2:05 p.m. EST

MR MILLER: I wanted to wait for you to get —


MR MILLER: I wanted to wait for you to get —

QUESTION: I won’t – I just —

MR MILLER: I would like to blame the uncomfortable pause for my waiting for you, but in fact I was just trying to pull up my opening comments.

QUESTION: Apologize for being – for being late. I had to take a call.

MR MILLER: It’s quite all right.

QUESTION: But I will defer.

MR MILLER: Well, good because I have something to start with.

President Biden and Secretary Blinken have been clear that the levels of violence we have seen in the West Bank over the past few months are unacceptable. Violence in the West Bank surged to alarming levels in 2023. This includes unprecedented levels of violence by Israeli extremist settlers targeting Palestinians and their property, as well as violence by Palestinian extremist militants against Israeli civilians.

Earlier today, the President issued a new executive order establishing U.S. authority to impose financial sanctions against foreign persons engaged in actions that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank. Under the authority granted by that order, the State Department is today imposing financial sanctions on four Israeli nationals for their destabilizing acts in the West Bank.

Today’s action follows on the step we took in December to impose visa restrictions on dozens of individuals for contributing to violence and instability in the West Bank. There is no justification for extremist violence against civilians, whatever their national origin, ethnicity, or religion.

The President and the Secretary have both raised our concerns with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts about the level of violence in the West Bank and stressed that Israel must do more to stop violence against civilians and hold accountable those responsible for it. We continue to make clear that expectation to the Government of Israel, and as we do, the United States will also continue to take actions to advance the safety, security, and dignity of Israelis and Palestinians alike.


QUESTION: So – well, I said I would defer, but actually now I won’t.

MR MILLER: No, I thought you meant you were deferring to me, not deferring to a colleague.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I was going to defer to colleagues.

MR MILLER: I was even more surprised. That’s even more surprising.

QUESTION: But just – but just on this, I mean, do you have any indication that any of these four people have any assets that could actually be targeted?

MR MILLER: So I will defer to the Treasury Department to speak to the specific flow of assets. But I will say that when we impose financial sanctions of this nature it is not just a question of assets that can be frozen. It’s also a question of transactions that individuals and organizations take that may flow through or in some way interact with the U.S. financial system, which, as you know, a good deal of transactions that take place all over the world tend to do.

QUESTION: Yes, I do because I was just on the phone with a bank. (Laughter.) Not about this.

MR MILLER: Fair enough.

QUESTION: But yes. So, but – so you do think it will have an actual impact on these people?

MR MILLER: We do think it will have an impact on these four individuals, and our expectation is that the activities we have taken both raising this with the Government of Israel and making clear our expectation that they do more to hold accountable those responsible for settler violence. The visa restrictions that we imposed in December and the actions we imposed today will all have an impact, and we remain willing to impose additional actions if necessary.

QUESTION: Okay, and then last one. Just the four today, and are they also hit with the travel ban, the visa restrictions?

MR MILLER: We – so we are not – we have the same – we’re back to the place we were before with the travel ban, which is we are not by law allowed to announce the impositions of visa restrictions.

QUESTION: Well, how many people have been affected by both the – your order in December on the travel ban and today.

MR MILLER: So dozens of the visa restrictions – and I can’t give you —

QUESTION: Dozens is —

MR MILLER: Dozens. Dozens. I can’t get any more specific than that. And then four —

QUESTION: Three dozen? Four dozen?

MR MILLER: Dozens. And then four, four individuals today.


MR MILLER: Dozens plus four. Try to try that math.

QUESTION: Dozens plus four. So it could be 28?

MR MILLER: It’s dozens. I can’t get any more specific than that.

QUESTION: So Matt, while this is one of the most significant actions by the administration, I’m wondering – a lot of people point out that many of these settlers do have U.S. citizenship. So I wonder what tools, if any, does the United States have if it wants to take actions against these settlers with U.S. citizenship.

MR MILLER: So I would say that the first responsibility here for policing destabilizing action, for policing violence in the West Bank, is with the Government of Israel, and the Government of Israel that is on the ground that we have been very clear needs to do more to arrest extremist settlers engaged in violence and prosecute extremist settlers engaged in violence, and that we have made that clear to them.

