2:18 p.m. EST
MR PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone. I hope and trust everyone had a good and healthy set of holidays and was able to get some down time, including over the New Year. I apologize for starting a few minutes late for our first briefing of 2022. It is a new year but same us in terms of timeliness.
I’ll start with a couple items, and then we’ll take your questions. First, the United States continues to recognize Venezuela’s 2015 National Assembly as the last remaining democratic institution and Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president. We welcome the agreement reached to extend the authority of the National Assembly elected in 2015 and of interim President Guaidó as its president. We call on Nicolás Maduro to re-engage in the negotiations in Mexico for the good of the Venezuelan people. We support the Venezuelan people in their desire for a peaceful restoration of democracy through free and fair elections, and we will continue our efforts to alleviate Venezuelans’ suffering and bring the humanitarian crisis to an end.
Next and finally, global COVID-19 conditions are dynamic. U.S. citizens who choose to travel internationally may encounter mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements, quarantines, travel restrictions, and closed borders imposed by foreign governments.
We continue to provide country-specific information and advice regarding COVID-19 on our website, travel.state.gov, and on each U.S. embassy website.
We update these resources whenever we receive new information. However, foreign governments in any country may implement or change restrictions quickly and with little notice.
U.S. citizens who do choose to travel internationally should make contingency plans as their trip may be disrupted due to quarantines, travel restrictions, and other factors. U.S. citizens may have to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned at their own expense. The department recommends international travel insurance with coverage for COVID-related trip cancellation and medical benefits.
Also, we remind American citizens of the CDC requirement to show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of a flight’s departure to the United States, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19. This applies to all air travelers aged two or older, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
U.S. citizens planning to travel overseas or currently overseas and planning to return to the United States should check with their airline for specific information about testing requirements for travelers. Airlines may adopt and modify their own specific policies to implement the CDC’s testing rule.
As always, we encourage U.S. citizens to review our Travel Advisories and U.S. Embassy COVID-19 information pages before travel. U.S. citizens should also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, for regular updates and follow TravelGov on social media.
With that, Operator, if you’d like to repeat the instructions for asking questions, we’ll turn to those.
OPERATOR: Certainly. And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask to ask a question, please press 1 then 0. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command.
MR PRICE: Great. We will start with Matt Lee.
QUESTION: I’ve got a bunch of things, but I’ll keep it to only one topic. Ahead of the meetings next week, the series of meetings in Europe with the Russians on Ukraine, and perhaps more immediately ahead of the Secretary’s meeting tomorrow with the German foreign minister, I’m wondering, aside from the broad statements of unity that the G7 and the – and others in the transatlantic community have put out, if you guys are yet convinced that everyone is on board with a package of consequences, should Russia go ahead and invade.
And then just a little bit more broadly, what are your expectations for next week’s meetings, particularly the one on Monday in Geneva? Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks. Thanks, Matt. So Matt – and I believe you’ve been on some of this travel with us; you’ve certainly been in and around the building as we’ve discussed some of this, but I can tell you that the Secretary, the President, others have had any number of occasions, including in person in our travel to – including to Riga last month, our time in Liverpool just before that, our time at the OSCE ministerial meeting, and in the many, many, many bilateral and multilateral engagements that the Secretary and President Biden have had over the past two weeks, we have heard a strong, strong consensus emerge regarding the profound costs that Russia would face if it were to go forward with further military aggression against Ukraine. We’ve heard that in the context of our very close coordination with European counterparts on the various ways and on specific packages of severe consequences for Russia, if they were to go forward with that escalation.
You have heard it from the United States. You have heard it from individual NATO Allies. You have heard it collectively that we would respond with strong economic measures that would inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial systems. We’ve been specific that this would include actions that we intentionally did not pursue in 2014 and are prepared to do so now.
You mentioned this in your question, I mentioned this in my answer, but it is worth underscoring a couple of the statements that have emerged from this engagement. The European Council, mid last month, stated that, quote, “Any further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe costs in response, including restrictive measures coordinated with partners.”
On the same day, the North Atlantic Council put out a statement that made clear that, quote, “Any further aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and carry a high price.” I mentioned the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Liverpool. Just before that last month, the statement that emerged from that made clear that, quote, “Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law. Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe costs in response.”
So I don’t need to underscore the common language, the common themes that you will note from those statements, but I think they certainly speak to the level of consensus around this issue.
