2:12 p.m. EDT
MR PRICE: It’s a little more temperate today.
Just one element at the top and then we’ll turn to your questions. As I think you all know, the European Council extended Georgia a European prospective status, along with a roadmap of reforms that must be implemented for Georgia to achieve full candidate status. We know the people of Georgia are overwhelmingly in favor of joining the EU, and we, of course, support those aspirations.
The rhetoric from some Georgian officials recently, however, seems intended to distract Georgia’s citizens from that goal. Ambassador Degnan and her team at our embassy in Tbilisi are committed to working with the people of Georgia in support of their Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Ambassador Degnan has our full support. Disinformation and personal attacks on Ambassador Degnan or her team are not consistent with how partners communicate with one another, and we will continue to focus on supporting our shared goals. We have worked shoulder to shoulder for 30 years on democratic reforms, economic development, and security cooperation. This remains unchanged.
Today the United States is working with our allies and partners to bring an end to President Putin’s war in Ukraine as quickly as possible and to secure a peaceful future for the entire region. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and we continue to support peaceful efforts to end Russia’s occupation of 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.
With that, happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Sure. I was going to save this for another day when I don’t have anything to start with. On Georgia, is there anything that you can do – that the United States can do – to assist Georgia in its – in reaching its Euro – or at least its aspirations in terms of the EU? There wasn’t a whole lot you could do for Turkey.
MR PRICE: Well, of course, we are not a party to the EU. There are some steps that Georgia itself needs to take. We thought that the European Council’s unanimous decision to grant Georgia so-called prospective status was an important step. It took the step of recognizing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and it keeps Georgia on the path to EU membership. We – in terms of what we are doing, we remain committed to working with our Georgia – Georgian partners as they undertake the reforms that are necessary and the reforms that have been called for by the European Commission.
We believe the road to EU candidate status is clear, it is real, it is achievable, and we strongly urge the Government of Georgia to seize the opportunity that has been provided to it to continue down this path, to work with stakeholders, to work with all elements of Georgian society to implement the steps laid out by the European Commission.
QUESTION: But there isn’t anything specifically that the United States can do to push this along?
MR PRICE: We can, just as we have, voice our continued support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. We can continue to have discussions with our partners in the EU. And importantly, we can continue to provide Georgia with the support it needs in various forms to fulfill the reforms that have been called for by the European Commission.
QUESTION: Ned, I’m sure you’ve seen Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments. He basically said today Moscow’s military tasks in Ukraine now went beyond the eastern Donbas region. What is your take on that? It signals that – I mean, what the entire world knew, that their ambitions were for the whole of Ukraine.
MR PRICE: I think you hit the nail on the head. It – these comments did not tell us anything we didn’t know, and in fact, reminded me quite a bit of what you heard from my colleague at the White House yesterday. It was just yesterday that we warned in no uncertain terms of Russia’s plans to annex additional Russian – excuse me, Ukrainian territory, and that the Russian Government is reviewing detailed plans to purportedly annex a number of regions inside Ukraine, including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
This morning, as you alluded to, Humeyra, Foreign Minister Lavrov essentially confirmed the warning that we put forward yesterday, the warning that Ambassador Carpenter put forward in May, and that you have consistently heard from us. Foreign Minister Lavrov said, quote, Russia’s, quote, “geographical goals” in Ukraine include not just the Donbas but also Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and other territory inside Ukraine. It was a remarkable echo of what you’ve heard from us in recent months, including from the White House yesterday.
These comments to us only further demonstrate that Russia is moving toward the annexation that we’ve warned about, and they serve as a reminder of the ultimate purpose and objective of Russia’s illegal, unjustified war against Ukraine. Despite what we heard in the run-up to this war, this war is nothing more than a war of territorial conquest. That’s what we warned about before February 24th; that is what we have consistently said ever since.
