1:32 p.m. EST

MR MILLER: Good afternoon. Happy New Year to everyone.

QUESTION: Happy New Year.

QUESTION: Happy New Year to you.

MR MILLER: I hope you all had an at least somewhat restful period. Matt, you want to start us off?

QUESTION: Oh, you have nothing?

MR MILLER: I have nothing but a little – I have a little echo. I have an echo, but nothing – nothing to start with.

QUESTION: There is a bit of an echo.


QUESTION: Is that fixable?

MR MILLER: Twice as nice today.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s just start with the developments in – yesterday in Beirut and today in Iran, and whether that – or what you think of that and – those two developments and whether or not that is in line with your wish to prevent the conflict from spreading.

MR MILLER: Let me take them in order. Number one, with respect to the development yesterday, I will say that al-Arouri was a brutal terrorist who was centrally responsible for the attacks of October 7th as well as other attacks against innocent civilians leading back to well before October 7th.

With respect to the explosions in Iran today, what I’ll say: We have been following the reports rather closely. We don’t have any independent information to offer on them. We do express our sympathies to the victims and their loved ones who died in this horrific explosion. As I said, it’s too early, at least for us, to be able to say what might have caused it.

But I do want to address some of the irresponsible claims that I have seen circulate and say that, number one, the United States was not involved in any way, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous; and number two, we have no reason to believe that Israel was involved in this explosion.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR MILLER: We just do not have any information to believe that that’s the case.

QUESTION: Did someone suggest that they were? I mean, other than the —

MR MILLER: We have seen multiple accusations related to both supposed – fictional – United States involvement, and as I said, we have no reason to believe Israel was involved either.

QUESTION: And what about on Beirut?

MR MILLER: I don’t have an assessment to make about who was responsible for that incident. I’ll leave it to the Government of Israel to speak to their actions.

QUESTION: Okay, but – so more broadly, though, are you concerned at all that either or both of these are going to turn this into the regional confrontation, the regional conflict that you had been publicly saying you wanted to avoid?

MR MILLER: We remain incredibly concerned, as we have been from the outset of this conflict, about the risk of the conflict spreading into other fronts, both inside Israel, whether it be in the north or whether it be in the West Bank, or outside of Israel in other countries in the region, which is why you’ve seen the Secretary engage in intensive diplomacy to try to urge all of the relevant parties not to escalate the conflict and other countries and other groups in the region not to escalate as well.

I wouldn’t say that our concern is any higher today than it has been from the beginning. It’s been something that we’ve been intensely focused on.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just —

MR MILLER: Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just because I guess it’s the obvious question, you said it’s ridiculous to say that Israel or the U.S. are behind the Iran blasts. What – who could be behind it? I mean, presumably you’re not going to reveal intelligence here, but ISIS would be the obvious suspect. I mean, there are other suspicions and other parties, if you don’t think it’s Israel.

MR MILLER: I just don’t have an assessment to offer. It’s too early, and we don’t have any independent information that I can offer from this podium at this time.

QUESTION: And can you just – so, I mean, but – well, not (inaudible) in terms of what this means for the region more broadly. I mean, these – having these attacks, I mean, is there – is there concern about a larger – about larger tensions raising – rising, and what would be the message to the Lebanese Government in particular, but also to Iran in terms of how to respond to these?

MR MILLER: So the message will be the same message that we have been delivering. Really, if you remember, if you go back to the immediate aftermath of October 7th, the President delivered a message that any adversaries of Israel who were thinking about taking advantage of this conflict should think twice about doing so and should reconsider. The Secretary has delivered that same message in his three trips to the region and he’s sent that same message in phone calls with his counterparts in the region in the months since.

It is also a message that we have sent when we have engaged with countries who have relationships in the region, often with countries with whom we don’t have direct relationships. We have sent the – we have sent messages that they should – these countries should deliver the message that it is in no one’s interest. It’s not in the interest of any country in the region, it’s not in any country – in the interest of any country in the world to see this conflict escalated any further than it already is. And that’s the message we will continue to send.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?


QUESTION: Just on the killing of the Hamas deputy leader, the head of Hizballah said today that it is a major dangerous crime about which we cannot be silent. Do you have any reaction to those comments? And how concerned are you about any reaction from Hizballah?

MR MILLER: So we have seen Hizballah launching strikes across the border into Israel since – well, of course, since before October 7th, but certainly have seen them ramped up since October 7th. You’ve seen Israel respond, of course. There have been strikes back and forth across the blue line going back for months now. It is why we have sent this very direct message to Hizballah, to other entities in the region, that now is not the time to think of escalating further. And you’ve seen us take deterrent steps to deliver that message. You’ve seen us take diplomatic steps to deliver it. And we’ll continue to deliver it.