We have seen them take some additional steps since we began these interventions, both the Secretary in his trips to the region and the President in his various phone calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

That’s the first – like, the first line of responsibility is with the Israeli Government, and we continue to hope that they will do more. But then we are willing and, as we have shown through our actions both with the visa bans and the actions we take today, committed to taking further actions within our ability to police settler violence, extremist settler violence, and we’ll continue to take additional steps as necessary. But I don’t have anything else to preview.

QUESTION: And when you say we’re willing to take further action, do you mean against Israeli settlers with dual citizenship, or just U.S. citizenship? Do you mean the —

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any further actions to preview today. But we think it’s important that extremist settler violence be – that those involved in it be held accountable for their actions, whatever their citizenship.

QUESTION: Okay. And there is also another criticism out there, that this reduces the problem just to individuals, whereas there seems to be a targeted institutionalized effort to expand the settlements in the West Bank. You guys have been raising this issue with the Israelis for a while. But I mean, how do you go about solving that problem, really? Because I mean – and again, attached to that I want to ask: What exact answer is the Secretary and U.S. officials in this building are getting from Israeli Government when they raise this issue? It’s – because it’s clear that you don’t seem to be satisfied with the actions that they’re taking.

MR MILLER: So what – without betraying too much of our private diplomatic conversations, I will say we have had some very frank conversations with them about extremist settler violence. And that includes some very detailed conversations where we have presented cases to the Israeli Government, cases of settler violence that – where we have seen reports, and where we have seen documented settler violence, and asked them to take action. And we have seen them take some action. And so we’ve engaged in a back and forth with them, both at the – at the Secretary’s level and through our embassy.

What we have seen – and I should say we have seen since those interventions over the past month, six weeks, two months, we have seen the level of extremist settler violence come down somewhat. Not come down enough; we want to see more. But the interventions that we’ve made have, we believe, made a difference. But we want to see it continue to come down, which is why we have taken the actions today.

With respect to your questions about settlements, we have made clear that we think the expansion of settlements in the West Bank undermine peace, undermine stability, threaten an ultimate – the ultimate establishment of a Palestinian – independent Palestinian state, make it more difficult. And so we will continue to engage with the Israeli Government on that matter as well.

QUESTION: Could I follow up?

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

MR MILLER: Let me go to Shaun first. Let me go to Shaun first, and I’ll come back.

QUESTION: Just a – just on the Israeli response to this. You’ve probably seen Netanyahu’s office is saying, hey, look, Israel – I mean, I’m paraphrasing – Israel has laws, we punish people who break the law; we don’t need the U.S. to do this. What’s – is there a response to that? I mean, is that – is – why haven’t they done it, then? Is that – I mean, is there a – do you think that’s a valid argument in itself?

MR MILLER: So they do have laws against violence, obviously, and we have seen them, as I said, take some steps to rein in settler violence. But we don’t think those steps have been sufficient, which is why you’ve seen us take a series of actions, starting in December and continuing with the President’s executive order and the sanctions we imposed today.

QUESTION: Sure. I have some peripherally related, but if you want to, please.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify the point that Humeyra raised on both regarding your citizens, U.S. citizens. If they have, like, assets and properties and so on, could they – or is that a Justice Department issue? Could they be seized or frozen, something like this?

MR MILLER: This executive order is targeted at foreign persons.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And on the issue of the settlements, you have – obviously, you have leveraged sanctioning the settlers, extremist settlers, and so on. But you are not leveraging the settlement expansions, and so on. So I know Humeyra asked, but I didn’t really quite understand what you tried to say.

MR MILLER: My answer was that we have been quite clear that we oppose —


MR MILLER: — the expansion of settlements. We believe that they undermine prospects for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, they threaten peace and security and stability in the West Bank, and we have made that clear with the Government of Israel. We’ll continue to make it clear with them.

QUESTION: Is that including efforts to reverse some of the settlement – the illegal settlements back?

MR MILLER: We have made clear that we oppose the expansion of settlements. Obviously, the issue of settlements has been a topic of dispute for some time, something that we have said needs to be resolved in final negotiations over the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. But we oppose the expansion of settlements.

QUESTION: I have a couple more, but – if I may.

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. One, have you – have you heard about the H.R. 6679 that was passed today in the House?

MR MILLER: I have.

QUESTION: About restricting visas of Hamas but also the PLO. I mean, the PLO is someone that you interlocute with. They have come – they have – they come to New York. They come to other places, and so on. How is that going to affect them? Why is that?