Whatever else we might have heard from Russia prior to that day in February and what we have heard since, this is not about European security. This is not about the other false pretexts that the Russians have put forward. Again, we have been clear that annexation by force would be a gross violation of the UN Charter, and we would not allow it to go unchallenged. We would not allow it to go unpunished. We’ll continue to stand with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and in support of its independence, in support of its territorial integrity. And no state, however large, should be in a position to change international borders by force.
One final point here, because I think these comments were also resonant with something we heard from President Putin. We heard from President Putin just this week once again the lie that the – that Russia and Ukraine were on the precipice of peace as recently as March, and it was Ukraine that walked away. We know that is untrue. We know that is a lie. And Foreign Minister Lavrov in his comments overnight, I think, has provided further evidence of the fact that these claims are entirely hollow. It has always been Ukraine that has sought to achieve a diplomatic resolution to this conflict. President Zelenskyy has been very clear that this conflict can only end through dialogue and diplomacy. We have been very clear that we are willing, as are our partners, to support any effort towards diplomacy. It has been Russia that time and again has closed the door or, perhaps more aptly, never opened the door to the real – to real diplomacy that the parties seek.
QUESTION: Just a second ago you said the U.S. would not allow annexation to go unchallenged, to go unpunished. Do you guys have a set of new sanctions or, like, a specific action that you are preparing for when this would happen?
MR PRICE: We are not, of course, going to forecast our specific punches, but I will reiterate that we will not let this go unchallenged. We will work with the international community to respond very clearly and decisively to any Russian effort to go ahead with this territorial annexation. It would be a gross affront to the UN Charter; it would be a gross affront to the international law. And the principle that has always been at play is that every time one of the key tenets of the rules-based international order is undermined anywhere, the rules-based international order is undermined everywhere. And so we will continue to do everything we can, including pulling on the authorities we have, to respond to any such effort.
QUESTION: The problem, though, Ned, is you have – you were just talking about Georgia a second ago, and you have Abkhazia and South Ossetia, you have Crimea, all of which are essentially either annexed or – essentially annexed by the Russians, all of which you said would not go unchallenged. But your actions to challenge them have done nothing and, in fact, the Russians have invaded and are now threatening to take more. So why shouldn’t the Russians or anyone else see these just as hollow threats?
MR PRICE: Obviously, Matt, there are – these are unique circumstances (inaudible) in each case. But I would reject the premise that over the course of successive administrations in these cases, the United States has failed to respond. You should ask the – you should ask —
QUESTION: No, no, no, no, I’m not saying that you failed to respond. I’m saying that your response hasn’t made – hasn’t done anything. It hasn’t – it hasn’t made any difference.
MR PRICE: Our – our response has exacted a price for Russia over time. You should ask Russia about its participation in the most recent G8 summit, for example. You should ask Russia about —
QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. There is no G8 anymore.
MR PRICE: That was a bit of sarcasm. There is no G8 summit —
QUESTION: Oh, oh.
MR PRICE: — precisely because of – yes.
QUESTION: I get it. But there was a G20 and he was there.
MR PRICE: Keep up here, Matt. Come on.
QUESTION: And Lavrov was at the G20. Whether or not he got a —
MR PRICE: These are different —
QUESTION: — rapturous reception is one thing, but he was there.
MR PRICE: Well, yes, we can – we can – we can talk about the —
QUESTION: And he’ll probably be at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia next month.
MR PRICE: We can talk about the reception that Foreign Minister Lavrov received – Lavrov received from 19 other of his global counterparts. But the point is that over time, the United States and our partners have exacted a price for Russia’s aggression against its neighbors, whether that’s been in Crimea starting in 2014, whether that was in Georgia in 2008, whether that has been in Ukraine more recently. Of course, what Russia is doing in Ukraine is in some ways qualitatively different from what we’ve seen Russia do before, but the fact is that this administration has a commitment to strengthen, to ensure that the rules-based international order that has fueled decades – more than seven decades of unprecedented levels of prosperity, stability, security around the world, to do what we can to strengthen that order, to challenge those who would challenge it.
QUESTION: Okay. But do you have any indication that Russia cares that there is no longer a G8, that it got thrown out?