I don’t want to respond specifically to every comment they make because they’ve made comments in the past of similar nature. But we continue to believe it is not in Hizballah’s interest, just as it is not in Israel’s interest, to escalate this conflict in any way.

QUESTION: And then were you given any advance notice about this action?

MR MILLER: We were not.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, Matt? When did you – when were you informed about the strike in Beirut?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to get into that specific detail, but we were not informed in advance.

QUESTION: And then on the explosion today, you said you, quote, “don’t have any independent information”, but also you have no information that Israel is involved. So are you entertaining the fact that Israel could have been involved; you just don’t know yet?

MR MILLER: We just do not have any information to —

QUESTION: Have you spoken —

MR MILLER: We have no information to suggest that they were.

QUESTION: Have you spoken with Israeli officials since this morning’s call?

MR MILLER: We speak to Israeli —

QUESTION: They denied it?

MR MILLER: We speak to – I will say we speak to Israeli officials multiple times every day, and I won’t get into those conversations, but as I said, we don’t have any information to believe they were involved.

QUESTION: And then on the hostages, last week there was confirmation that one of American hostages had died in Hamas custody. Are there any updates on the other American hostages who are still being held there?

MR MILLER: There are not. There are still six Americans who remain unaccounted for.

QUESTION: Any updates on discussions over them?

MR MILLER: No. We continue to work to try to bring all of them home, as we try to work to bring other hostages who are not American citizens home. It’s a top priority for everyone in this government and we will not rest until they are brought home. But I, as always, don’t want to comment on those negotiations or those discussions from here.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you. You said that Saleh al-Arouri was a brutal terrorist and so on. So do you think that Israel did the right thing by assassinating a leader of Hamas? I’m just asking you if —

MR MILLER: I will say that he was a brutal – a brutal terrorist with civilian blood on his hands, and I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: Right. So Israel was within its right to conduct this operation?

MR MILLER: I will let my comments speak for themselves. You can let your comments speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine. Since our last briefing – two weeks ago, I believe – there have been many Palestinian – or many thousands of Palestinians killed, injured, displaced, and so on. How do you see this thing ending? I mean, do you see that Israel is achieving its goals that – or its stated goals, which is to decapitate Hamas, change the leadership, go after them, and so on? Do you see them achieving those goals? Are we closer to an endgame, in your view —

MR MILLER: So we are —

QUESTION: — than we were, let’s say, two weeks ago?

MR MILLER: So we are still in the middle of this conflict. Israel has talked about the fact that they will continue to prosecute it. You’ve heard us talk about the fact that we have engaged in discussions with them about where the conflict is going and when they may shift to a lower-intensity combat operation. We will continue to engage in those conversations with them. They have killed a number of Hamas fighters. Obviously, the leadership of Hamas is still intact in Gaza, and they continue to pursue them and it continues to be a goal that we believe is a worthy one. When and how this will end is not something I’d want to speculate on from here.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that Israel should prosecute this war until these goals are achieved?

MR MILLER: I am going to say – where – I will answer that by referring to the principles that we’ve laid out for how we see the future of Gaza. And that is a Gaza that is under Palestinian governance but in – a Gaza that cannot exist as a launching pad for terrorists’ attacks against the innocent civilians of Israel.

QUESTION: Can I have – I have a couple of questions on the West Bank, if you don’t mind.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Now you issued a statement yesterday on both Minister Smotrich and Ben Gvir, and their statements, and so on. You denounced what they said and so on. Will there – are we likely to see any kind of consequences or any kind of sanctions as a follow-up on your statement?

MR MILLER: So I don’t – I never want to – and you should not interpret this to mean anything other than what it is, which is we never talk about any kind of sanctions designations before they take place. So you should – and you should – as I said, it’s a general rule that you should not over-interpret by my invoking it here. But we did think it was important to issue that statement because the rhetoric that we have seen from those two individuals was inflammatory, it was irresponsible, and it was in direct contradiction of the policy of the Government of Israel that has been repeatedly articulated to us, including by the prime minister himself.

So we have been told that those statements do not reflect the policy of the Government of Israel. We believe that is the correct decision. The Secretary has made very clear on a number of occasions that there must be no forced resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza, that Gaza is Palestinian land and should remain so. And we will continue to make that clear to the Government of Israel and we expect them to make that clear as well.

QUESTION: But with Gaza becoming an unlivable place in many ways, this is a heightened likelihood, isn’t it?

MR MILLER: The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, which is why we are working – and were working over the holiday period – to try to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and why we will continue to make that a top priority. But what we hear in our engagements with Palestinian leadership, with Palestinian civil society leaders, with Palestinians, is that they do not want to be forcibly removed from Gaza, that they want to remain in Gaza; and that is a choice that we support – that we support and that we fully endorse.

