Department Press Briefing – June 13, 2023
1:29 p.m. EDT
MR MILLER: Hello, everyone. Sorry to be late. It’s good to see you again after a few weeks away. I’m going to start with some brief remarks.
Earlier today, in a bipartisan vote, Liz Allen was confirmed by the Senate as the Department’s 10th Under Secretary for diplomacy – Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, completing our senior leadership team. Upon taking the oath of office, this will be Under Secretary‑designate Allen’s sixth role at the Department. In it, she will oversee 5,000 Public Diplomacy professionals in Washington and worldwide, including yours truly, leading the charge on the U.S. Government’s foreign policy, public affairs, counter-disinformation, and counter‑foreign malign influence efforts, and cultural programming.
The Under Secretary-designate’s confirmation represents broad consensus that the work of public diplomacy – that of telling America’s story, developing the leaders of tomorrow, and building trust and credibility, including by calling out foreign malign influence – is more critical than ever. In this role, she will focus on the challenges we face from our adversaries, including countering foreign malign influence and disinformation, particularly through access to digital literacy programs and support of independent media; engaging domestically to explain how foreign policy is working for the people; supporting and resourcing the global public diplomacy team with training and professional development opportunities; and continuing to serve as a strategic counselor to the Secretary.
Under Secretary-designate Allen began her career as an intern in the Office of Global Women’s Issues under Secretary Condoleezza Rice and has since served in senior-level communications roles in the White House and private sector. I can say that we collectively, and speaking for myself personally, are thrilled to have Liz confirmed and formally assuming this very senior role.
And with that, Matt.
QUESTION: That’s it?
MR MILLER: That’s it.
QUESTION: You missed the most important point.
MR MILLER: Which is – is it the Buffalo – about the Buffalo Bills? Are you Bills fan?
QUESTION: She’s from – I’m from Buffalo —
MR MILLER: Well, there —
QUESTION: — as is Liz.
MR MILLER: There you go.
QUESTION: — and that’s the most important thing.
MR MILLER: I didn’t want to set the precedent of having to speak to everyone’s —
QUESTION: Yeah, well —
MR MILLER: — sports affiliations —
QUESTION: It’s very important.
MR MILLER: — every time a mention a senior official from the podium.
QUESTION: And then secondly, so does she get to move into the old R office or is that still being squatted in by former Secretary Kerry?
MR MILLER: I will let you take that question up with the appropriate parties. I don’t think I want to jump into the middle of it. (Laughter).
QUESTION: Well, because – because that was for many, many years, it was the – our office —
MR MILLER: Yes.
QUESTION: — until —
MR MILLER: Yes. And I understand there are good reasons why people want to have access to that office again, but no, I’m not aware of any plans to change the —
QUESTION: All right.
MR MILLER: — office assignments at the department.
QUESTION: Let’s move onto something a little bit more serious.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: In terms of Ukraine, you probably have seen President Putin’s comments about there being major Ukrainian loses in their counteroffensive and big setbacks for them. Can you speak at all to those? And even if you can’t or don’t want to, the new PDA was just announced a little while ago. The Secretary spoke with Stoltenberg just now at the White House, I think. And what’s your read on the situation? Is this counteroffensive – has it, as Stoltenberg said, had begun – but is it accomplishing anything?
MR MILLER: So President Zelenskyy, I believe, also confirmed that it began – a few points. Number one, we are not going to comment on kind of twists and turns of the counteroffensive or battlefield updates on what is obviously a very active and ongoing situation. We’ll leave that to the Ukrainian military to speak to. Number two, I think as has been clear even from before the outset of this conflict, you can’t take everything that Vladimir Putin says at face value and assume that it is gospel truth; and that number three, as you alluded to with the PDA we announced today, we will continue to both from the United States standpoint and working with our allies and partners, including our Allies in NATO, to provide Ukraine the assistance they need both to prosecute this counteroffensive and to secure a long-term deterrence capability for them.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Ukraine? Can I follow up?
MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead, Alex.
QUESTION: Just – on Ukraine, may I get your quick reaction to today’s targeted strikes on Zelenskyy’s hometown, which claimed more than a thousand lives? I presume the only reason why they are doing it is because that’s Zelenskyy’s hometown. So any reaction to that?