When it comes to the engagement – engagements, I should say – next week, let me make a couple points. As she has in previous rounds, Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman will lead the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Stability Dialogue next week in Geneva. The dialogue will take place on Monday. Deputy Secretary Sherman and other senior leaders will continue to consult closely with allies and partners ahead of that dialogue and after. We’ll have more details on the State-led delegations to the NATO sessions and on the OSCE Permanent Council meetings – meeting, excuse me – in the coming days. I expect we’ll have an opportunity to preview that from the State Department later this week.
When it comes to the SSD, as you know, Matt, we’ve engaged in this format with the Russians twice already during this administration. Deputy Secretary Sherman led both of those engagements. On Monday in Geneva, we’ll listen to Russia explain its proposals and the underlying concerns motivating them. We’ll respond and share our own concerns, and we do have many.
Our goal, by the end of the day, will be to identify a few issues where there might be enough common ground to continue discussions and ultimately address together. I don’t want to speculate what those issues might be at this point, but of course, the Strategic Stability Dialogue is narrowly focused on issues of, well, strategic stability. And I’ll reiterate that the SSD will be focused on bilateral matters, and we’re not going to talk above the heads of our European allies and partners. Throughout all of this, it will remain true that we will do or say nothing about them without them when it comes to our NATO Allies and our European partners, including, of course, Ukraine.
We will go to Simon Lewis, please.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Ned.
MR PRICE: Hey, Simon.
QUESTION: Hi. Can you hear me?
MR PRICE: I can.
QUESTION: Yeah, I wondered – on the Iran talks, I wondered if there’s any update since last week on how you see progress there towards agreement. And specifically, there’s announcement by South Korea that their diplomat will be visiting and having talks on the sidelines of the indirect JCPOA talks about the issue of frozen Iranian assets in Korea. I wonder is that something that might be resolved soon, and what’s the U.S. position on the potential release of those assets? Thank you.
MR PRICE: Great. Thanks, Simon. So as you know, Special Envoy Malley is currently back in Vienna. There was a brief break in the eighth round of talks. The talks resumed yesterday, on January 3rd. They are ongoing now. What we can say at this point is that there was some modest progress in the talks last week. We hope to build on that this week. What is clear is that if we do not soon reach an understanding on mutual – on a mutual return to compliance, Iran’s accelerating nuclear steps will increasingly diminish the nonproliferation benefits of the JCPOA.
We have made the point repeatedly that it remains in our national interest to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, because at this moment, on this day, the nonproliferation benefits that the JCPOA entails are the best outcome when it comes to what’s in our national interest. That will not be true for long, as Iran continues with nuclear steps that only diminish the utility of the guarantees that the 2015 deal would bring back into effect. That’s why our priority remains reaching and implementing a rapid mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA.
You mentioned an issue of sanctions relief. What I will say is that sanctions relief and the steps that the United States would take on the – when it comes to sanctions, together with the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take if we were to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, that’s really at the heart of the negotiations that are ongoing in Vienna right now. They have been at the heart of these negotiations in Vienna, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed when it comes to these issues. So I wouldn’t want to get ahead of where we are.
I’ll just reiterate that there has been some progress relative to the beginning of December in identifying the hard issues left to be negotiated on really those two issues: how Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA, and in terms of the issue of sanctions relief. But even if there has been some progress, the fundamental situation really remains. Iran needs to exercise restraint in its nuclear program and pursue negotiations in Vienna seriously. Again, otherwise, the benefits that the JCPOA conveyed in terms of nonproliferation will continue to be diminished, and there will be no realistic way back to the deal for the United States. In that case, Iran’s advances would exacerbate this real proliferation threat, and our goal is to address that proliferation threat through diplomacy and to test the proposition as to whether a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA remains a possibility.
Let’s go to the line of Jennifer Hansler.
QUESTION: Hi, Ned. Happy New Year. Can you hear me?
MR PRICE: I can. Happy New Year.
QUESTION: Thank you. I was wondering, the Russians said the P5 statement that was released yesterday was their idea and their initiative. I was wondering if you had any comment on that.