MR PRICE: We have every indication that Russia cares that its economy is slated to shrink by some 15 percent this year. We have every indication that Russia cares that a thousand multinational companies have decided to leave the Russian marketplace. We have every indication that Russia cares that its stock market has lost tremendous value since February 24th, that it is forced to take extraordinary artificial measures to keep the price of the ruble artificially inflated. Russia cares about all of this, and in fact, the bad news for Russia is that the costs are steep now, but the costs are going to be compounded over time, not only from our financial sanctions and other economic measures but from the export controls. Russia is being systematically starved of the raw imports, the raw ingredients, it needs for its defense industrial base, for its technological base, for its energy production.
So we have seen in recent days Russia have to resort to recourses that I think probably would have been largely unthinkable just a few months ago – seeking out UAV technology from Iran, essentially admitting the fact that Russia doesn’t have the indigenous ability to produce it because, at least in part, of the export controls, of the other measures that we’ve imposed.
These are going to have compounding effects over time. There’s every indication Russia cares about that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then that also raises the question of how Iran, which is under a significant amount of sanctions, even more than Russia – how are they able to do it?
MR PRICE: How are they able to – excuse me?
QUESTION: How are they able to build these drones?
MR PRICE: Well, Matt, we are —
QUESTION: Iran is under more sanctions than Russia is now. Right?
MR PRICE: They are under – certainly under heavy sanctions pressure. But I think one of the distinguishing features of our campaign against Russia, our effort to hold Russia to account, has been our unprecedented use of export controls, our ability and the success we have had in limiting those raw inputs that can go into Russia’s defense industrial base. I think export controls have proven themselves in this context to be one of the most effective tools that we have, and these are tools that, lucky for us, we can wield in other contexts as well as appropriate.
QUESTION: Yes —
MR PRICE: A quick follow-up?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: He seem to have – Lavrov seem to have been trying to put the blame on the West for the Kremlin’s changing its own rhetoric. How do you read that portion of his statement? And also, what does that mean in terms of boosting Ukraine’s defense, given now that we know that they’re expanding their rhetoric?
MR PRICE: We read that element of his rhetoric as entirely consistent, unfortunately, with what we’ve seen from the Russian Federation since well before February 24th. You’ll recall, Alex, that as Russia’s military forces built up along Ukraine’s borders, as Russia’s military forces amassed in what should have been sovereign Belarusian territory, we heard various explanations emanate from Moscow, some of which had to – were lies about purported Ukrainian aggression, some of which were lies about the threat that NATO, which is of course a defensive alliance, would pose to Russia. We heard lies about U.S. activities in Ukraine, U.S. activities and positions in the region, all of which were an attempt to put the blame, to put the onus for at what the time was Russia’s impending invasion on the West.
And now that that invasion is well underway, now that that invasion has proven itself to the world to be nothing more than a war of territorial conquest, a war of territorial aggression, the likes of which we haven’t seen since mid-last century, it is no surprise that Foreign Minister Lavrov and others continue to try to put the blame on the West when the West and the international community knows full well that the blame rests squarely with the Kremlin and with President Putin.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about natural gas. Putin said that maybe they would get Nord Stream 1 back up after its scheduled maintenance, but that sanctions might have an effect where they wouldn’t be able to continue supplying gas. Meanwhile, the European Union warned today that they might have to ask countries to cut gas consumption by 15 percent, even reducing heat and air conditioning in public buildings. So I’m wondering, is the U.S. doing anything to support Europe’s energy needs? Does it have any advice for them? And what do you think Putin will end up doing with the gas? I know Nord Stream 1 isn’t Nord Stream 2, so I’m not sure that the U.S. opposes that one.
MR PRICE: Well, unfortunately, President Putin has a track record when it comes to the supply of natural gas to Europe, and that track record gives us great concern. It’s why we have consistently warned of Russia’s ability and, in the past, its willingness to weaponize the export of energy. This is something that we started working on well before February 24th precisely because we were cognizant of that track record, as were our partners and as are our partners in Europe.