QUESTION: And lastly on the West Bank, we have seen a great many incursions in the last few days. Almost every night, there is some sort of an Israeli army raid in some town. Yesterday there were like six or seven towns and so on. What is your position on this? What is your take? Are you counseling the Israelis not, let’s say, to raid places like the Jenin camp or Nablus or Hebron – the many places that they have done over the past few days?

MR MILLER: So Israel certainly has a right to carry out legitimate counterterrorism operations, and we support their ability to do so and their right to do so. But as always, we urge them, in carrying out those legitimate operations – those legitimate counterterrorism operations – to do so in full compliance with international humanitarian law.

Nike, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. A follow-up on hostage release. What is the U.S. assessment on the proposal by Egypt for the release of the remaining hostages after the Hamas leader said that those hostages can only be released on their term?

And separately, if I may, how do U.S. – what is the U.S. read on Hamas saying that it is open to one Palestinian government for Gaza and West Bank?

MR MILLER: So again, as it relates to hostages, I’m just not going to negotiate in public. I don’t think it’s productive or useful for the situation to do so. We are going to continue to engage in quiet conversations behind closed doors to try to achieve the release of hostages. The work that we’ve done to date has resulted in the release of more than a hundred hostages, and we will continue to pursue that work, but it’s work we will do in private, not in public.

As opposed to – or as it pertains to the second question you asked, look, we have said very clearly that we believe at the end of this conflict what we ultimately want to see is Gaza and the West Bank reunited under Palestinian leadership. That said, Hamas is a terrorist organization, and we have made quite clear our position on Hamas, that – or I should say we have made quite clear our position that Gaza cannot once again serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Israel. That’s not real security for the Israeli public, and ultimately that would not offer real security to the Palestinians in Gaza, if you see Gaza as a safe haven for terrorists that Israel feels compelled to respond to.

So while we support a reunified government that includes – or I should say reunified Palestinian territories under Palestinian leadership that includes Gaza and the West Bank, certainly there is no role for Hamas in that.

QUESTION: Can I also ask —

MR MILLER: Yeah, sorry.

QUESTION: — about the POWs swap between Russia and Ukraine? Or do you want to address that later?

MR MILLER: No, I would leave it to those two countries to address.

QUESTION: So nothing to say?

MR MILLER: I – yeah, I would leave it to Ukraine to comment on that.

Go ahead, Shannon.

QUESTION: On hostage talks, has the U.S. assessed that a willingness to strike Hamas officials outside of Gaza might have a chilling effect on those talks, or on Hamas’s ability to communicate with important interlocutors like Qatar?

MR MILLER: So Hamas has the ability to communicate with the Qataris. They have been able to communicate with them since the outset of this conflict. There are Hamas officials who are in Doha and they know very – they know quite well how to release – how to reach Qatari interlocutors as well as Egyptian interlocutors, which is how we were able to achieve the first pause that resulted in the release of more than a hundred hostages.

As it pertains to a future hostage – the potential for future hostage releases, again, it’s just not something I ever want to comment on in public.

QUESTION: So with Qatar, Egypt, you don’t think the strikes in Beirut will have any kind of effect on —

MR MILLER: I would not want to speculate. But I will say Hamas knows the terms that are on the table. They’re the – there were terms on the table under the previous pause that they reneged on, stopped releasing hostages. They could begin to release hostages again. It would result in another pause that would make it easier to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, and they have so far refused to do so. We of course hope that they will reconsider, but as it pertains to any specific points of negotiation, I don’t want to speak to those in public.

Janne, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. And Happy New Year for you. And I have two —

MR MILLER: Happy New Year to you.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Two questions. First question: Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, pointed out that Korean Peninsula and Taiwan are areas at risk of conflict this year. What response is the United States preparing for this?

MR MILLER: So I would just say that we don’t need to receive any lectures from Russian officials who launched their own war about other conflicts. We have been actively working to try to bring conflicts to an end around the globe, and Russia should spare its commentary on those matters, I think.

QUESTION: On North Korea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un recently declared at the Workers’ Party plenary meeting that he would pacify the entire Korean territory with nuclear force in case of emergency. At the same time, he ordered all communication channels to be eliminated. Even after this, would the United States still, I mean, expect dialogue with North Korea?

MR MILLER: I wouldn’t say “expect.” We would still welcome dialogue with North Korea, because we think ultimately dialogue would be the most preferred route to achieve the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It’ll continue to be our policy to pursue it. But as we’ve said on a number of occasions, we have seen no indication that the North Korean Government is willing to engage in it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question on Türkiye.