And then can you confirm that Special Envoy Feltman is traveling to Ethiopia this week? And if so, who will he meet with while he’s there? Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Jenny. So on the extraordinary P5 statement you saw yesterday, just to level set with everyone, the President did join the leaders of the People’s Republic of China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom in that joint statement affirming the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. This is a phrase that will look and sound familiar to those of you who have followed this issue; it was a phrase that was included in a joint statement that we put forward with the Russian Federation this summer after that bilateral engagement in Geneva. It underscores that even in times of tensions, countries have a responsibility to exercise restraint, especially concerning nuclear weapons. And I called it an extraordinary statement because it really is. It’s the first time that all five nuclear weapon states, parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, have affirmed together that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And they did so at the highest levels. This emanated from the leaders. At the leader level, our Under Secretary Bonnie Jenkins was very engaged in all of this, in addition to many colleagues here at the State Department.
I wouldn’t want to get into the diplomacy behind this, but it is something, as I said before, that the United States worked very concertedly on together with other members of the P5, and we were gratified to be able to reach this joint statement together with other members of the P5.
When it comes to Special Envoy Feltman, I can confirm that Special Envoy Feltman will be in Addis – Addis Ababa January 6th for meetings with senior government officials to discuss prospects for peace talks. We’ll have more on his travel in the coming days, and we do expect to have more to read out then.
Let’s go to Nike Ching, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), thanks for taking my question. On Ukraine, could you please spell out the specifics on the confidence-building measures to de-escalate tensions that the U.S. is considering regarding the Donbas conflict? Those measures were mentioned during President Biden’s call with the Ukraine President Zelenskyy, according to the White House readout. And I wonder, were they discussed during Deputy Secretary Sherman’s call today with the Greek foreign minister?
Separately, on North Korea, its leader, Kim, appeared to lose a lot of weight in a recent photo published by its state media, which triggered quite a bit of speculations about his health. Would you like to weigh in? And could you give us an update on U.S. diplomatic efforts to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula? Thank you very much.
MR PRICE: Thanks very much, Nike, and Happy New Year to you. Look, on your first question, we are – the President in his call with President Putin just before the new year, laid out the fact that there are really two paths ahead when it comes to Russia and Ukraine: the path of diplomacy and de-escalation; and the path of deterrence, including the serious costs and consequences that I spoke to a moment ago if Russia were to invade Ukraine.
The reason we are taking part in these engagements next week – the SSD, the OSCE, and the NATO engagements – is to pursue that path of diplomacy and to determine whether the Russians are equally serious about that path, that path of diplomacy and de-escalation.
As you noted, and as has been noted in various readouts, confidence-building measures and potential confidence-building measures will be a topic of conversation in these various engagements. Unlike our Russian counterparts, however, we’re not going to negotiate in public. We think these discussions are best held behind closed doors if we are able – if we are going to be able to achieve that path of de-escalation and diplomacy, which very much and sincerely remains our goal. So I won’t go into specifics when it comes to that.
On the question of Russia and Ukraine, you will have noticed through our readouts that the Secretary, the deputy secretary, and others in this building whose calls we do not routinely read out have, at every conceivable opportunity, spoken with allies and partners regarding Russia’s unusual military buildup, regarding the threat that we and our allies and partners together see from – stemming from this Russian buildup. So it’s certainly no surprise that in virtually every engagement, this is a significant topic of conversation, as you will have noted from our readouts.
Moving to the DPRK, you mentioned speculation regarding Kim Jong-un’s appearance. I don’t want to add to that speculation, we don’t want to add to that speculation. What I will say and what I will underscore is that we remain committed to achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK. To that end, we’ll continue to seek engagement with the DPRK, part of a calibrated, practical approach in order to more – to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies, and our deployed forces. That is our ultimate objective. That was the result of the policy review that this administration conducted in the first few months of our time in office.
Again – and we’ve made this point repeatedly – but we have no hostile intent towards the DPRK. We are prepared to meet without preconditions. We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach, but all the while, we’re continuing to consult closely with our allies and partners, and that includes, of course, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other allies and partners about how we might best engage the DPRK towards this end and this shared objective.
Let’s go to Andrea Mitchell, please.
QUESTION: Sorry, I was muted. Hi there, Happy New Year to everyone.
MR PRICE: Happy New Year.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the meetings coming up in Geneva and how you’re evolving your set of sanctions and other strategies. Does Wendy have a specific set of sanctions that she is going to be laying out in these meetings, particularly the ones in Geneva and the bilats? And I know you don’t want to negotiate in public, but how will this differ substantively when (inaudible) the sanctions that Vladimir Putin has been ignoring for years?