MR MILLER: I won’t speak to Russian intentions, but I would speak to the outcomes, which is, once again, a Russian missile strike has killed Ukrainian civilians – something we’ve seen since the outset of this conflict, where they have not targeted military – just military installations or just troops on the battlefield, but they have had a systematic, intentional campaign to target Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian civilian infrastructure through repeated airstrikes, missile strikes, and this was just the latest example of that.
QUESTION: And on the issue of the dam, there are reports that Moscow has already targeted second dam in Zaporizhzhia region. First off, your reaction to that? Secondly, how much of these change your calculus in terms of the first dam – your reaction to first dam, who was behind the first dam – and also your analysis on the (inaudible)?
MR MILLER: So I haven’t seen the report that you referred to, so I won’t speak to that. And with respect to the dam that unfortunately collapsed last week, I’ll say we continue to look into the matter. We have no change in our ability to offer public – a public accounting of what happened, but I will say that one thing that’s clear is that the dam is in an area that Russia occupied and that Russia was in control of the dam. But beyond that, don’t have any further information to offer.
QUESTION: Is there any trust issue —
MR MILLER: One more, Alex, and then we’ll —
QUESTION: Is there – just a follow-up. Is there any trust issue between Washington and Kyiv on this? You’re cooperating with Ukraine to investigate what’s going on, and Ukraine said it’s Russia, we think. Don’t you trust your ally?
MR MILLER: We absolutely trust Ukraine.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Just two or three quick follow-ups to Matt’s question. But they also claimed that they captured —
QUESTION: On Buffalo.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: On Buffalo?
QUESTION: No, not Buffalo, no – (laughter) – on Putin’s statement, so they also – and no congratulations to the Nuggets? I’m sorry just to jump that in.
MR MILLER: No what?
QUESTION: No congratulations to the – to Denver?
QUESTION: That’s Denver, man. That’s not local.
QUESTION: Anyway. Going back, they claim to have captured Leopard tanks, Bradley vehicles, in the dozens – maybe not the Leopard tanks. Can you confirm that?
MR MILLER: The Russians claim a lot of things. So – but —
QUESTION: Well, but can you deny —
MR MILLER: I will —
QUESTION: But can you say they did not? Because they showed some.
MR MILLER: I cannot say that, because as I said —
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MR MILLER: — in response to Matt’s question, I’m going to refrain from commenting on specific twists and turns in what is a very fluid dynamic situation.
QUESTION: Okay. And your statement about the $325 million additional aid to Ukraine. You said this is the 40th tranche withdrawal from American storage and so on. How will that impact U.S. readiness and U.S. weapons in storage and whatever?
MR MILLER: So we – you’re right. It is, I think, the 40th – I’m going to take your – I don’t remember the exact number, but that we have made a number —
QUESTION: Yeah, you said 40th.
MR MILLER: A number of drawdowns at this point. And the Pentagon, who should speak to this more directly than me, has made clear that we need a long-term strategy to ensure that not just the United States, but the United States and our NATO Allies and partners and other countries in the world, are – have the ability to long-term fund our ability to deter and defend, as well as Ukraine’s ability to deter and defend. But with respect to anything more specific, I’d refer you to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Yeah, France today said – the foreign ministry said they had uncovered a major disinformation campaign that affected several prominent French newspapers, Le Monde and what have you that was, they say, clearly directed and inspired from Russia. Do you have any comment on that – on this report from the French foreign ministry?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any comment specifically on that report other than that we’re, of course, aware of it. But that would be in keeping with Russia’s longtime pattern of sowing disinformation in the west, of trying to erode trust, of trying to seed misinformation and lies about what’s occurring in Western governments, in western public life. So that would be entirely consistent with their pattern of behavior going back a number of years now.
QUESTION: And to your knowledge, do you have any information that this same campaign is being led here, has affected here newspapers or media in the United States recently?
MR MILLER: I don’t. Obviously we’ve spoken to this before. We’ve seen examples of Russian disinformation operations aimed at the United States in past years, and at times we’ve made public those disinformation operations, but I don’t have anything current to make public.
QUESTION: Thanks. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the CIA warned the Ukrainian Government not to attack the Nord Stream gas pipelines after it obtained detailed information about a Ukrainian plot. Can you confirm this? And were there any such warnings against such action from this building to the Ukrainians?
