2:00 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Friday, everyone. Thank you for joining today’s State Department press briefing. I have one quick announcement to make at the top and then we will resume taking your questions.
We look forward to a strong and productive partnership with incoming members to address issues fundamental to the maintenance of international peace and security.
And with that, we’ll give it a few minutes to wait for the queue.
Let’s go to Jennifer Hansler.
QUESTION: The embassy in Kabul announced today it was suspending all visa operations as of Sunday, and I was wondering if this applies to Afghan SIV applicants, and if so, whether the State Department will take any special considerations or do anything in order to ensure that these applicants are still processed in an expedient manner. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Jennifer. So due to COVID-19 conditions, the embassy in Kabul will, of course, temporarily be suspending visa interviews effective June 13th. And the team in Washington will actually continue processing applications at the chief-of-mission stage, but we’ll resume processing for qualified SIV applicants in Kabul, of course, as soon as it’s safe to do so. But again, just to continue to underscore, Secretary Blinken has said before, we’re withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, but of course, we’re not withdrawing from Afghanistan. And, of course, while troops are planned to leave there in September, the United States will maintain a robust diplomatic presence throughout the U.S. embassy, and our teams in the consular section in Kabul and Washington will continue to process qualified SIV applications, of course, as expeditiously as possible.
Let’s go to Said Arikat.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) authority to close down the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee office in Ramallah, and they are predicting from – it could result in some catastrophic situation, especially with the medical situation being as bad as it is in the occupied territories. And just to follow up on yesterday’s Ms. Gayle Smith presentation on the 500 million vaccines, how would you distribute these vaccines if you decide to in a place like Gaza, where you don’t have any relations, it is actually besieged by Israel and Egypt? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Said. I’ll take your second question first. I won’t get into the details of the how with the distribution, but I’ll continue to underscore that U.S. has received requests for vaccines from countries all over the world. And in fact, we’re sharing 25 million vaccine doses with recipients that include Mexico, Canada, the Republic of Korea, West Bank, and Gaza. And, of course, additionally U.S. is also purchasing 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and donating them to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries as well as economies defined by Gavi’s COVAX advanced market commitment, and to eight additional countries in the African Union.
To answer your first questions, we, of course, encourage all sides to refrain from steps that would exacerbate tensions.
Let’s go to Laura Kelly.
QUESTION: Oh, hi. Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you, Laura.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Can you talk about some of the most important topics of the meeting between President Biden and President Erdogan on Monday? Will you – how will you address concerns over significant human rights issues in Turkey? And do you have a reaction to the Taliban rejecting Turkey’s offer to provide search security to the Kabul airport?
MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. So to touch on your last part, so U.S. officials, of course, have been meeting with Turkish officials as a part of our ongoing consultations with our friends in Afghanistan on the withdraw of troops from the U.S., and coalition of troops from the Afghanistan. Of course, we’ll continue to ensure the safety and security of U.S. diplomats and personnel. But to your first question, I have nothing to read out. I won’t get ahead of the President, and would refer you to the White House for that.
Let’s go to Casey O’Neill.
QUESTION: Happy Friday. Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes. Happy Friday. I can hear you.
QUESTION: Awesome, thank you. So actually, I wanted to turn, if we could, to Myanmar. So earlier today, actually just a little while ago, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet issued a statement essentially warning of the imminent further deterioration of the situation on the ground in Myanmar. And I was just wondering if you could provide us any sense of actions that the Biden administration are taking to one, hold the junta accountable for their various human rights – numerous – excuse me – human rights violations; and two, if there’s a specific point person within the administration that’s dealing with Myanmar. Of course, we’ve seen Ambassador Feltman. He is the point person – the special envoy for the Horn. We’ve seen other special envoys. So just wondering who exactly within the administration – within the State Department is kind of the point person on this crisis. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Well, I’ll take this – your – the second part of your question first. So we don’t have any personnel announcements to make, but what I can say at large is that we remain deeply concerned about the situation on the ground in Burma. And, of course, the military regime has shown no respect for the rule of law or the will of the people of Burma, which we are primarily concerned about. The regime’s actions, such as killing hundreds including dozens of children and unjustly detaining thousands of people, have shown little regard for justice. And again, we will continue to uplift the people of Burma, and the United States, of course, urges all countries to speak in one voice against the regime’s violence as well as the suffering of all of the people.
Let’s go to Simon Lewis.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks, Jalina. I have another follow-up from Gayle Smith’s comments yesterday at the press briefing. So regarding the 500 million Pfizer vaccines that the President has pledged to – from the U.S. – Ms. Smith said that those vaccines – those doses would be bought with already appropriated funds. So that – I’m taking that to mean that that’s coming out of the 4 billion dollars that the administration had already promised to COVAX. Could you just clarify when those original – originally the President announced 2 billion and then another 2 billion that would – U.S. would give to COVAX – sort of the understanding at the time was that was cash that would go to COVAX rather than the value of donated vaccines. So is that a change – has that been kind of recategorized now as $4 billion worth of vaccines basically – or I think the estimate for the vaccine donation is 3.5 billion.