QUESTION: Can you provide us an update on the process regarding the sale of F-16s to Türkiye? As you might have followed, Turkish parliament’s —

MR MILLER: I did follow it.

QUESTION: — foreign affairs commission approved Sweden’s NATO bid and sent it to the floor for the full vote. Is the State Department planning to send a formal notification to the Congress soon?

MR MILLER: Let me say it this way. We certainly welcome the vote, and I believe it was a committee, to advance Sweden’s accession to the full parliament. We look forward to a final vote and seeing Sweden’s accession ratified. We have made clear that we do not believe the sale of F-16 modernization kits to Türkiye should be linked with NATO’s – with Sweden’s NATO accession, but there are members of Congress who have a different opinion and they have linked the two.

So I don’t want to comment about when we will be prepared to move forward. We have had obstacles in Congress because of the actions that Türkiye has taken that we have had to navigate and work through. We have been trying to work through those as diligently as possible. But I will say that I think the best thing that could happen to lead to progress on both of – on this issue would be for Türkiye to take action as soon as possible to ratify Sweden’s NATO accession.

QUESTION: We know that State Department and Secretary has been engaging with the Congress on this matter. Do you have anything to share with us on these talks? Any progress on these talks with congressmembers?

MR MILLER: Nothing other – nothing beyond what I just said in my previous comments.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. One question on the Iranian-backed groups and U.S. forces on – in Iraq, especially the recent attacks in Erbil. What the Iraqi Government tells you on these attacks, as you are there on their invitation, and they are responsible to protect the U.S. forces in Iraq? What the Iraqi Government tells you on these attacks?

MR MILLER: What do they – what do they tell us?


MR MILLER: So I will keep our private diplomatic – I will keep our diplomatic conversations private. I don’t want to – I don’t want to speak for the Iraqi Government. I will tell you what we say consistently to the Iraqi Government, which is that they have a responsibility to take action against any group that launches attacks against U.S. forces who are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq to engage in a very important counterterrorism mission, and we expect them to fulfill that responsibility.

QUESTION: I’m not expecting you to tell me any future attacks on these groups, but what are you going to do in any cases that the Iraqi Government could not stop these groups from attacking you?

MR MILLER: Again – you’re right, I won’t comment. I like the way you said you don’t expect me to speak about future actions but then asked me to speak about future actions. I do respect the attempt. I am not – I am not going to do that. But I will reiterate what we have said before, which is, while we expect the Iraqi Government to take action against any organizations that target U.S. forces, we will not hesitate to defend ourselves when necessary, and you have seen us do that in the past.

QUESTION: My last question: To date, some Iraqi officials, including chief of staff and also the acting speaker of the parliament, they step – they walk on the U.S. flags on the anniversary of Qasem Soleimani’s death. Do you have any comments on that?

MR MILLER: No. I don’t have any comment on that – on those specific actions. As I said, our forces are there for an important mission at the invitation of the Government of Iraq to provide a counterterrorism mission that ultimately benefits the Iraqi people. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Happy New Years, Matt.

MR MILLER: Happy New Year.

QUESTION: I expect you to answer me good question about the United Nation new resolution about Afghanistan. Afghan women is not happy, and they don’t support it. Does the United States State Department has any comment about this resolution?

MR MILLER: So we do support the resolution. The resolution has called for a UN special envoy for Afghanistan. It is our belief that a special envoy would be well-positioned to coordinate international engagement on Afghanistan to achieve the objectives laid out in the resolution. We also think the resolution sends a clear message to the Taliban, to the Afghan people, and to the world, and it shows that the United Nations Security Council supports a process by which Afghanistan is integrated into the international community only by meeting its international obligations.

But I will say we, of course, remain – also remain concerned about the Taliban’s repressive edicts against women and girls and its unwillingness to foster inclusive governance. The decisions that it has made risk irreparable damage to Afghanistan’s society and move the Taliban further away from normalizing relations with the international community.

So, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matthew. Happy New Year.

MR MILLER: Happy New Year.

QUESTION: A few questions. Was the U.S. involved in the UAE-brokered prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine?

MR MILLER: Again, I’m going to let Ukraine speak to that in detail.

QUESTION: And reportedly, the U.S. wants Ukraine to shift its strategy from total victory to being in the strongest negotiating position. Is this true? Is this —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry. What was the – who wants? I missed the —


MR MILLER: No, what was the – who – maybe just start again.

QUESTION: Wants Ukraine to shift its strategy from total victory against Russia —


QUESTION: — to being in a strong negotiating position?

MR MILLER: No. That is not true.