MR MILLER: Can you give me – can you just repeat the first part of that question again?
MR MILLER: I didn’t quite catch it.
QUESTION: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the CIA warned the Ukrainian Government not to attack the Nord Stream gas pipelines after it obtained detailed information about a Ukrainian plot. If you can confirm that, and if any such warnings came from this building.
MR MILLER: So I will just say we’re not going to comment on private diplomatic conversations that we have with Ukrainian officials. With respect to the underlying question, that is a matter, of course, that is under investigation by a number of European governments, and we will wait for the outcome of those investigations.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MR MILLER: Let me make sure – anyone else on – before – I’ll let you change the subject, but let me – yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. So I want to ask about Pakistan. And —
MR MILLER: Well, hold – before – because I didn’t let Michele change the subject —
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, sure.
MR MILLER: So anything else on Russia-Ukraine before we go?
Let me go to Michele first, and then I’ll come to you.
QUESTION: Sure, sure.
MR MILLER: So I’m glad you asked me that question, because there have been a number of reports, some of them false, in the last number of days. I will say a few things about that. Number one, we have always had the ability to deliver messages to Iran when it’s in the interests of the United States to do so. Number two, as we have made clear since the beginning of this administration, the President is committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. And we believe that diplomacy is the best means to accomplish that, though we have been – also been clear that we have taken no option off the table.
And then something I specifically wanted to comment on, because I’ve seen this reported that there is an interim deal of some sort – that is completely false.
QUESTION: So that means you’re not —
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) You’re not talking with the Iranians about returning to the JCPOA, or is it still on the table, or it’s off the table?
MR MILLER: We have made clear, as I just said, that diplomacy is the best means to accomplish our policy of ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: May I follow up?
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Diplomacy seems to be going on in this regard, and a U.S. official has told Reuters – has confirmed the meeting in Oman between Iran and the U.S., the indirect meeting, of course. And now the Israelis are saying that the understanding – it’s not a deal, it’s not an agreement – it’s an understanding that is asking Iran to not enrich above 60 percent and in return the U.S. would release some frozen funds and talk about a prisoner exchange. This is from Netanyahu and also some Knesset members. Can you tell us anything about that?
MR MILLER: So I will – well, I was going to say I will restate what I said, but I will not restate what I said, because I think I said it twice. But I will just say that there a number of reports we have seen by various outlets about different deals or purported deals or diplomatic negotiations. The vast majority of those reports have been either wrong or completely misleading, and that includes reports of an interim deal.
QUESTION: Well, yeah. I’m not talking about an interim deal, but yes —
MR MILLER: And —
QUESTION: Even Iran rejected that, but they have confirmed the Oman meeting, and now they’re just saying an understanding on certain things, very smaller things, which according to Iran is to probably build confidence and be the basis of the start of more talks.
MR MILLER: Yeah. And I’m not going to comment on those reports, other than to say that, as I noted, we have always said we have the ability to deliver messages to Iran when it’s in the interests of the United States to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware —
QUESTION: So which was —
QUESTION: Were you aware that the Iranian nuclear negotiator met with the EU counterparts?
MR MILLER: We have seen those reports, yes.
QUESTION: Well, is the State Department aware of that meeting?
MR MILLER: I am not going to comment on private diplomatic negotiations, private diplomatic conversations, either real or purported, by this building or by our allies and partners.
QUESTION: So the vast majority of the reports have been wrong or entirely misleading. Which ones have been correct? (Laughter.)
MR MILLER: The reports that say we have the ability to deliver diplomatic messages. I’m not going to get into commenting on —
QUESTION: I thought you just said that that was correct, you do have the ability to —
MR MILLER: That’s the one – those are the ones that are – I was going to say those are the ones —
QUESTION: Look, there’s a massive freakout anytime anyone in Israel or Iran says anything about this and including amongst people in Washington. People, like, go absolutely bonkers over it.
MR MILLER: I understand. I’ve seen it.