MR PRICE: Yeah. Thanks, Andrea. So on those questions, the – look, we hope this remains a contingency. We hope the massive and serious consequences that the Russian economy would face if Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine moves forward remains a hypothetical, because we are sincere in our desire to pursue diplomacy and de-escalation.
The question of sanctions I do not expect will be all that prominent during the discussion with – the bilateral discussion between Deputy Secretary Sherman and her counterpart in Geneva on Monday, and that’s precisely because this is work we have been doing over the course of weeks now at the NATO ministerial, at the OSCE, with the G7, with the EU. In any number of multilateral and bilateral settings, we have had these discussions.
As I responded to Matt earlier, you’ve seen any number of joint statements from these collectives, from individual countries, about the massive consequence and severe costs that Russia would incur were it to move forward. And these discussions have been much deeper than notional discussions of what might happen. These have been very detailed discussions about the measures that Russia would face were it to move forward. As I said as well to Matt, these are measures that we intentionally pursue – we intentionally decided not to pursue in 2014 because of the massive effect that they would have on the Russian economy.
You are right that we’re not going to negotiate in public. I think it is fair to say, however, that the Russians too have a very good idea about what we’re talking about when it comes to the measures that they would face and the massive profound costs that would befall the Russian economy should Moscow pursue this path.
Let’s go to Missy Ryan, please.
QUESTION: Hi, Ned. Thanks. I just want to follow up on your answer to Andrea and also to Matt. So if I understood you correctly to say that the strategic stability talks will be more focused on the bilateral issues, you also said in your response to Matt that the U.S. delegation would listen to the demands from the Russians and potentially provide some responses or try to reach agreement on areas where the two sides coincide. So I just want to clarify: Does that mean that the demands over NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe and the proposals that Russia has presented will not be specifically addressed at that strategic stability meeting? I guess the overarching question I have is when and where will the U.S. present its response to the Russian proposal vis-à-vis NATO near Russia. Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Missy. So I’ll make a couple points. One, the Strategic Stability Dialogue is just one of several engagements that’s taking place next week. It will take place on Monday. It will be followed by engagements between NATO and Russia and within the OSCE, in which, of course, Russia is a member.
The second point is that the Strategic Stability Dialogue – this is a format that has already met a couple times during this administration with the Russian Federation. It is a bilateral format. And the overarching principle remains important to us: Nothing about them without them. So when it comes to our engagement with Russia at the – in the context of the Strategic Stability Dialogue, we won’t be discussing issues that pertain to NATO, issues that pertain exclusively to Europe. We will be talking about the relatively narrow set of bilateral issues, the issues that have been in some cases on the table when the SSD last convened in recent months, the last time being in September, if I recall.
So when it comes to the Russian proposals, the – there were a number of proposals that were put on the table. Some have a bilateral nexus, others are more multilateral or pertain to NATO or pertain to Europe, and so, of course, we will not be talking about them without them at the SSD or anywhere else.
When it comes to these proposals more broadly, look, as we’ve said, there are some things we are prepared to work with that may merit some discussions. There are other things in those proposals – and you alluded to a couple of them – that the Russians know will be unacceptable to us, will be unacceptable to our partners. Again, we don’t see any advantage to conducting these negotiations in public, nor are we going to detail the conversations that we’re having with our allies and partners.
But I will make one final point that even in the bilateral context of the Strategic Stability Dialogue, what we will continue to do is to operate with transparency with our allies and partners, and it will not be unique to this convening of the SSD. This was precisely what we did in the aftermath of the previous rounds of the SSD. The senior State Department officials traveled to back brief the North Atlantic Council, to back brief allies and partners regarding what we heard, what we discussed from the Russians when it comes to issues of bilateral strategic stability, and I fully expect we will do that here as well, just as a State-led delegation will continue on to subsequent multilateral engagements with Russia in the context of NATO and the OSCE.
Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi.
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR PRICE: I can.
QUESTION: Hi, Happy New Year.
MR PRICE: Happy New Year.
QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on a couple of things. On Ethiopia, can you just tell us a little bit more what you mean by discuss prospects for peace talks? Is there a particular initiative you’re thinking about?
And since Special Envoy Feltman will be in the region, is he planning to go back to Khartoum as well? And I saw the Troika-EU-U.S. statement. It looks like you’re doing as if the transition, democratic transition, was still alive. Do you – don’t you think it is over after Hamdok resigned and after the military seizure of power? And what are you going to do to pressure the military to go back on track?