When it comes to our partners in Europe, we are united with them in our commitment to promoting European energy security, reducing our collective dependence on Russian energy, and maintaining pressure on the Kremlin. In – there is – this is both a short-term challenge, but also a longer-term challenge as well. In the short term, resumed gas flows will help allow Germany and other European countries to replenish their gas reserves, increasing their energy security and resiliency. You probably saw just a few days ago now we welcome the decision on the part of our Canadian ally to return a turbine to Germany as part of an effort to replenish those reserves in the short term.
Also in the short term, we have worked over the course of months now with countries around the world, in some cases as far afield as the Indo-Pacific, where our Japanese allies have been in a position to surge LNG supplies from the Indo-Pacific to the European theater. We are continuing to work with our European allies for short-term options that will help them get through this near-term period.
But we’re also looking at this over the longer term, and that’s precisely why, when he met with President von der Leyen, last year, President Biden together with our European allies, we launched the U.S.-EU energy task force. They are looking at options and concrete ways that in the coming months, but really over the coming years, we can attack this structural challenge, and the structural challenge being that Europe for many years has had dependence on Russian energy supplies. Russia has, over the course of too long, proven itself not to be a reliable supplier of energy. So this is about reducing our collective dependence on Russian energy supplies, reducing our collective dependence on fossil fuels more broadly, too. That’s a challenge that will take quite some time, but it’s one that we’re committed to working jointly with our European allies.
QUESTION: Let me follow up. Are you concerned that this will affect the West’s unity in confronting Russia? Today I believe Mario Draghi is going to resign because of some divisions in Italian politics. Italy is probably one of the most exposed economies to Russia gas problems, after Hungary. Are you concerned that these same bits of leverage that the Kremlin has used will fracture that alliance once again?
MR PRICE: This alliance, this coalition of countries that defies any one geographic region has proven its resilience, and it has proven its strength time and again. There have been many premature obituaries written for this incredible collection of countries in Europe and well beyond, dozens of countries that have come together to hold Russia to account, to support our Ukrainian partners, and to redouble our efforts to reinforce the rules-based international order. It was before February 24th where there were doubts about the viability of the international community to stand up. Since then we’ve heard the same. But consistently since then at every opportunity – whether that’s been at the NATO summit, whether that’s been at the G7, whether that’s been at the G20 in its various iterations in recent weeks – we have seen the international community remain strong, strong in support of Ukraine, strong in our efforts to hold President Putin to account.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. I have two questions – one, Russia and Korea. Recently something – Russia has announced that it will send North Koreans workers to do reconstruction Donbas, Ukraine. Do you think Russia’s use of North Korean workers violation of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea?
MR PRICE: I couldn’t speak to specific UN Security Council sanctions, but it certainly is an affront to the sovereignty of Ukraine. The Donbas, eastern Ukraine, belongs to Ukraine and Ukraine alone. Decisions about who should be there, decisions about projects that should be ongoing there – those are decisions for the Ukrainian Government, not for any other government.
QUESTION: I see, thank you. And I have another one for Seoul, South Korea. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently visited South Korea and met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. They discussed various issues such as economic security alliances. Also, Secretary Yellen said there were more sanctions to put pressure on North Korea. What are the specific sanctions? Does that include the secondary boycotts?
MR PRICE: So Secretary Yellen was recently – she did recently have a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho. They – she did speak extensively to our efforts – well, first, she, of course, spoke about the close alliance between the United States and our ROK allies. She at some length discussed the friendship and the alliance and the partnership between the American people and the Korean people that has been guided by shared values and shared interests over the course of decades now. She talked about the pivotal role that the ROK economy plays in the world. I believe she made the point that the ROK economy is the world’s tenth-largest economy, a producer of high-tech goods that are subject to import not only by the United States but by countries around the world.