QUESTION: Yes. And so when you come out and do not want to tamp that down and you say something like the vast majority of these reports have been wrong or entirely misleading, you – it doesn’t help tamp it down if you don’t say which ones have been wrong or entirely misleading. And if you’re suggesting the vast majority but not all of them are wrong or —
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — wrong or entirely misleading, which ones have not been wrong or entirely —
MR MILLER: I understand. What I think I’m resisting —
QUESTION: Because you end up creating more —
MR MILLER: No, I see your point. What I’m resisting doing is, either today or in the future, setting a precedent of playing Whac-a-Mole about every report that comes up either from a U.S. outlet or from an outlet in the region about conversations that may or may not have happened, about deals which may or may not —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m not asking you – look —
MR MILLER: I will say – I will say – because —
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to play Whac-a-Mole. I want to know which moles you don’t want to whack. Right? (Laughter.) Right?
MR MILLER: Yeah, yeah. And if you have a specific question, I would be happy to take them. I will say we have the ability to deliver messages to the Iranian Government when it’s in our best interest to do so, as —
QUESTION: Okay. So reports that say that you guys have delivered messages to the Iranians through the Omanis or whatever channel it is – and your wherever – are not inaccurate?
MR MILLER: I am not going to comment on those reports, other than to say what I stated —
QUESTION: Well, then what’s the point of denying —
MR MILLER: — a moment ago.
QUESTION: I don’t understand what the point is, then.
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t you confirm them?
QUESTION: One more —
MR MILLER: What’s that?
QUESTION: One more on different subject?
MR MILLER: Well, yeah.
QUESTION: All right. Aside from the Iranian officials – Iranian officials and others, an official of an Iraqi bank – the Commerce Bank, I believe – has said about the reports on the release of almost $3 billion from Iraq to Iran, that that was based – he confirms that this has been done, and that it was based on an agreement between Iran, the U.S., and Iraq. Any comments on that?
MR MILLER: Yes. I will say that with respect to that report, a few points. Number one, Iran can only access its funds held in accounts for Iraq for humanitarian and other non-sanctionable transactions. Number two, that these are actions that have taken place for several years, dating back to the previous administration, where the United States has approved similar transactions on an ongoing basis, consistent with U.S. law and in full coordination with the Government of Iraq. They’re humanitarian and routine transactions consistent with longstanding U.S. law and practice, and that we have continued to implement all of our Iran-related sanctions.
QUESTION: So you’re confirming this transfer of 2.7 billion?
MR MILLER: The – yes, I’m confirming the transfer, as I said, consistent with transactions that have taken place over – going back a number of years.
QUESTION: Hold on a second. Are you confirming the transfer of money from Iraq to Iran or to Iran banks? Or are you confirming the fact that the waivers have been previously signed were also signed last week?
MR MILLER: The latter. I should be —
QUESTION: So you’re not confirming that you know that this money has actually been sent from Iraq into —
MR MILLER: Yes, yes. The latter. And I will let Iraq speak to that.
QUESTION: And it’s not supposed to be transferred. It’s supposed to be used for goods —
MR MILLER: Yes. I – yes.
QUESTION: Different issue?
QUESTION: Can you clarify – just to that, that we come out of here?
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: What are you confirming exactly?
QUESTION: Yes —
MR MILLER: That we approved a transaction, consistent with previous transactions that have been approved, to allow Iran to access funds held in accounts in Iraq for humanitarian and other non-sanctionable transactions.
QUESTION: Previous ones weren’t for goods, were they?
MR MILLER: I won’t speak to – I won’t speak to previous ones.
QUESTION: Was there a bilateral agreement – U.S., Iraq, and Iran? Or how —
MR MILLER: Our conversations about this have been with the Iraqi Government.
QUESTION: One more Russia?
QUESTION: One more? One more?
MR MILLER: One more. Yeah, one more on — was this on —
QUESTION: Yeah. Go ahead, please.
MR MILLER: Go ahead. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. There is a report also from the region that you did agree to – they, the Iranians, sorry, did agree to talk face-to-face with American because administration did agree on their approach, what they call it, freeze in exchange of unfreeze. They freeze the program, you unfreeze their asset and you lift some of the sanction. Is that – can you comment on this exchange, whether it did happen or not?
MR MILLER: No, I don’t have any comment on that, other than what I said previously.
QUESTION: But you did talk with them face-to-face? Is that right?