QUESTION: It’s not true. Okay. And finally, does the U.S. have any reaction to Israel’s supreme court striking down Israel’s judicial reform given the administration’s supposed – excuse me – opposition to that law?

MR MILLER: So I don’t have any specific response to the decision by the supreme court, but as we’ve said before, we believe that fundamental changes to a democracy should have the broadest possible consensus, and an independent judiciary is a key part of a functioning democracy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. A few months ago, at the United Nations Security Council, Secretary Antony Blinken called on Russia to stop using food as a weapon of war in Ukraine. However, today, he didn’t make the same demand of Israel regarding the use of water, food, and fuel in its war against Gaza, which impact the civilian. Isn’t that considered as a double standard?

MR MILLER: So I will say that —

QUESTION: What’s your comment, please?

MR MILLER: I will say that the Secretary has been at the forefront of trying to get food, water, medical assistance into Gaza, and it was the Secretary’s leadership in some very intense meetings with the Government of Israel that eventually led to a deal to get humanitarian assistance flowing into Gaza in the first place. This is all the way back in October in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, and it has been really U.S. effort to work with Israel, to work with our Egyptian partners, to work with other governments in the region to try to increase and sustain the flow of humanitarian assistance.

So contrary to the sort of premise of the question, we have worked incredibly hard to get food and water in to the Palestinian people, and that includes not just through Rafah but that includes through advocating directly to the Government of Israel to open Kerem Shalom.

Now, that said, the amount of food and water that is coming in right now is insufficient. There’s not enough of it coming in. It’s too inconsistent, and the number of trucks that get in every day, they need to go up; they need to go up dramatically and they need to stay up. And that continues to be the focus of our engagement, and some very direct, candid conversations with the Government of Israel as well as with other countries in the region that can play an important role.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Happy New Year.

MR MILLER: Happy New Year. I like everyone’s – everyone starts the question with a – before you hammer me with something tough, you start with a slightly good vibe, so I appreciate it.

QUESTION: I hope it’s not tough.


QUESTION: First question: Türkiye has denied passage through its waters for Royal Navy mine hunters the UK donated for Ukraine to help their sea operations. What is the U.S. response to that?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back.

QUESTION: Okay. Another one – I hope you have the answer for this one. It’s an easy one, I promise. Would you provide a brief summary of Secretary Blinken’s priorities for the Western Balkans in 2024?

MR MILLER: What a great question. So the Secretary will —

QUESTION: All right, but remember we have a time limit.

MR MILLER: (Laughter.) We don’t —

QUESTION: So if you’re going to go on for 45 minutes, (inaudible).

MR MILLER: We technically don’t have a time limit, Matt.

QUESTION: Do the abridged version.

MR MILLER: I – you may have somewhere you need to be. I can go – I can – I can go on for quite some time.

So I will say, first of all, I won’t go on for that long because the Secretary did speak to this somewhat at his end-of-year news conference right before the holiday, where he talked about not only the work that we did in 2023 but how that work would carry over in 2024.

I will say starting with the conflict in the Middle East that I have just spoken to, we will continue to try to work to protect Palestinian civilians, to minimize civilian harm, and deliver humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and finding an ultimate end to this conflict that provides real security, durable security for the Palestinian people and for the Israeli people, while trying to bring hostages home and preventing the conflict from spreading.

We will also work to continue to support Ukraine in resisting the brutal attacks that Russia continues to launch and that we saw Russia launch over the Christmas holiday. It’s why it’s so important that Congress take immediate action to – when they return to pass the President’s supplemental funding bill.

We will also continue to work with our allies and partners to respond to coercive actions that we have seen China take with respect to its neighbors while trying to manage the relationship with China responsibly and appropriately. If you look back at the situation when the Secretary entered office I guess a little under three years ago – not quite three years ago at this point – we saw a world that was fractured, that was not able to respond in a united way to the role that China was playing in the world, and the increasingly disparate vision from the West that China was presenting. You have seen that completely reversed under our tenure.

So I could go on, but I don’t want to suffer the withering glare of the Associated Press reporter, so I will leave it at those three. There are many others when it comes to countering fentanyl, working to address migration responsibly, but I will leave it at that and refer you back to the Secretary’s also quite lengthy remarks in December. So —

QUESTION: My question is: What would be the U.S. response if Iran directly attack on Israel in view of the recent attack on Hizballah and today explosion in Iran that Iranian Government believes are associated with Israeli Government?

MR MILLER: So I never want to speculate about things that have not happened, especially when there is no reason for Iran to launch such an attack. But I will say the President has been very clear, the Secretary has been very clear, that any country, any group in the region that at any time is considering taking advantage of the conflict and seeking to escalate with actions against Israel should think twice. And I will leave it at that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Happy New Year.