She did also talk about our joint efforts to hold Russia to account. They discussed exploring a price cap on Russian oil to deprive Russia of the revenues – of the oil revenues that President Putin would otherwise receive in his coffers. They discussed broader measures that together we have taken and that potentially remain on the table should Russia not change course in its war of aggression against Ukraine. This is something that we will continue to have an opportunity to discuss with our Korean partners at various international for a, including the G20 and elsewhere, and I’m sure we’ll continue those.
QUESTION: Can I just —
QUESTION: What about the currency swap with South Korea? What is the U.S. position on this currency swap?
MR PRICE: That’s probably a question better directed to the Department of the Treasury.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on your previous comment to Will’s question. You’re saying in the short term, resumed gas flows will help allow Germany and other European countries to replenish their gas reserves. Are you talking about Nord Stream 1?
MR PRICE: Nord Stream 1 would be an important element of that.
QUESTION: Right. So, I mean, in – for the short-term solution, you’re sort of – that solution is also like a Gazprom-managed pipeline?
MR PRICE: It is – there are a number of steps that are in train. Nord Stream 1 is one viable option at this point. We’ve taken note. Again, make of them what you will, but public statements that Gazprom will honor its existing contracts – we don’t take anything to the bank when it comes to the Russian Federation, noting its pattern in the past of weaponizing energy flows. But again, there are a whole series of steps that have been in train since well before February 24th, working with our European allies, stitching together our alliances across the European theater and the Indo-Pacific theater to surge and to have available as much LNG capacity as possible for our European partners.
QUESTION: So despite all of that weaponization and all that, you do still expect Nord Stream to come back on Thursday after maintenance?
MR PRICE: I am not going to handicap it. I am going to say that we’ve seen the public statements, and Nord Stream 1 is a viable option as of this date, at least.
MR PRICE: Let me move around just – well, actually, you haven’t gone yet. Sorry. Sorry. Yeah, sorry.
QUESTION: No problem. The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that – well, they were citing State Department officials – reported that the Secretary was expected to talk about energy and reducing energy dependence from unreliable countries due to this ministerial. I’ve seen the opening statement, but can you confirm that that’s, in fact, the Secretary’s position that we should not rely on unreliable countries?
MR PRICE: It is absolutely the position of the Secretary and of this administration that we need to lessen our dependence on energy supplies from countries like Russia that have proven themselves unreliable and then, in the case of Russia, has weaponized energy over the course of years now. This is about finding dependent, reliable, resilient sources of energy as we’re in the midst of the transformation broadly away from fossil fuels. But again, this is a transition period, and in the midst of this transition period, it’s our collective goal to lessen our dependence on Russian energy precisely because Russia has proven unreliable.
QUESTION: If you’re sitting in Azerbaijan or Saudi Arabia, you see Western leaders are coming and striking deals on energy without mentioning human rights. Well, this doesn’t sound like ingredients for long-term energy independence.
MR PRICE: Sorry. Repeat the last part of your question.
QUESTION: We cooperate with countries like – Putin’s partner Aliyev is striking a deal with the European Union without mentioning human rights. That doesn’t sound like ingredients for long-term energy independence strategy.
MR PRICE: Well, I can speak to the United States. In every one of our interactions with world leaders around the world, we put human rights at the center of our agenda. That’s the case. That was the case when the President traveled to the Middle East. It’s the case more broadly when the President travels around the world, when the Secretary travels around the world and has those discussions.
QUESTION: I’ve got a question about Syria. So today, this morning, the Turkish president said that American forces on the east of the Euphrates River should immediately withdraw from the area and that – and cross-border military operation is imminent and always on the agenda. Now, back in 2019, Americans and Turks kind of reached an agreement that the YPG forces in northern Syria would move 30 kilometers south of the border, and obviously that hasn’t happened in the past three years. So if the Turkish military was to launch another offensive, would you be supporting your NATO Ally, or what’s your position going to be on that?