MR MILLER: I – as I said, we have the ability to deliver them messages, and I’m not going to comment on it any further than that.
QUESTION: But the State Department confirm it to The Financial Time.
MR MILLER: I’ll be happy to take a look at that report. I’m not familiar with what you’re referring to.
MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My question is about Pakistan, since last one year and trying to wonder why the U.S. is ignoring Pakistan so much. So I’ve been asking it in different ways. Today I’m going to ask it in a different way – maybe I can get an answer – and that is that things are pretty amazing in Pakistan since last year. Only one top journalist has been killed, only one top journalist is missing, economy is booming, and only 5,000 political prisoners are in jail, supreme court orders are being flouted. And now the parliament, which has an opposition leader who is going to be running from the ruling party in the next election, they have now chosen to establish military code to try civilians. Does the U.S. have no, like, friendship or guidance that they can give to the Pakistani regime with regard to these things?
MR MILLER: So we are aware of the reports concerning civilians who will face military trials for their suspected involvement in the May 9th protest. We continue, as we have in the past, to urge Pakistani authorities to respect democratic principles and the rule of law for all people as enshrined in the country’s constitution. And we regularly discuss human rights, democracy, safety, and the protection of journalists and respect for the rule of law with Pakistani officials at the highest levels. That remains a priority for the United States.
QUESTION: One more thing about this oil that Pakistan just got from Russia. So Pakistan has paid in Chinese currency to the Russian officials for that. Is dollar becoming very weak internationally? Is that one of the sign, that a good, close ally chooses to pay in Chinese currency?
MR MILLER: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I would say, first of all, with respect to that transaction, we have been very clear that each country has to make its own choices based on its own circumstances in terms of energy imports.
But since you asked about that, one of the things that I think is notable about that is that – our understanding is that that Russian oil was sold at a significant discount to market rates. And I think it’s a sign of the price cap that the U.S, with our allies and partners, imposed on Russian oil that has driven down the price for Russian oil so that Russian oil sells well below market prices and, by our estimates, have deprived the Russian Government of somewhere around $100 billion in additional revenues that would go to fund their war machine in Ukraine.
MR MILLER: On Pakistan before we go, yeah.
QUESTION: Sir, Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan told a gathering here that the decision to buy Russian crude oil from Russia is taken after the approval of United States. So, sir, what kind of criteria is there? Like, is all the – every country getting the approval to do any trade with Russia?
MR MILLER: I will not speak to private diplomatic conversations we had, but we have always made clear, as I just said a minute ago, that each country has to make its own choice with respect to its energy imports. We coordinate with our allies and partners to mitigate the impact of Russia’s sales. I was just speaking to that a moment ago with – as it pertains to the price cap. And I’ll finally note that the United States does not have sanctions against Russian energy exports to other countries.
QUESTION: Sir, Pakistani ambassador also said that there are, like, very close negotiations going on with the U.S. to – for the military assistance, military aid, which was suspended by the Trump administration. It was – like, security cooperation was suspended during the Trump administration, so is there any update on that?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any update on that. Anything else on Pakistan before I go?
QUESTION: It’s the same – it’s on the same topic.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So did Pakistan consult the U.S. before making the deal with Russia and Russian – to get Russian oil?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to any private diplomatic conversations, other than to say that we consult with partners all around the world on these questions, but we leave it – we understand that these are choices that every country must make for themselves.
Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, China and Korea.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: First question: China refuses to engage in military dialogue with the United States, but do you think China will come to the diplomatic table? And what is the U.S.’s current status on diplomatic dialogue with China?
MR MILLER: So we do think it’s important that we responsibly manage the relationship with China. The Secretary has spoken to this on a number of occasions, as has the President. Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink was in China last week. Ambassador Burns has had a recent – very recently a number of close conversations with his Chinese counterparts. And of course, as we’ve said before, Secretary Blinken looks forward to rescheduling his trip to China.
QUESTION: So do you think a possibility in Secretary Blinken and Chinese foreign minister meeting soon, soon as possible? Sometimes they deny it – I mean Chinese Government denied the meeting, this meeting.
MR MILLER: I won’t speak to the timing of any meetings other than to say that we believe that diplomatic engagement is important with China so we can responsibly manage the relationship with China, so we can directly raise concerns we have about the PRC’s behavior, and so we can look for areas where we can cooperate internationally.