MR MILLER: Happy New Year.

QUESTION: Could you – could you share your response to the recent New Year’s Day verdict against Nobel laureate and Presidential Medal of Honor recipient Professor Muhammad Yunus, reportedly influenced by the Bangladesh labor court under the control of ruling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina? How does the State Department perceive the challenge – challenges to the rule of law and judicial independence in Bangladesh, particularly in the context of comparable case such as the 10-year sentence of the country’s first woman prime minister and main opposition leader, Khaleda Zia, and the plight of numerous opposition leaders, workers, media, and rights activists facing similar situations, even in some cases more worse?

MR MILLER: Muhammad Yunus has made significant contributions to the alleviation of poverty around the world, as reflected in his Nobel Peace Prize and numerous other international honors. We have been following the case against him closely. We’ve seen, of course, the widespread international criticism of the verdict. For our part, we have encouraged the Bangladeshi Government to ensure a fair and transparent legal process, and we will continue to follow any further developments closely.

QUESTION: One more, Matt.

MR MILLER: Of course.

QUESTION: The next election will take place in just next – in this week – coming weekend. Given Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina public instruction for using dummy candidates in the upcoming election and the disregard for constructive suggestions from the international community for a free, fair election, will the U.S. Government legitimize such a dummy election? If not, what punitive measures is the Biden administration considering against the proposed regime? As reported by the BBC over the weekend title, “Bangladesh: The election that has turned into a one-woman show.”

MR MILLER: I feel like I’ve answered this question before, but it’s a new year so I will answer it again. We support a free and fair election in Bangladesh. We have made that quite clear a number of times. We will watch the elections very closely, but of course I would never speculate in advance about what actions we may or may not take in response to any development.

Yeah, Ryan, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. To pick up on your response to Smotrich and Ben-Gvir yesterday, you and Linda Thomas-Greenfield both had similar statements. You both said in your statements, quote, “There should be no mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.” Given that you both had the same word-for-word statement, it seems like there was thought put into that. Why use the word “should” there, “There should be no mass displacement”? Would you be willing to make a more definitive comment like “there must”?

MR MILLER: There must not be, yeah. No, there —

QUESTION: And then to get to Ben-Gvir’s response, which I’m sure you saw – he posted on Twitter, “…with all due respect, we are not another star on the American flag. United States is our best friend, but first of all, we will do what is best for the state of Israel. The emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow the residents of the enclave,” or the envelope, “to return home and live in safety and to protect the IDF soldiers.” Any response to Ben-Gvir’s public response to you?

MR MILLER: So certainly, Israel is a sovereign country that does make its own decisions. There is no dispute about that. The point of our – of the statement that I made yesterday was that the comments that Ben-Gvir and Minister Smotrich have made are in direct contradiction of Israeli Government policy as has been represented to us by multiple Israeli Government officials, including the prime minister himself. So I’m not surprised that he continues to double down and make those statements, but they are not only in contradiction with United States policy and what we think is in the best interests of the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, the broader region, and ultimately stability in the world, but they are in direct contradiction of his own government’s policy. And we believe those statements should stop.

QUESTION: And to follow up on Türkiye, I’m sure you’ve seen Türkiye has joined South Africa in its charging Israel with genocide before the International Court of Justice. Is there any concern within the State Department that State Department officials could be roped into this prosecution?

MR MILLER: No. I will say that as it relates to the State Department, we have been committed to addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza and have made a priority of preventing, as we – I just said in your – in response to your question, the displacement of Palestinians. I will also say, though, that genocide is of course a heinous atrocity, one of the most heinous atrocities that any individual can commit. Those are allegations that should not be made lightly, and as it pertains to the United States, we are not seeing any acts that constitute genocide.

QUESTION: And finally, over the break, top authorities in the Armenian Quarter expressed deep concern that the Israeli Government was using the conflict in Gaza to push out a lot of Armenian Christians from the Armenian Quarter. Any response to those concerns?

MR MILLER: So no specific response to that. But as we have said on a number of occasions, we do not want to see the Government of Israel take any steps that would escalate tensions.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: According to Financial Times, Israel is putting more pressure on Egypt to accept refugees from Gaza. Since you’re against any displacement of Palestinian and Egypt is your partner, do you encourage or support Egypt not to accept refugee from Gaza?

MR MILLER: So I will say that it is not just the Government of Egypt that has rejected displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. It is other countries in the region, who have all made clear, going back to the early – the immediate aftermath of October 7th, in the trip that the – in the – that the Secretary made to a number of countries in the region, that that displacement was a non-starter for reasons that relate to history that I think people in this room know all too well that I don’t need to go through again. And so we have made that clear to the Government of Israel, that it is a non-starter. We have made that clear publicly, that we don’t want to see any displacement of Palestinians from Israel, which is why, when we see statements to the contrary, we respond as we did in the statement that I issued yesterday.

