2:04 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Good afternoon, and happy Friday, everyone. Thank you for joining today’s briefing. I have a few updates at the top, and then we’ll start with your questions.
Early this morning, we welcomed our first group of Afghan special immigrant applications to the United States under Operation Allies Refuge. These immigrants bravely worked with the American diplomats and service members in hope of a brighter future for Afghanistan, at great risk to themselves as well as their families.
This flight represented a whole-of-government effort, led by our newly launched Afghanistan Coordination Task Force, with partners across the U.S. Government, the International Organization for Migration, and civil society.
After arriving to Fort Lee, Virginia, these individuals will continue to undergo any necessary medical examinations and administrative processing needed to become permanent residents, and we look forward to continuing to keep you all up to date on developments. With our sincere gratitude for their service to keep – help keep Americans safe, I’ll echo the Secretary, who spoke for so many of us when he said, “Welcome to your new home.”
Next, I’d also like to provide an update on our efforts to share COVID-19 vaccines with the world. By Saturday, July 31st, the United States will have shipped nearly 18 million additional vaccine doses to countries all around the world, including Senegal, Paraguay, Zambia, Niger, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Nigeria, Cambodia, Moldova, and the Philippines.
Every day, this administration is working to make good on its promise to lead vaccination diplomacy efforts to help protect the global community from this pandemic.
And finally, we are very concerned about the situation in Dara’a, including reports of harm to civilians and the extremely difficult and restrictive conditions imposed on the inhabitants by the Syrian regime. We call on all sides to immediately de-escalate and allow aid and civilians to move freely.
Syrian human rights groups report that civilians are being killed in the fighting, with thousands displaced and thousands more suffering food and medication shortages.
These events are proof of what the United States has long said: Syria’s humanitarian crisis is a direct result of the Assad regime’s appalling and relentless attacks on the Syrian people, and the conflict can only be resolved through a political transition in line with UNSC Resolution 2254.
With that, we’ll give it a few minutes and start taking your questions.
OPERATOR: Would you like me to give the instructions again at this time?
MS PORTER: Yes, please.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen on the phone lines, if you wish to ask a question today, please press 1 followed by the 0. And then if you’d like to take yourself out of the queue, please press 1 followed by 0 again. Again, for questions, please press 1-0. And one moment for our first question.
MS PORTER: Let’s go to Said Arikat.
OPERATOR: Said, your line is open. Please, go ahead. Said, can you hear us?
QUESTION: Yes, I can. Yes, I can.
OPERATOR: Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you, Jalina. Happy Friday. Very quickly, one of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah wrote an article in The Guardian a couple days ago; he’s appealing to the world to see what’s happening for what it is. It’s really ethnic cleansing. Why is it so difficult for the Government of the United States to put its foot down and say this ethnic cleansing cannot be tolerated, will not be tolerated, and to call on Israel, your ally, to stop doing such evictions?
And on another issue also, the Palestinian Authority has also imprisoned journalists again and so on. They seem to be – Palestinian journalists seems to be getting it from both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. And now, you stand up for journalists’ rights everywhere, but you’re sort of a bit shy when it comes to the Palestinians. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Said. I’ll take your last question first. That – you’re absolutely correct, the United States of course supports the freedom of expression and the rights of journalists everywhere. And of course, that would include Palestinian journalists.
To your first question, I will say that we believe it’s critical to refrain from unilateral steps that would increase tensions and make it more difficult to advance a negotiated two-state solution. And this would include demolitions and evictions from homes that families have lived in for generations. We also encourage Israeli authorities to avoid other evictions and actions that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, and we welcome the Israeli court’s decision to delay the eviction of a number of families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
Let’s go to Daphne Psaledakis.
OPERATOR: Ms. Psaledakis, your line is open. Ladies and gentlemen, please wait until I announce your names so you know that you can start your question. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Sorry about that. Thanks, Jalina. On the attack on the Israeli-managed tanker off Oman, who carried this attack out? And does the U.S. have any reason to believe that it was Iran?