MR MILLER: Well, it’s not —

QUESTION: And of course, with the congressional approval —

MR MILLER: Right now it has no effect, because it’s draft legislation. We don’t have – we – I don’t have any comment on a draft legislation.

QUESTION: All right. Okay, that’s fine. On – just a couple more things. The chief of – the chiefs of WHO, UNICEF, and several other organizations, NGOs —

MR MILLER: The chief of who? Sorry.


MR MILLER: Bad – you’re old enough to – you’re old enough to remember.

QUESTION: “Who’s on first?”

MR MILLER: You’re old enough to get the joke. The WHO, I think you mean? Yeah. Right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. WHO. Okay.

MR MILLER: I thought first, “Who’s on first?” Yeah, who’s on second?

QUESTION: Yeah, who’s on second. Exactly.

QUESTION: What’s on second.

QUESTION: What’s on second. All right.

QUESTION: I don’t know is on third.

QUESTION: We know that one. Okay, all right.

MR MILLER: There are a lot of people in this room who have no idea what we’re talking about right now. (Laughter.) Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Us old-timers know it.

MR MILLER: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: So the chiefs of these organizations have warned that suspending financial aid is going to result in a total disaster. I mean, there are reports about just looming famine and so on, and I know I asked about this yesterday, but it seems to have gained more urgency, especially that Lazzarini said that without the aid they can operate – they cannot possibly operate beyond the end of this month.

MR MILLER: So I don’t really have anything to add to what I said yesterday, which is that, number one, there is an urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It’s why – it’s what has animated all of the efforts from the Secretary and others in the U.S. Government to try to get humanitarian assistance in. Number two, UNRWA plays a critical role. You have heard us say that dating back to before Friday when these allegations were announced publicly and we temporarily paused our aid. You’ve seen us say it since then. And number three, that is why we think it is so important that the United Nations conduct a prompt, thorough investigation to make sure that there is accountability and make sure that any reforms that need to be instituted are put in place. It is, as I said yesterday, precisely because the need is so dire that it’s important that the United Nations conduct a prompt and thorough investigation.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you one thing on this?


QUESTION: The – related to the conflict. The Qataris today are saying that they had, I think the phrase they used is “initial positive confirmation” from Hamas about the proposal that CIA Chief Burns has been involved in regarding a temporary truce for the hostage release. Do you have any latest assessment about where things are going and whether there’s any more optimism about this?

MR MILLER: I just don’t think I should offer any – either an assessment from this podium or a kind of detailed play-by-play of the back and forth, other than to say that as you heard the Secretary say earlier this week, we think the proposal that was on the table was a strong, constructive one, and for now I should leave it at that.

QUESTION: Maybe not a detailed play-by-play but a general play-by-play. Have there been calls or anything —

MR MILLER: Neither a detailed nor a general play-by-play, I don’t think, would be helpful for me to offer from here.

QUESTION: Matt, the Secretary met with some Palestinian Americans today for a roundtable. A number of people have said they refused the invitation in protest of the administration’s policies toward Gaza. Do you have any comment?

MR MILLER: So the Secretary did meet today with a number of leaders of the Palestinian American community. It was the latest in a series of meetings that the Secretary has had with individuals and organizations both within the department and from outside the department that hold a wide range of views across the ideological and political spectrum, and he has held these meetings because he thinks it’s important to hear directly from individuals, as I said, both inside the State Department and outside the State Department. He finds that process to be constructive. It informs his thinking. It helps him, he believes, shape policy in the best way possible, and he’ll continue to hold such meetings.

QUESTION: Has it shaped policy – any of these meetings, though? I mean, we haven’t really seen —

MR MILLER: I can say that every interaction that we have enters into the Secretary’s thinking and enters into other policymakers’ thinking in the administration. That doesn’t mean, obviously, that we agree with every person that we meet with. It doesn’t mean that we expect them to agree with everything that we say. Of course that’s not true. But we find the give and take valuable and yes, it very much does inform his thinking and informs the decisions that he makes.

QUESTION: Can you say how many people attended the roundtable today?

MR MILLER: I don’t. The meeting was ongoing when I came down here for the podium, so I don’t have a detailed readout.


QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. A couple questions, as we will not see you next couple of days. Can you speak to the EU’s today’s decision of a 50 billions package to Ukraine, its significance, and how much do you think it should hold a mirror up to the U.S. Congress?