MR PRICE: We’ve made our position on this clear for some time ever since talk of this first began. We remain deeply concerned about discussions of potential increased military activity in northern Syria, and in particular the implications it would have for the civilian population there. We continue to support the maintenance of existing ceasefire lines. We condemn any escalation that would change that. It is crucial, we believe, for all sides to maintain and respect ceasefire zones, to enhance stability in Syria towards a political solution to this conflict. You raised the 2019 agreement. It is our expectation that Turkey live up to that joint statement, including the commitment it made to halt offensive operations in northeast Syria.
Any new offensive would further undermine regional stability and put at risk U.S. forces and the coalition’s campaigns – campaign against ISIS. We have achieved tremendous progress, taking on the so-called caliphate that ISIS or Daesh has – had expanded in previous years. That would stand to be at risk. It would also stand to put at risk the broader political process that the United States – of which the United States is supportive, consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on that, so you said that you’re expecting the Turks to live up to that agreement. But the Turks are feeling a little bit let down by the Americans because, obviously, some of the conditions in that agreement did not come to fruition. So do you have any plans, if at all, to remove those Turkish concerns about how those YPG elements are still in that 30-kilometer zone in northern Syria?
MR PRICE: We understand Turkey’s security concerns. We know that Turkey, more so than any other NATO Ally, has been subjected to terrorist attacks. Turkey is a close security and defense partner of the United States. That is why we want to continue to work closely with the Turks to see to it that we don’t jeopardize the progress that has been made in Syria by the coalition. We want to see to it that ISIS isn’t given a reprieve. We want to see to it that the progress that has been achieved isn’t put at risk.
QUESTION: But no credible plan on the American side regarding the YPG elements there? That’s what I’m trying to understand.
MR PRICE: Again, we have shared objectives in Syria, shared with our Turkish partners. One of those key objectives – shared objectives – is the elimination, is the neutralization of ISIS, of radical elements that have established themselves inside Syria. We don’t want to see that put at risk. Of course, it’s no secret that our coalition is broad and diverse. Our Kurdish partners are an important part of that coalition. They have led to effective gains on the ground against ISIS. We want to continue, and we do expect to continue, to work closely with Turkey as a valued NATO Ally, as a close security partner, someone with whom we share goals when it comes to the region, including inside Syria.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Tehran summit that included Russia, Turkey, and Iran on Syria?
MR PRICE: Well, we’ll let these countries speak for themselves. A couple broader points, though. The fact that President Putin has had to travel to Iran, I think, speaks to the isolation that Russia – in which Russia finds itself as a result of its illegal, unjustified, unprovoked war against Ukraine. The fact that President Putin would need to run into the arms of one of the most heavily sanctioned, one of the most isolated countries in the world, I think, speaks to the dire straits Moscow currently finds itself in.
You heard from my White House colleague yesterday that President Putin’s interest in purchasing these UAVs from Iran, again, as I alluded to earlier, that to us is a clear sign that the measures we have undertaken against Russia are working – in this case, the export controls that are depriving Russia of the raw materials it would need for its defense industrial base, for its technological base, are working. It’s a sign that Moscow cannot indigenously produce the types of equipment that it feels it needs in Ukraine, because we are systematically starving them of the input it would otherwise need.
When it comes to what we heard between President Putin and the supreme leader, President Raisi – it was, in many ways, I think, striking to hear the supreme leader, in really no uncertain terms, essentially endorsing President Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. And it was especially striking because Iran all this time had attempted to maintain a veil of neutrality, had said that – essentially that it was opposed to the war. It’s now clear that was entirely hollow. Iran has now cast its lot with a small number of countries who wore that veil of neutrality only to end up supporting President Putin in his war against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
You may have seen Special Envoy Malley had an opportunity to speak to this yesterday. He made very clear that, for its part, Iran has a choice. It can continue to opt for a position of relative dependency on a country like Russia, which we’ve already said for a number of reasons is not a reliable, dependable partner for any country around the world, or it can choose the path of diplomacy, it can choose to engage in that path, and specifically it can choose to take up the deal that’s been on the table for some time now, to have a relationship – an economic relationship – with other countries around the world that is different from the one it has now, different from the one that has forced it into the arms of President Putin and, in this context, vice versa as well.
