goal is to defend – to preserve stability across the Taiwan Strait, to preserve the status quo, to preserve the – sorry. Before that you said, “We have made clear to our partners on Taiwan, to other countries in the region.” You’re not including Taiwan as a country, are you?
MR PRICE: That’s right.
MR PRICE: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:30 p.m.)