MR MILLER: So we welcome the continued support of our European allies and partners for Ukraine as it depends – defends itself from Russia’s aggression. And I would say, as you have heard multiple people from inside the administration say, it is important that the U.S. Congress act as soon as possible to advance our national security interests by helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future.

And I think the decision by the EU today just highlights something that you have heard the Secretary say over and over again, which is it is not just the United States that is supporting Ukraine; it is a broad coalition of allies and partners in Europe and around the world who are doing so. And in fact, when you look at the financial contribution that has been made to support Ukraine, the European nations have contributed more. The United States has contributed somewhere around $75 billion in assistance. The European nations collectively have contributed around $110 billion. So this is very much a collective effort, and we believe it is in the national security interests of the United States that the Congress do its part and step up and pass the supplemental request that the President has put forward.

QUESTION: Thank you. And separately, staying on the region, Russia today has extended its detention of RFE/RL reporter Alsu Kurmasheva. Firstly, your reaction to it. And secondly, some European countries sent their representatives to the – to the processing. Why weren’t the Americans in the room?

MR MILLER: So we are aware of the extension of her detention in Russia. We remain deeply concerned about this matter. We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens.

And I will say with respect to – with respect to her detention, or her hearing today, because of Russian Government-imposed staffing and travel restrictions, Embassy Moscow was unable to attend the hearing in Kazan where she is being held. We continue to see consular access to Ms. Kurmasheva and insist that Russia allow consistent, timely consular access to all U.S. citizens.

And I will say because – although we were not able to attend the hearing because of these Russian Government-imposed staffing and travel restrictions, we are in close touch with her legal team about the matter.

QUESTION: Thank you. A final one on Azerbaijan. Yesterday, I asked you about the snap elections in Azerbaijan. The OSCE overnight came up with its initial report, highlighted some concerns, particularly the candidates previously supporting the current president. Where are you standing on this?

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on the internal elections inside Azerbaijan.

QUESTION: Is that because it’s not significant enough or is that because —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry? I just don’t have any comment on it.

QUESTION: Are you also aware —

QUESTION: Can we go back —

QUESTION: Are you also following the events in Georgia? The prime minister stepped down and got replaced – actually is being replaced with another ruling party leader. What are you – what’s your reading about that?

MR MILLER: So we’re obviously aware of the formation of a new government and the discussions coming up in parliament. Our embassy works closely with the Georgian Government, and we look forward to continuing that relationship.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: I just had one follow-up on the line of questioning earlier with Humeyra about the individuals who had been sanctioned earlier today. Senior administration officials had said some of those individuals had already been prosecuted under the Israeli system. How many of the four had already been prosecuted?

MR MILLER: Three of those four had been prosecuted; one had not.

QUESTION: So actions had already been taken. Are – did you feel that those actions didn’t go far enough that the Israelis took?

MR MILLER: We thought it was appropriate to take additional U.S. Government action, and we will continue to monitor the levels of extremist settler violence and will not hesitate to take additional actions as necessary.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR MILLER: Sorry, Michel. I’ll come to you next.


MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My question is about U.S.-India diplomacy or diplomatic relations between the two countries. India’s top diplomat to the U.S., Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu – he’s ending his tenure today after almost four years, or one of the longest-serving U.S. – India’s diplomat to Washington. What he said, that he had been thanking the State Department, the media, and also people of the United States for cooperating with him in his tenure in Washington. During the last few weeks at the farewells, he said that diplomatic relations between the two countries have gone up between President Biden and Prime Minister Modi.

But also at the same time, because when he arrived in Washington, the very next month COVID started and he was stuck two years in the embassy or the in the residence. But at that time, thousands of students and Indians were stuck in Washington because colleges, universities, and schools were closed, and with the help of the State Department and – he was able to send them back to India a while earlier. My question is that – also he met with the Secretary of State also quite a few times, and he was also, of course, instrumental bringing Prime Minister Modi last year in June in Washington, and finally G20 visits also he – so where his general stance as far as State Department’s concerned or Secretary of State is concerned? Where do we go, where we stand today, after – well, he’s leaving today – Washington.

MR MILLER: So I would say that our partnership with India is one of most consequential relationships. We work closely with India on our most vital priorities. We have had a close working relationship with the ambassador, have been able to work with him on a number of those shared priorities, including the crucial role India plays in ensuring a free, open Indo-Pacific that is connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. We wish him well in his future endeavors and look forward to welcoming his replacement.