QUESTION: I have two more on Lebanon, Ned. First, is there any plan for Special Envoy Hochstein to go to Lebanon or Israel to push forward the talks between the two countries on the maritime borders?
MR PRICE: We haven’t announced any travel for Amos Hochstein. Of course, he was in Lebanon, he was in Israel just within the past few weeks. We released a statement in the aftermath of his most recent travel, noting that he will continue to work with the two countries, both parties, that we welcome the constructive dialogue, we welcome the progress that has been achieved, and we’ll do everything we can – he in that capacity will do everything he can – to support that and to move it forward.
QUESTION: And on the internal situation, the institutions, the government institutions are collapsing. The formation of a new government is stalled. Is the U.S. trying to do anything to push the process forward?
MR PRICE: We are. We’ve been in regular contact with our Lebanese partners. We’ve urged Lebanese stakeholders to form a government capable of and committed to implementing reforms and restoring the trust of the Lebanese people. We call on Lebanese leaders to act seriously and urgently to implement reforms and take the necessary actions to rescue Lebanon’s economy, including actions that can be taken during this current period of government formation.
QUESTION: The U.S.-Japan economic 2+2 ministerial meeting will be held next week. Can we expect any announcements of a new sanction against Russia will come out?
MR PRICE: I don’t know that we’ve formally announced this yet, so I will be reserved in my comments. I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to speak to it as next week approaches, but what I can say is that we have had a number of opportunities, including at the highest levels, to engage our Japanese allies. President Biden, of course, was in Tokyo in May. We had an opportunity to see Foreign Minister Hayashi in Bali earlier this month. Of course, we then had an unexpected and somber occasion to visit Tokyo just after our travel to Bali, where we again saw the foreign minister engaged with the prime minister.
The relationship with our Japanese ally is strong. It is broad. Of course, the economic elements of that have long been at the center of that relationship, and I do expect that any future dialogue, economic dialogue, be it 2+2 or otherwise, will be in a position to further advance that relationship.
QUESTION: No linchpin? No cornerstone?
MR PRICE: Not now, no. I’m sure.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. In the beginning of the briefing, you said the rules-based international order, undermined anywhere it’s undermined everywhere. Does that also apply to Turkish violation of the sovereignty of its neighbors? Just this morning Turkey bombed a civilian tourist site, killing eight Iraqi tourists and wounding over 20. Are you, first, aware of those reports? And if you’re not, are you generally concerned about Turkish repetitive violation of the sovereignty of its neighbors?
MR PRICE: I am aware of those reports. I do expect we’ll have more to say on this later today, but let me just say in the interim that we’re aware of the deadly shelling in northern Iraq today. It killed and injured numerous Iraqis, including civilians, according to these first reports. We reaffirm our position that military action in Iraq should respect Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we express our condolences to the families of the victims of today’s actions. We emphasize the importance of ensuring civilians are protected and we will continue to monitor the situation closely as additional information emerges. For the time being, we’ll defer to our Iraqi partners for additional comment.
But to your broader question, the rules-based international order is agnostic as to the country behind it, and it applies equally to the United States as it does to any other country, whether that’s in the Middle East, in Europe, in the Indo-Pacific, in any other region around the world.
QUESTION: Did it apply to the United States in 2003?
MR PRICE: We can go down the historical rabbit hole, but I will try and – we’ll try and finish up here. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. First of all, thank you for your support on our European path. I’m from Georgia, as you know, so I want ask about a specific case in Georgia. There are some claims that unfair sanctions were imposed on the judge on a specific case, which was later confirmed by the judge himself. What can you say about this case? And also, it made a little bit complicated situation in Georgia. If you can describe the situation.
MR PRICE: I’m sorry. I was – I didn’t catch the last part of your question.
QUESTION: If you can share your – if you have discussed any sanctions against the judge, and it’s – I wanted to mention that it made a little bit complicated situation in Georgia.