QUESTION: And you do support those countries —

QUESTION: Sorry, wait, wait, wait, hold on.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You don’t want to see any displacement of Palestinians from Israel?

MR MILLER: Gaza. I meant to say Gaza. Thank you.

QUESTION: And you do support those country who reject or – displacement?

MR MILLER: They have made it clear for, I think, very understandable reasons of history that it’s a non-starter.

QUESTION: So can I just —


QUESTION: Just to follow up on that a little bit – and you might have answered this in response to Said’s – one of Said’s first questions. But isn’t what’s going on in Gaza now, in terms of the Israeli offensive, in terms of the Israeli operation – isn’t that displacing Gazans? Or are you making a distinction between internal displacement, even though it’s not a state, so I know they can’t be technically IDPs —

MR MILLER: Yeah. There’s —

QUESTION: — or them leaving the border and going into another country or a – going into a country, since they don’t have one of their own? Why is it – why is what is happening now not the forcible displacement of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians?

MR MILLER: It is a good question. We don’t want to see any Palestinian forced from their home, but there – no, no, but there are military operations going on that put Palestinian people at risk. When you see the IDF coming into neighborhoods —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Yeah, exactly. Exactly my point – coming into neighborhoods and conducting legitimate military operations, it is appropriate, we believe, to ask people to leave their homes for a temporary period while the IDF carries out military operations. We also believe that it’s important that people be able to return to their homes, and if their homes have been destroyed, that there’s a process in place to rebuild and reconstruct Gaza. And that’s something you’ll see us pursuing in the weeks and months to come. That’s different than the idea of forcing them from their homes, from their land, and raising the fear among them and among other countries in the region that they would never be allowed to return.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they have been displaced from their homes and their land.

MR MILLER: They have been displaced —

QUESTION: But you don’t regard that as displacement in the same way that you saw Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s —

MR MILLER: It – correct. Correct.

QUESTION: Well, I – I’m sorry, I just find that hard to believe. If you’re – I don’t —

MR MILLER: If you —

QUESTION: They have been displaced, have they not?

MR MILLER: They have been displaced. They are still inside Gaza. And if you see what Smotrich and Gaza[1] are raising, they are raising the idea of resettling Palestinians from Gaza so Israelis can move in.

QUESTION: I get that. I —

MR MILLER: Which is a very different – that is the nature of the disagreement.

QUESTION: So it’s okay with you that hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed into the south – into Rafah, out of their homes? That’s not – that doesn’t count as bad displacement?

MR MILLER: We – we do not – we do not want to see anyone displaced from their home. We don’t – we also don’t want to see anyone in harm’s way. There is an obvious tension between those two. And when it comes to resolving that tension, I think the first priority needs to be to try to keep those people as safe as possible. But we want them to be able to ultimately return to their homes, not forced from their land and, as those two ministers have raised, with the specter of never being able to return.

QUESTION: All right. And then secondly, in response to the questions about the blast – the explosion or explosions in Iran, you said that it was ridiculous to suggest or speculate that the United States had any involvement in this. I’m just curious as to why. The United States has a long history of doing things in Iran – go back to 1953, but since – before both of us were born, what – it took – and it took decades after 1953 for the U.S. to admit its role – and the Brits as well – to admit their role in the coup.

But let’s go more recently. Just four years ago – and the reason that this explosion happened today is on the anniversary of Soleimani – his death, which was loudly and proudly claimed by the United States Government at the time. So why is it ridiculous for people to think or speculate that what happened today had nothing to do with the United States?

MR MILLER: Look, people are always going to make all kinds of claims and all kinds of speculations. I think it’s ridiculous because it didn’t happen, and that’s what I can – I can say from this podium that we were not involved.

QUESTION: So if you were involved, though, you would be out there saying, yes, we did it, right? Like what happened —

MR MILLER: You are asking – we are getting into several levels of counterfactuals here. We were not involved. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. But I – but I’m not sure I understand why you say that it’s ridiculous for people to think that or to speculate it or to speculate about it or to suggest it given the history of the United States in Iran.

MR MILLER: I will say if the reports coming out of Iran are accurate, these are explosions that have killed dozens – by some reports over a hundred – civilians. The United States was not involved with those. And you can disagree; I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that we were.

QUESTION: No, I’m not disagreeing. I just wonder —

MR MILLER: Yeah, fair, fair, fair.

QUESTION: I just want to know why you —

MR MILLER: I shouldn’t have said that. Yeah.