QUESTION: And finally, do ambassadors play different role, different ambassadors, when they come to Washington here? Let’s say many other Indian diplomats were here, ambassadors, and many will be coming back or new will be coming back and replacing him.

MR MILLER: So I think every ambassador approaches their tenure differently, both inside countries from ambassador to ambassador and, in my experience, among different countries represented here in Washington.

QUESTION: And finally – sorry.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Finally, how do you put relations between Secretary of State Blinken and India’s defense – foreign minister Dr. Jaishankar?

MR MILLER: They have a close working relationship, where they are able to engage on some of our most urgent and important priorities. Obviously the Secretary has traveled to India to meet with the foreign minister on a number of occasions. He’s welcomed him here, he’s met with him in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly, and we look forward to continuing to work with him.


QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir.

QUESTION: Mali military authority has ended the 2015 peace deal with Tuareg separatist rebels due to other signatories not sticking to their commitments and hostile acts by chief mediator, Algeria, as they said. Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER: So we regret the transition government’s withdrawal from the Algiers Accord, which if fully implemented would have provided more stability for all Malians and the whole region. We remain concerned by the resumption of hostilities and the risk of returning to civil war among the signatory armed groups to the Algiers Accord and the transition government, including its Wagner Group partners.

QUESTION: And Algerian media points finger to – or at Morocco for Mali’s withdrawal from the peace agreement. Do you think that Morocco played any role in this regard?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t want to comment on that, other than to say that we do believe that the withdrawal from the accord was unfortunate, and we regret that the transition government made that decision.

QUESTION: And no role that Morocco has played?

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


QUESTION: Can we stay in Africa?

MR MILLER: Sure. Yeah.

QUESTION: Kenya. I know the meeting I believe is this afternoon —


QUESTION: — as – but the Secretary meeting the – Kenya’s top diplomat about Haiti, obviously. I know there was a statement that was issued over the weekend, but is the U.S. still hopeful that Kenya can lead this mission in Haiti, or is there a look now for a plan B? It’s been well over a year since the U.S. started talking about this.

MR MILLER: We are still hopeful. Obviously we saw the decision by the Kenyan Supreme Court last week. We noted that the executive branch in Kenya declared that they would appeal that ruling. We will be watching that matter closely. We do think that the multinational force is important to go forward as soon as possible. We continue to work with international partners, both Kenya and other international partners, about funding for that multinational police force and want to see it implemented as soon as possible.

Go ahead. Start over here.

QUESTION: Thank you. Going back to Gaza, the UN Secretary-General Guterres today warned that the humanitarian system in Gaza is collapsing, saying that everyone is hungry and 1.7 million have been displaced. Do you have anything on that, any updates on your efforts to address the humanitarian situation and hunger in Gaza?

MR MILLER: So we continue to work to try to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance in, and I think one of the ways I would address that is so the – we have seen a number of problems, right, with delivering humanitarian assistance to – actually not just into Gaza but to the people in Gaza, and chief among those problems is not just the ability to get aid into Gaza but then to actually deliver it to the people who need it inside Gaza because of the intense nature of fighting in an ongoing conflict.

So what we saw during the last humanitarian pause, the one that was implemented in late November, was a surge in humanitarian assistance into Gaza and an increase in the distribution of that humanitarian assistance once it got inside Gaza for the reasons I just articulated. So one of the reasons we think another hostage – another pause would be so important is not just to secure the release of the hostages who are still being held by Hamas, but also because it would enable the sustained increase in distribution of humanitarian assistance. So I think what we – we would say that we have pursued this pause intensively, and we have made clear it’s a priority of the United States. Other countries in the region have made clear it’s a priority for all of these same reasons, and we are hopeful that – and it’s why we hope that Hamas, which continues to hold hostages and continues to hide behind human shields and continues to take activities that makes it so difficult to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza – we hope that they will agree to a pause.

QUESTION: And do you have any updates on the possibility of another pause in Gaza?

MR MILLER: I don’t. As I said earlier to I think it was Shaun’s question, I just don’t think it’s productive for me to give a play-by-play about what are intense private negotiations from here.


QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. After the attack on – in Jordan, the Iraqi Government took some steps, and they mentioned these groups – to put statements and suspend their attacks. So as you are seeking to retaliate and responding these groups, especially KH in Iraq, how do you get engaged with the Iraqi Government? How do you notify the Iraqi Government that you are responding these groups who were responsible for the attack in Jordan?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to any one particular communication with the Government of Iraq, but we have made clear to the Government of Iraq for months, going well back – well before this attack over the weekend – that we wanted to see the Government of Iraq do more to police attacks on our forces, to hold accountable those responsible for attacks on our forces, and that if – that we would not hesitate to take action to defend ourselves. And that continues to be our message to the Government of Iraq. It was our message before the horrific attacks of last weekend; it will continue to be our message.

QUESTION: For the last attacks, the Iraqi Government put statements and they condemned your attacks on the militia groups inside Iraq, and so they said this is a violation to the Iraqi sovereignty. As you have a good relations with the Iraqi Government, is there any concern that if you do another attack in Iraqi land or – that will make the Iraqi Government upset of you and something like that?

MR MILLER: So I am not going to – it’s difficult to answer that question without commenting on the location, let alone the timing, of future attacks, which I am not – or future responses that the United States might take, which I am not going to do, as we consistently have not done from this podium. But as a general matter, we have made quite clear to the Iraqi Government, as I’ve just said before, that we will not hesitate to defend U.S. forces. We have taken action to defend U.S. forces inside Iraq. That is – it is our responsibility to do so, and we will continue to do that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Recently the House Foreign Affairs Committee was holding a meeting on the former Afghan security forces and the U.S. allies in Afghanistan who left behind by the Biden administration. They are killing and torturing systematically by Taliban. What does the Biden administration is doing to protect them, the U.S. – the former U.S. allies in Afghanistan?

MR MILLER: So again, I am – I was not following that hearing. I’m not familiar with all the testimony that’s given that – so I’m reluctant to comment in detail, but we continue to call on the Taliban to take steps to gain international legitimacy, to stop the crackdown on the legitimate expression by its own people, and that’s what we’ve done and what we’ll continue to do.

QUESTION: What about —

MR MILLER: One more and then I’ve got to go —

QUESTION: More than two years have passed since collapse of Taliban by – collapse of Kabul by Taliban, but based on the CNN report, more than 80,000 SIV cases are still pending. Don’t you think by considering the situation in Afghanistan, the U.S. Biden administration should be accelerate those cases?

MR MILLER: We have been working very hard to accelerate those cases and work through the backlog, and we’ll continue to do so.

All the way in the back, because I’ve – I apologize yesterday for missing you, so let me make sure I get to you today.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have three quick questions, the first one related to —

MR MILLER: I didn’t say you get three questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: One for today and – one for today, two for yesterday.

MR MILLER: Fair enough. I did miss you yesterday.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. The first question is, like, related – Russia and Ukraine. President Putin suggested creating a buffer zone – demilitarized, like, buffer zone between Russia and Ukraine. Do you support this idea or not? And this is the first question, if you support – if you support a buffer zone, demilitarized, between Russia and Ukraine.

MR MILLER: So I’m struggling to understand how a demilitarized zone between Russia and Ukraine would be implemented when Russian forces are currently inside Ukraine. Kind of tough to have a demilitarized zone when Russian forces continue to operate on the Ukrainian side of the border and have made – and President Putin has made clear over and over again that he has not changed his aims to conquer and subjugate Ukraine.

So as to – so I think if the – if Russia really wanted to show interest in a demilitarized zone, the thing they could do is start by demilitarizing the parts of Ukraine where there are currently Russian forces.

QUESTION: Okay. So a second question: Do you accept any roles for China or Russia, and specifically China, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? As we saw, like, China played roles between Saudi Arabia and Iran; they looked like a peacemaker in the area, like they don’t have any criticizing toward the bias. You have a lot of criticizing that you are – have a bias toward Israel, providing them military aid, supporting their back in the United Nations, et cetera. So do you accept any roles for China, Russia, like, for playing any peacemaking roles between Palestinian and the Israelis or not?

Last question: What —

MR MILLER: Yeah, well, let me just – let me do that one first. Let me take them – and let me take them in order. So with respect to China, we have made quite clear, including in direct conversations between the – Secretary Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, that we would welcome constructive Chinese engagement in the region, both to urge de-escalation – China has a number of relationships with countries in the region where we think they could use those relationships to a positive end – and if it wanted to play a constructive role in helping resolve the ongoing conflict and ensuring lasting peace and stability, that is very much something we would welcome.