MS PORTER: Thank you, Daphne. So I’ll start off by saying that the United States extends our sincere condolences to the victims’ loved ones, and we’re also deeply concerned by the reports and are monitoring the situation closely. We – we’re urgently working with our partners, our international partners, to establish the facts, and for now we’ll have to refer you to NAVCENT for more information in the meantime.
Let’s go to Michele Kelemen, please.
OPERATOR: Ms. Kelemen, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. I see that President Biden is meeting this afternoon with Cuban Americans. I’m wondering what the administration is doing specifically to help protesters there, to help them maintain internet access on the island. And are you disappointed that Spain and Canada and the EU did not sign on to the joint statement with Secretary Blinken earlier this week? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Michele. I certainly won’t get ahead of the President and his meeting, but I’ll continue to underscore that the United States certainly stands with the Cuban people, and, of course, that means addressing the moment and the ongoing situation is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration. At President Biden’s direction, the United States is actively pursuing measures that would both support the Cuban people as well as hold the Cuban regime accountable for its human rights violations. I would also say that the administration is working closely with the private sector as well as the Congress to identify some viable solutions to make the internet more accessible for the Cuban people as well.
Let’s go to Austin Landis, please.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Mr. Landis, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, this is Austin. Thank you, Jalina. I wanted to follow up on Operation Allies Refuge. Everything that you all have said publicly and also just in recent statements to me seems like you’re really focused on the group of Afghans who have cleared security vetting and then also those who’ve gotten COM approval. So considering we’re about to enter August, there are only a few weeks left in August and – of August, and you’re planning to finish that evacuation by the end of the month, is it fair to characterize that operation as just including those groups, at least for now? And if that’s the case, then what about the rest who haven’t received COM approval, which are the majority? Will there be future aid for them?
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. While I won’t get ahead of any future aid or any announcements, I’ll just say this: that the President has set a clear goal and that, of course, we’ll relocate all eligible and interested Afghan SIV applicants as well as their families very soon, of course, before the end of July. I won’t get into what’s happening next month, but I’ll just reiterate that this is a whole-of-government effort. It’s a worldwide effort, actually, and we intend to meet the President’s goals.
Let’s go to Hiba Nasr.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Hiba, your line is open. Please go ahead, Hiba.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for taking my question. I want to follow up on the attack in –against the oil tanker. Are you in contact with the Israeli? And if you find out – if you found out that Iran is behind the attack, would this affect the negotiations with the Iranians? And my second question is on Tunisia. Did you define whether if it’s a coup or not a coup in your opinion?
MS PORTER: So to your first question, I certainly won’t get ahead of the negotiations. And as we’ve said before, we are – we don’t have any updates for you at this time. But to your second question, of course, we’re closely monitoring the situation, and we urge President Saied to ride a clear roadmap and quickly lift the emergency measures and unfreeze the parliament. But again, I’ll just underscore what Secretary Blinken has already said, and that’s Tunisia’s been a remarkable demonstration of democracy and it’s really been a strong example, not just for the region, but for the world. And we have concerns about deviating from that.
As far as your question about the coup, we’ll also say that our – we’re focused – our focus is really to encourage the Tunisian leaders to adhere to the Tunisian constitution and quickly return to normal democratic governance.
Let’s go to Pearl Matibe.
OPERATOR: Thank you. One moment. Could you give me the name one more time?
MS PORTER: The name is Pearl Matibe.