And secondly, related to that, Gayle Smith was talking about aiming for global coverage with these vaccine donations but also focusing on countries where there are surges and also being responsive to other countries’ request. Does that put the U.S. at odds with COVAX stated goals – stated goal of COVAX which is giving vaccines to all countries – giving all countries equal access to vaccines. It seems that you’re focus on targeting countries, with surges and also some strategic partners and neighbors, is at odds with what COVAX is trying to do. Thanks.
MS PORTER: Simon, if you’re still here on the line, I’ll briefly touch on your first one and ask you to clarify your second one. I would kind of reiterate Coordinator Smith’s comments yesterday where she didn’t go into too much detail about the numbers, but then just to kind of reiterate what we said before, I believe, when Said was on the line, is that, of course, the U.S. is purchasing the 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and, of course, donating them to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries as it stands. But if you’re still on the line, if you could just briefly clarify your second question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yeah, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, so the third question was just to clarify that those – the funds to pay for those vaccines is coming out of the already pledged $4 billion to COVAX, right? And the second question is: Is there some difference in the way that the U.S. is – wants to distribute these vaccines from COVAX’s sort of stated goal of giving all countries equal access to vaccines, whereas the U.S. has sort of saying we want to target countries where there are surges and we’re responding to requests from other countries. I guess we’ve seen vaccines go to South Korea and Mexico, so it seems that there are strategic interests at play in the distribution, which – is that at odds with COVAX’s criteria for distributing vaccines?
MS PORTER: Well, I mean what I’ll say to that is that the United States has decided in coordination with COVAX where the vaccines will go. And, of course, like – as I’ve said before too, the 92 COVAX recipients but eight additional African Union Countries. And these countries were actually defined by COVAX due to their limited resources and a limited ability to purchase those vaccines outright. And I will leave it at that, thank you.
Let’s go to Roman Gressier – I apologize if I’m mispronouncing your last name – El Faro.
QUESTION: No, that’s great, thank you. Could you please confirm that the State Department has submitted formal extradition requests for three of the 14 MS-13 leaders that the Justice Department charged with terrorism offenses in January? And if you can, why those three? Will you also submit some more requests, diplomatic requests, for the remaining?
MS PORTER: So for the first part of your question, I’m going to have to refer you to the DOJ. For the second – your second question on diplomatic requests, we’ll actually have to take that back for you.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS PORTER: Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.
QUESTION: Just a question about North Korea G7 summit. I know there was no planned meetings, but will there be any pull-aside meetings between U.S., South Korea, and Japan to discuss North Korean issues during the G7 Summit?
And my follow-up question is I believe that President Biden will have his first in-person meeting with Russian President Putin next week in Switzerland. As Russia has a closer relationship with North Korea, do you think the two leaders will discuss cooperation for engaging with North Korea? Thank you.
MS PORTER: So to your first question, I certainly won’t get ahead of the summit. And for your second question on leaders of the DPRK and Russia, I’d have to refer you to their governments to answer that.
Let’s go to Yangsoon Kim.
QUESTION: I want to ask about the phone call between the Secretary Blinken and the Chinese Yang. And you guys said that you discussed about the Biden administration’s comprehensive North Korea review. What was the response from the China?
MS PORTER: If I still have you, do you mind repeating your question, please?
QUESTION: Yes. I asked about the discussion between the Blinken and the Chinese Yang that discussed about the North Korean policy review. And what was the Chinese response about the Biden administration’s North Korean policy review?
MS PORTER: So I would point you to our readout on Secretary Blinken’s call. We have that on our website. But just in sum, obviously, what they discussed was our comprehensive DPRK policy review which focused on the need for the United States as well as the PRC to work together for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Let’s go to Elizabeth Hagedorn.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Can you give us an update on whether the indirect talks to bring home Americans detained in Iran are still active? And then given that several G7 member countries have dual citizens held in Iran, is Tehran’s prisoner-taking and a global strategy to deter it something that Secretary Blinken is discussing with leaders at this weekend’s summit? Thanks.
MS PORTER: So to the first part of your question, we continue to call for the return of all U.S. citizens who are unjustly detained – of course, those who are in Iran and those who are unjustly detained in countries all over the world. And if I still have you, do you mind repeating your second question?
QUESTION: Sure. Is the issue of hostage-taking in Iran an issue that Secretary Blinken plans on raising with leaders of the G7?
MS PORTER: So I won’t get ahead of the Secretary’s meetings. And if we obviously have a readout, we will be sure to share the outcome of those meetings as well. Thanks.
We’ll take this last question from Kurdistan 24, Laurie Mylroie. I apologize if I said your last name wrong.
QUESTION: Yes, I do. I’m sorry, I was on mute. I’m muted.
MS PORTER: Do we still have Laurie?
QUESTION: This is Laurie Mylroie. Can you hear me now?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you, Laurie.
QUESTION: Okay. My question concerns the Washington Post report that Russia has supplied Iran with advanced satellites that provide better surveillance capabilities. Does that change – how do you regard that and does that change your attitude towards the JCPOA negotiations?
MS PORTER: Laurie, I believe she – I think if you’re still on the line it sounds like you completed your question. So what I’ll say is that we’re aware of and of course following these media reports about Russia potentially providing Iran with an advanced satellite system. Outside of that, we have nothing further to announce at this point. We don’t have any responses or any potential responses, if you will.
Thank you all for joining today. That concludes today’s daily press briefing.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:23 p.m.)