With – as it pertains to Russia, we have not seen Russia really play a stabilizing role in the Middle East. In fact, if you look at Russia’s actions in Syria, it has played a destabilizing role, so I think it’s very hard to contemplate Russia playing anything of a constructive role in helping to end this conflict.

QUESTION: Okay, last question.

MR MILLER: Last question.

QUESTION: Yeah, last question. Do you think that it’s a tangible goal that you can really destroy Hamas 100 percent even as a military militia or as a political party in Palestine? Because now it’s like over three months, almost four months, and according to The Wall Street Journal and many other mainstream medias, Hamas is still strong, like, by 70 or 80 percent. Or we are going to see, like, Taliban scenario, like strong statements about terrorist group, blah, blah, blah, and then see you or Israel sitting in the same table and Qatar sign a deal?

MR MILLER: Sure. Let me – I got the – I got it. So there are – we do believe there are military objectives pertaining to the defeat of Hamas that can be accomplished, and you have seen Israel accomplish some of those objectives. They have taken out a number of Hamas leaders. They have dismantled, through their military actions, a number of Hamas battalions. There are other objectives that they have not yet met. But just as a strict military —

QUESTION: How long – how long can they stay?

MR MILLER: Let me – let me finish. Just as a strict military matter, there are objectives that can be met. But – and you have heard the Secretary speak to this – we also have to put forward a better idea as a political question to speak directly to the Palestinian people, and – that there is a better idea than the terrorism and death and destruction that Hamas offers. And that very much has to be part of what the United States Government and other countries in the region and Israel are putting forward. And as you have heard us say, we believe that ultimately the better idea is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that gives answer to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people —

QUESTION: Demilarized? Demilarized, like independent states?

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So going back to the package adopted today by the EU, that was a financial support package. Meanwhile, some lawmakers at the Capitol Hill are pushing to remove at least some of the financial aid from the supplemental. Do you think – do you still think this is vital to adopt the economic aid part of the package? And I have another one, somewhat relatedly, maybe.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Let me just answer that question.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah.

MR MILLER: We absolutely do think that both the economic and security assistance components of the supplemental request the President made are vital.


MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: And so Assistant Secretary O’Brien tweeted today – X’ed – about the —

MR MILLER: X’ed. (Laughter.) Which is – which assistant secretary?


MR MILLER: Oh, yeah.

QUESTION: About the meeting between Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Pressman, and saying that they discussed – for a discussion at the key moment in the U.S.-Hungary relationship. I wonder if you could elaborate why is – why is it a key moment?

MR MILLER: What I would say is that Ambassador Pressman was here in Washington – our ambassadors regularly come home for consultations – met with the Secretary as part of that meeting. And every time that the Secretary meets with an ambassador, obviously they’re discussing the ongoing bilateral relationships between the United States and the country where that ambassador serves.

QUESTION: But so there’s no, like – any breakthrough or change, any – “key moment,” it sounds like – yeah.

MR MILLER: Ryan, yeah.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Can you shed a little light on the timeline around the UNRWA decision? The Israeli Government has since shared that intelligence dossier with some members of the press. They said they shared the dossier, I believe, on – on that Friday.

MR MILLER: On – that’s correct.

QUESTION: The decision was also announced that Friday, the same day the court ruling came out. How – how was State able to – how were you able to make such a fast decision?

MR MILLER: It’s a good question. So I think there has been some confusion about this. This matter was not first brought to us by the Government of Israel; it was brought to us by UNRWA itself. UNRWA brought this matter to the Government of the United States – the State Department – on Wednesday of last week and said that they had – were aware of allegations by the Government of Israel and they had conducted their own initial assessment and found those allegations to be credible and were taking disciplinary action against a number of people.

So they contacted us on Wednesday. We spent Thursday looking into the matter. We contacted the Government of Israel on Thursday, engaged in initial consultations with them. We’re continuing to talk with the United Nations. The Secretary spoke to the secretary-general on Thursday. And then on Friday we announced that decision and were briefed by Israel. But I should make very clear our decision to temporarily pause funding was not just based on the strength of Israeli evidence, but it was based on UNRWA’s own conclusion that those allegations were credible.

QUESTION: Was there any concern internally that releasing the announcement within about an hour or so of the ICJ court ruling, which – which one thing it did was instruct Israel to make sure that humanitarian aid was flowing – that it would – that announcing it so close together would seem like a repudiation in some ways?