QUESTION: — you come out and say it’s ridiculous. I mean, the U.S. also, I believe – I can’t remember the exact year – shot down an Iranian airliner.

MR MILLER: We’re getting back into ancient history before – so not ancient. I was alive.

QUESTION: Not ancient.

MR MILLER: But certainly well before this administration was in office.

QUESTION: Can I ask a quick question on journalists?

QUESTION: Can I follow up (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: So, yeah, go ahead – let me go to Daphne first, and then I’ll —

QUESTION: Just on the genocide comment, you said you are not seeing any acts that constitute genocide. Has the State Department determined that acts of genocide are not taking place?

MR MILLER: The statement that I just made is a – I’m not going to get into a – all of our formal legal processes, but we have not at this point seen acts that constitute genocide, no.

QUESTION: So has there been a process that’s been completed to determine that?

MR MILLER: That is a determination by the State Department that I just represented here at the podium.

QUESTION: And are you seeing – sorry – crimes against humanity or war crimes taking place?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any assessment to make on those. We continue to collect information and gather it, as we always do, but I don’t have an assessment to offer.

QUESTION: Can I follow up briefly on —

MR MILLER: Go ahead, yeah.

QUESTION: If you don’t mind – just based on South Africa, the ICJ complaint. Beyond saying that the United States doesn’t agree that there’s a genocide taking place or genocidal acts, has the U.S. had any dialogue with South Africa about this?

MR MILLER: None that I have to report out at this time.

QUESTION: Does it object to the fact that South Africa brought this?

MR MILLER: We don’t think it’s a productive step at this step at this time.

QUESTION: Could I just —

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Oh, yeah, sorry. Go ahead, and I’ll come back to you, Shaun.

QUESTION: Sorry. You want to go ahead?

QUESTION: Go ahead. Different topic.

QUESTION: A question on what the Secretary said what – during his press briefing a couple weeks ago. He noted that this has been a very difficult year for journalists. He noted the loss of journalists, but he said Ukraine and the Middle East. I mean, there has been a hundred Palestinian journalists killed. Why not say – why not say that a hundred Palestinian journalists have been killed? And we know basically who killed those journalists. Why not say that and name the country?

MR MILLER: He has spoken specifically to the death of journalists in this conflict on more than one occasion.

QUESTION: But he did not say that —

MR MILLER: I mean, if you want to quibble with why he did it here, not there.

QUESTION: No, I’m just asking.

MR MILLER: But he has – I – he —

QUESTION: I’m asking the question.

MR MILLER: When he – I think, when he referred to the death of journalists in the Middle East, people knew what he was talking about. And he has specifically talked about the death of journalists as a result of this conflict, so I think you’re trying to draw a conclusion that the facts don’t merit, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me ask you directly. Do you know that there are a hundred Palestinian journalists killed by Israel and during this operation?

MR MILLER: Yes, we have seen the reports by the Committee to Protect Journalists and other organizations about the very tragic loss of life by journalists in this conflict.

Shaun, go ahead, and we’ll wrap there.

QUESTION: Sure. Actually change topics to Africa.


QUESTION: A couple of things. The – there was an agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland which – about port access, Ethiopia of course being landlocked. Does the U.S. have any comment on that? Particularly, the leaders, the de facto leaders in Somaliland, say that this will constitute formal recognition, which of course no country has given. Does the U.S. have something to say either about the deal itself or about the entire idea of recognizing Somaliland?

MR MILLER: Yeah, we did see those reports. We were concerned by them. We join other partners in expressing our serious concern as well about the resulting spike in tensions in the Horn of Africa. We urge all stakeholders to engage in diplomatic dialogue, and the United States recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia within its 1960 borders.

QUESTION: When you say you’re concerned by them, concerned by the deal between the Ethiopians and the Somaliland authorities?

MR MILLER: And the resulting spike in tension.

QUESTION: Do you think that the deal should be rescinded? Is that something you don’t —

MR MILLER: We think all the stakeholders should engage in diplomatic dialogue to resolve the issue.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I get to one other part of Africa?


QUESTION: The DRC, of course, had elections at the end of last year. Do you have anything, first, more broadly to say about the conduct of it, but also about Tshisekedi’s re-election? Does the United States believe that he was legitimately re-elected?

MR MILLER: So I will say that we took note of the provisional election results that were published by the DRC’s National Independent Electoral Commission, which show president – the president leading by a large majority. We also note that the tallying is still underway for the national and local elections that were also held on December 20th. Those results are scheduled to be announced on January 12th, and I think we’ll withhold comment until that process is completed.

With that, wrap for today. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:16 p.m.)

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  1. Ben-Gvir


U.S. Department of State

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