MR PRICE: Well, I wouldn’t want to wade into this. I’m not immediately familiar with that particular case, but if we have anything specific to offer, we’ll be sure to do that. I think more broadly, the point is – and this is what I said at the top – that we support Georgia’s aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration. We stand by Georgia and the efforts to build Georgia’s democracy over the course of many years since its independence. The construction of a democracy is never complete. That’s as true in this country as it is anywhere else, but we have attempted to do our part in terms of helping to build and to reinforce those democratic institutions, institutions that uphold the rule of law, among other basic democratic principles.
Over the course of years, we’ve allocated almost $6 billion in assistance funds to Georgia, including for those very purposes. We have worked closely in the security sector. We have sent thousands of people to the United States for cultural and educational exchanges. And we’ve helped to promote economic growth, the rule of law, democratic governance, as well as many other initiatives. But anything we have on this particular case, we’ll get back to you.
A final question? Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thanks. Just changing to another part of the world, past Monday, a group of ambassadors and other diplomats, including a U.S. diplomat, they were invited to attend a meeting with the Brazilian president who, at that occasion, raised questions about the electronic voting system in Brazil. Which feedback did State Department receive from the U.S. embassy in Brazil regarding this matter? Could you address this matter?
MR PRICE: I can address the matter broadly, and at the broadest level, this is something we’ve spoken to since last year. We’ve spoken to this privately with senior Brazilian officials, but we’ve also made our views known publicly as well. And our view is that elections have been conducted by Brazil’s capable and time-tested electoral system and democratic institutions successfully over the course of many years. It serves as a model for nations not only in the hemisphere, but also beyond as well. As a partner, as a democratic partner to Brazil, we’ll follow the October elections with great interest and with the full expectation that they’ll be conducted in a free, fair, and credible manner with all relevant institutions conducting their constitutional role.
QUESTION: Sorry, one more.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m sure you saw the mural unveiled in Georgetown today recognizing Americans detained abroad. Organizers say in part that’s to put pressure on the authorities to do more. I just want to get your response to that. And given what appears to be a boiling up of frustrations, does that merit a reorganization of your communication strategy?
MR PRICE: I did see the mural. There was a senior State Department official in attendance as well. Roger Carstens was there at the invitation of the organizers. It was important for us to be there to continue to show our support for these families who are enduring an ordeal that, to anyone but them, is unimaginable. The mural – it’s a powerful symbol of those who have been deprived and taken from their loved ones for, in all cases, far too long, and in many cases, over the course of years.
Look, I said yesterday – and we had an occasion yesterday to speak of some of the policy – some new policy initiatives that we were in a position to take on this, but – we have consistently made the point, but I think we have consistently demonstrated that we have no higher priority than seeking the safe release of Americans who are either held hostage or wrongfully detained around the world. Over the course of this administration, we’ve seen Americans return from Russia, return from Afghanistan, return from Venezuela, return from Burma, and elsewhere.
Now, of course, the fact that there is – as long as there is one American who is held hostage or unjustly detained means our work is unfinished. There are unfortunately far more than one American in this position today. But each and every one of these cases is an absolute priority for Secretary Blinken. It’s an absolute priority for Special Presidential Envoy Carstens. It’s an absolute priority for President Biden as well. It’s part and parcel of the reason why Secretary Blinken is often on the phone, often taking part in video conferences with these families, whether as a collective or, more frequently, on a one-on-one basis. And what you heard from us yesterday is that we took another step that will see to it that we are able to have the types of conversations with the families, in this case of wrongful detainees, that we’ve been able to have with the families of American hostages since 2015 with implementation of what’s known as Presidential Policy Directive 30.
So again, we will continue these efforts. These efforts are, by necessity, quiet until they’re not. And just to cite one example, of course, we were able – we were in a position to bring Trevor Reed home just a few months ago, before his release was announced. It’s not something that we spoke of. It – steps we were taking, in this case with Russia, was not something that we detailed publicly, and for good reason. We have found that these cases often are best worked behind the scenes. Even though we don’t speak of it, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t working around the clock to see the successful resolution and outcome.
Thank you all very much. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:59 p.m.)