MR MILLER: No, I – there was no concern, but also the United Nations has – had made its announcement. And we thought it was important that – that given that the United Nations had made that announcement – and that’s not a – that’s not timing we control. They made that announcement Friday morning. We thought that it was important that we respond as quickly as possible to make clear the position the United States. It was in no way in our mind related to the ICJ decision.

QUESTION: Matt, just tangentially related to the ICJ, there was a lawsuit that was brought in a California federal court against the President, the Secretary, and Secretary of Defense Austin. It was dismissed yesterday by the judge because of a – on jurisdictional grounds. But in his ruling dismissing the case, he said that there was – the ICJ’s ruling that there was plausible grounds to believe that genocide may be being committed was fair. He noted – I don’t know if “fair” is the right word, but that there was at least as – a case to be made in court. Do you have any comment about this lawsuit and the judge’s dismissal?

MR MILLER: So I don’t have any comment on the lawsuit, and one thing that I learned in my time at the Justice Department is that it is unwise to comment on remarks or decisions by federal judges. And I’ll – so I won’t do that here. But I will say it remains our conclusion that the allegations of genocide are unfounded.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One more follow-up on the previous questioning.

MR MILLER: Follow-up on your follow-up?


MR MILLER: Your first one was a follow-up to somebody else.

QUESTION: Yeah. So the message of this EO and these sanctions is to try to say that the Israelis need to take further action against the perpetrators of violence in the West Bank. If that’s the case, why would you sanction people Israel had already taken action against? Wouldn’t it have sent a stronger message to sanction those who had not yet been prosecuted?

MR MILLER: So a few things. Number one, it is very much to send the message that we think more needs to be done by the Government of Israel; number two, that we will also take action on behalf of the United States, both against those who engage in settler violence and – extremist settler violence that have been prosecuted by governments and others who have not – there was one today who had – was not – part of that message is not just to the Government of Israel, but also to people who – themselves who might be considering engaging in acts of violence, to let them know that the United States Government is watching and will take action.

And I also think you should not conclude that we are done with our action through our actions today. The executive order was just promulgated today, gives the State Department and the Treasury Department new sanctions authorities that we did not previously have. We will not hesitate to use those sanctions authorities if it’s appropriate to do so.


QUESTION: Could I go back to the – and it might be for your Justice Department – this was last week, but I don’t think it’s been addressed here. Alabama carried out an execution last week, which was criticized by the UN. The UN human rights commissioner is saying this might amount to torture. It’s nitrogen gas – he was supposedly thrashing on the floor for four minutes. I believe the White House commented on it. But on the international aspect, the EU condemned it, the United Nations. Is there a response that the State Department has? I realize the State Department isn’t carrying out executions.

MR MILLER: I think as a – as that’s a domestic matter, I will absolutely defer to the White House and their comment on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Matt. I have only one question. As I found on your last press note on Bangladesh, the United States is interested in working with Bangladesh in various security areas. These areas include counterterrorism, border security, cyber security, maritime security, and regional stability. How is it possible to work in a larger context with the new government in Bangladesh without welcoming the prime minister?

MR MILLER: So I would say that we have relationships of this sort all around the world. We expressed our concerns about the Bangladeshi election. We’ve expressed our concerns about crackdowns in Bangladesh, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the responsibility to work with the government – both on areas where we have concern and also areas where we believe we can cooperate on shared priorities.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Myanmar?


QUESTION: You know that in Myanmar now, the junta and other party – this is a war zone. And more Rohingyas about to enter to Bangladesh, and also some military personnel with helicopters. Do you have any comments on the situation there?

MR MILLER: On – with respect to that specific question, let me take it back. And then I’m going to go to the back of the room, and then we’ll wrap for today.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt.

QUESTION: Now, earlier today, we saw the readout about the certification – the certification notifying Congress of the possible drone deal between the U.S. and India. Can you sketch out the timeline or the next steps and how important this deal would be?

MR MILLER: I cannot give you a timeline. This was the initial step today, notifying Congress. The exact timeline of the delivery is something that we will explore with the Government of India over the coming months.

I will say with respect to the deal itself, the $3.99 – almost 4 – billion sale of 31 MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft will provide India with an enhanced maritime security and maritime domain awareness capability. It offers India outright ownership and a 16-fold increase in the number of aircraft, as compared to their current lease of two MQ-9A aircraft.

And with that, we’ll wrap for today. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:47 p.m.)

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U.S. Department of State

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