MR PRICE: Thanks, Francesco. So on Special Envoy Feltman’s travel, I don’t have any additional stops to confirm or to allude to at this time beyond his travel to Addis Ababa on January 6th to engage with senior officials regarding the prospects for a broader peace.
And that’s precisely what we seek. We’ve said for some time now that we seek an immediate cessation of hostilities, an end to ongoing human rights abuses and violations, unhindered humanitarian access, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict in Ethiopia, precisely because, in addition to the human suffering, it threatens peace and security in the Horn of Africa. This is in some ways an opportune time for the special envoy to engage with senior Ethiopian Government officials, with Tigrayan forces having withdrawn into Tigray, and the Ethiopian Government stating it does not intend to pursue those forces into Tigray. We do believe this offers an opportunity for both sides to halt combat operations and come to the negotiating table. That will be an issue of discussion when the special envoy is in Ethiopia later this week.
We’ve said this all along, but there is no military solution to the conflict. And we continue to support diplomacy as the first, the last, and the only option. And we reiterate our call for the Ethiopian Government to start a credible, inclusive national dialogue that includes comprehensive, transparent, transitional justice measures, including accountability for those responsible for atrocities.
Moving on to Sudan – and I’m glad you referenced the statement that we put out together with our partners on that. For those who have not read it, I would commend it, but let me make a couple points. In the aftermath of Prime Minister Hamdok’s resignation, Sudanese stakeholders will need to set aside differences and agree on a consensual way forward to advance the country’s democratic transition under civilian leadership, consistent with the 2019 constitutional declaration and the aspirations of the Sudanese people. Continued violence against protesters in Khartoum and in Darfur is unacceptable, and those responsible need to held – to be held accountable.
The Troika and EU statement that we put out just a few moments ago makes a few other points that I think are germane to your question, Francesco. There is a significant task ahead for Sudan’s leadership. No single Sudanese actor can accomplish this task on their own. The Troika and the EU will continue to support the democratic transition in Sudan. But Sudanese stakeholders will need to work on the basis of the 2019 constitutional declaration on how to overcome the nation’s current political crisis, select new civilian leadership, and identify clear timelines and processes for the remaining transitional tasks. And that includes establishing the legislative and judicial branches of government, creating accountability mechanisms, and laying the groundwork for elections.
For our part – and we share this with our partners here – we strongly support credible, international efforts to achieve inclusive dialogue designed to restore Sudan’s democratic transition and civilian rule. We also believe that Sudan’s next prime minister needs to enjoy credibility with the Sudanese public, and this can only occur if the individual is identified through a consultative, civilian-led process, consistent with the 2019 constitutional declaration. And that’s what we’re looking to as the roadmap for all of this, the 2019 constitutional declaration. It is not for any one individual or for any one entity within Sudan to decide when it comes to Sudan’s leadership. This needs to be – it needs to remain – a civilian-led transition, not just a transition that includes civilians, but civilian-led. And we, together with our partners, will continue to look to that 2019 constitutional declaration as the basis for the path ahead, supporting the continued democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people in all of this.
Take a couple final questions here. Said Arikat.
QUESTION: Hey, Ned. Happy New Year to you and to everyone on this call. Very quick questions on the Palestinian issue. I wanted to ask your position on the administrative detention. There is hundreds – literally – of Palestinians – hunger strikers that are under administrative detention. One, Hisham Abu Hawash, actually reached an agreement today with his Israeli captive. But what is your position on this administrative detention that seems to be only taking place in Israel and against the Palestinians? That’s one.
And my second question, real quick. The Times of Israel has quoted Palestinian officials as telling it that they are very frustrated with the American administration, because you guys are not moving forward on promises that you made in the past. Thank you, Ned.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Said, and Happy New Year to you.
When it comes to your first question, the United States urges the full respect for human rights in Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza. We’ve said this many times before, but we believe that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom. And that really gets to the point of your second question. It is undeniable that this administration has re-engaged with the Palestinian people and re-engaged with the Palestinian leadership to advance that goal of providing equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom for the Palestinian people.
We have done that through our humanitarian leadership, and you know, Said, the significant humanitarian leadership that we have demonstrated through multiple channels. You know the diplomacy that we have exerted in the context of the conflict between Israel and Gaza earlier – last year, I should say – earlier last year that certainly led to a shorter duration of the conflict, and it helped to lead down the path of rebuilding for the Palestinian people. We will continue to find ways to seek to make real this belief that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of these concepts, and we’ll continue to do that in the days and weeks and months ahead.