OPERATOR: Thank you very much. Ms. Matibe, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is regarding Mozambique and malign influence from Russia and China in general on the continent. On July 14th, Secretary Blinken had a phone call with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, and the readout just mentioned that he reaffirmed the commitment, U.S. commitment to countering ISIS. I wanted to find out what that really means given the backdrop that during the Trump administration he really wanted to reduce the military footprint in Africa and call that optimization, whereas he was really downsizing. And what I’m seeing in the – with the Biden administration, right now there’s a military exercise in Tanzania, we’ve seen refugees crossing over from Mozambique into Tanzania in the tens of thousands, sometimes 10,000 a day. So what is it did Secretary Blinken mean when he talked about committing support for Mozambique regarding ISIS? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Pearl. Well, I won’t comment on any actions or policies of the previous administration, but I can tell you that the Biden-Harris administration is fully committed to defeating ISIS. And, of course, that’s an effort that’s critical to our national security, and, of course, that includes our partners and allies all around the world. And, of course, that includes partners and allies in the continent of Africa as well.
Let’s go to Rafael Salido.
OPERATOR: Mr. Salido, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello? This is Rafael Salido from Voice of America. So in the last days in Guatemala, there has been some controversy regarding the departure of one of its main attorneys – general attorneys, Mr. Sandoval. The United States has reacted saying that it will lift up certain kind of collaboration with this country, especially regarding legal affairs, I guess. Yesterday, President Giammattei, he said that even though this is – it’s appealing, but he’s willing to look for other international partners who are able to step in. So what’s now the next step for the U.S.? Are you planning on staying with this hard line of no cooperation and risking that Guatemala may turn to places such as China or Russia, or are you willing to review your decision, I guess? Thank you very much.
MS PORTER: So what I’ll say broadly is that we have been supporting the Guatemalan Government to accomplish the rule of law, as well as anticorruption goals that they’ve set for publicly and consistently. And in addition, the security of the United States of America is tied to the security of the entire region. And to underscore what you said when – at the top of your first question, of course, we have lost confidence in the attorney general and her intention to cooperate with the United States Government and fight cooperation in good faith. To that end, we’re concerned with the implications of this decision for the rule of law, and that would include regional stability.
Let’s go to Sylvie Lanteaume.
OPERATOR: Sylvie, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello. Do you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I hear you.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. A UN compound was attacked today by the Taliban in Herat in Afghanistan. Do you have a reaction on that?
MS PORTER: The United States condemns the attack on the UN compound in Herat by anti-government militants, which sadly resulted in the death of a local guard defending the compound. We continue to call for an immediate end to this ongoing violence in Afghanistan, which exacerbates the humanitarian situation there and has also led to a growing number of civilian casualties and internal displacement.
Together, along with the international community, we urge all parties to immediately reduce violence and to also reach a negotiated political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to bring Afghans the peace that they duly seek and deserve.
Let’s go to Qsoyoung Kim.
OPERATOR: Ms. Kim, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Thank you. As you know, the communication hotline has been restored between South and North Korea, and now South Korean Government is trying to have cooperation with North Korea on humanitarian aid. South Korea’s unification minister today said he will start allowing local aid groups to resume assistance to North Korea after 10 months of suspending granting approval. So what’s the U.S. sense on this, and then is there consultation on this matter between the U.S. and South Korea? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Well, I’ll say broadly that the United States supports inter-Korean dialogue and engagement and certainly welcomes the restoration of inter-Korean communication lines, which we believe is a positive step. Of course, diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving complete denuclearization and to establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
We’ll take our final question from Arshad Mohammed.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Arshad, please, go ahead. Arshad, your line is open. Are you muted?
QUESTION: Just – sorry. Just to follow up on the attack on the Israeli-managed tanker. Al-Alam TV, which is an Iranian Government run broadcaster that broadcasts in Arabic, says that the attack on the tanker came in response to an alleged Israeli attack on Dabaa airport in Syria that is reported to have killed at least one Hizballah fighter. Do you have any comment on that allegation or that report in which basically a state-owned Iranian broadcaster is saying that the attack was in response to a specific Israeli attack in Syria?
MS PORTER: Well, again, I would say that we’re closely monitoring the situation, and we’re working with our international partners to establish all of the facts. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to offer for you at this time.
That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you so much for joining. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)