Let’s go to Nick Wadhams.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. Just hopping back to Iran, given that the Secretary’s been saying for several months now that the runway is getting short to just – and time is running out, can you give us a better sense for what the U.S. is thinking in terms of when time will actually run out? And then just picking up on something you said, you said that even if there has been some progress, Iran needs to exercise restraint and pursue negotiations seriously. So, again, given comments that you and the Secretary have made in the past, do you believe – do you continue to believe that Iran is not negotiating in good faith or seriously? Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Nick. So I think your questions are related, and they’re related in this sense. The calendar that we’ve talked about, the clock that we’ve talked about – and you’ve heard me say this before – is not a temporal clock or calendar, but it’s based on technical assessments, really.
And so it is not that the clock will run out on a predetermined date, a date that was set days, weeks, or months ago. The clock will run out when our experts – our experts here at the Department of State, our experts within the Intelligence Community, our experts throughout the interagency – come to the conclusion that the benefits that would – the nonproliferation benefits that would be conveyed by a return to the JCPOA, as it was implemented in January of 2016, would be outweighed by the advancements that Iran has made in its nuclear program since the last administration made the ill-advised decision to abandon the nuclear deal – a deal that, according to our Intelligence Community, according to the IAEA and others, was working, verifiably working to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.
So the clock will run out, again, not on a predetermined date certain, but the clock will run out when our experts determine that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA would not be in the national interest of the United States precisely because the advancements in Iran’s nuclear program had – will have so watered down the nonproliferation benefits of the JCPOA.
When it comes to the posture of the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, look, we’re in the midst of the eighth round of talks. We characterized what the seventh round brought or did not bring, as the case might have been. Again, we did see some modest progress in the talks last week. We hope to build on that this week. We are – it is now Tuesday, so we have a few days left this week, and we’ll be watching very closely, listening very closely in our consultations with our P5+1 partners who are, in turn, negotiating directly with the Iranians as we seek to determine whether the Iranians are as sincere and as steadfast as we are, as we have been in seeking a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA. And I wouldn’t want to prejudge that at this stage.
We’ll conclude with the line of Conor Finnegan, please.
QUESTION: Hey, Ned. Just to follow up on Francesco’s questions, your answers to him, you said that Special Envoy Feltman will meet with senior Ethiopian Government officials. Will he meet with Tigrayan leadership at all as well during his trip?
And then on Sudan, why – just to push a little further, why do you still believe that the 2019 constitutional declaration is viable at this point given that the military has really trampled all over it? And to just repeat Francesco’s question, why have no military officials been sanctioned for this seizure of power? Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks. I’ll start with Sudan first. We continue to believe the 2019 constitutional declaration is the best way forward because it espouses the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people. It is a reflection of the democratic revolution that swept Sudan and that was powered by the people of Sudan. So you are right. The actions of the military in recent weeks and the past couple months have been deeply concerning and we have condemned them, but we continue to look to that document as a blueprint for the path forward. Again, that document lays out what the transition needs to look like. At its heart, this is a transition that has been and needs to be civilian led. And the next prime minister, again, needs to enjoy credibility with the Sudanese people, and that can only occur if the individual is identified through a consultative civilian-led process consistent with that very 2019 constitutional declaration. And at the same time, we’ll be looking – and together with our partners we’ll be looking for the completion of key transitional tasks, and that includes the establishment of legislative, judicial accountability, and electoral mechanisms which need to be prioritized.
To the second part of your question on Sudan, accountability is something that is very important to us. As you know and pursuant to your question, we don’t preview sanctions designations, but we are exploring all available options to support Sudan’s transition. That is what we are seeking to do: to support the transition; to support the democratic aspirations that were at the heart of the democratic revolution in Sudan and that have been at the heart of what we have seen on the part of the Sudanese people in recent days, weeks, and months.
On Ethiopia, what I can say now is that Special Envoy Feltman will be in Addis on January 6th to meet with senior Ethiopian officials. But we will have more to say on that engagement at its conclusion, and we’ll, I expect, have a readout with those details at that point.
Thank you very much, everyone. I look forward to speaking with you again later this week and hopefully seeing you in person before long. Happy New Year.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:01 p.m.)