QUESTION: On China?
QUESTION: One more thing.
MR MILLER: Yeah, last one.
QUESTION: As you know that due to recent inappropriate statement by Chinese ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming, the Chinese and South Korean ambassadors were each summoned. What can you say about China’s reckless diplomatic practices?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any comment other – on that other than Korea is, of course, a close ally of ours and we’ll continue to work with them on issues in the region.
QUESTION: On China?
MR MILLER: Anything else on China?
MR MILLER: Yeah, who – yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Sunday Times recently ran a lengthy piece highly sourced to anonymous State Department investigators about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and seemed overwhelmingly to finger China as the culprit. The piece made mention of the PREDICT Program but didn’t cite that it was a USAID/State Department program. As I think you’re probably aware, a piece was published in 2015 entitled, “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence,” in Nature Medicine. This was accompanied by a note that it was funded – an addendum, a correction really – that it was funded by USAID and it also noted that it went through the NIH protocol for going through so-called gain of function or gain-of-function research of concern, also called the creation of potentially pandemic pathogens.
Can you confirm for the record that the State – that PREDICT funded that program?
MR MILLER: I’m not familiar with that report. I’ll have to take the question back.
QUESTION: You’re not familiar with this report? This has been a major focus of the entire debate about pandemic origins.
MR MILLER: I’m familiar with the issue broadly. I’m not familiar with – excuse – I’m not familiar with the specific news report you’re referring to. I’ll be happy to take it back.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you. A couple of questions on the Palestinian issue. First of all, there was a report that the Israelis intend to erect or start about 4,000 settlements. I know that Mr. Kirby yesterday spoke to this at the White House. I wonder if you have any reaction and I wonder if you have any leverage to use to deter the Israelis from doing so.
MR MILLER: So I will say we have been clear, as Admiral Kirby was yesterday, that advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution. I’ve spoken to that from this podium a number of times. It’s critical for all parties to uphold the commitments made at regional meetings in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh to avoid measures that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution.
QUESTION: But you know – I mean, that’s fine. You always make the statement, but that does not deter the Israelis. I mean, we asked about this – it’s almost like Groundhog Day where we keep asking the same thing. You don’t use your leverage. You have a great deal of leverage with Israel.
MR MILLER: And —
QUESTION: I know you are not going to, let’s say, tie sending Israeli – the Israelis the military they need and so on to stopping the settlements. But what else can you do? Can you say that you are going to declare Ben-Gvir, for instance, and Smotrich as persona non grata or something like it?
MR MILLER: We will —
QUESTION: What measures will you do to show that you really mean what you say?
MR MILLER: We will continue to make concerns that we have known publicly. We’ll continue to make them privately. And I think you and I have had this conversation before where I actually think —
QUESTION: I understand, but it’s – but —
MR MILLER: Let me finish. I actually think it —
QUESTION: They never give us a break, the Israelis. It’s every other day.
MR MILLER: I actually think what – I actually think what the United States says matters. I think what we say from these podiums matters. I think that is the reason why people come and ask us questions all the time, because it’s important that we signal clearly what we believe. And we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Okay, a couple more on the Palestinian issue. Today the Israelis closed the file on investigating the circumstances of the death of Palestinian American Omar Assad back in January of 2022. Have you been informed that the investigation has concluded? And apparently, nobody was found responsible.
MR MILLER: I’ll take that one back and find out if we have.
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly I wanted to ask you about the U.S. embassy, okay? I know that today there is a meeting, a planning committee meeting and so on, to decide on one of two sites – one in Allenby and one in Arnona. And I don’t know what – how you would – which decision you will take or if you’re aware of that, to look in Jerusalem, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. But I think that according to the letter sent by Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf to a – one of the lawyers, that land belongs to a Palestinian family, especially the Allenby land. Will you still go with it if you – if it’s decided that this is the best location although it is owned by a Palestinian family?
MR MILLER: I will admit I’m not aware of the particulars with siting decisions for the U.S. embassy. I’m happy —
QUESTION: Can you please take the question? Thanks.
MR MILLER: I’m happy to look into it, yeah.
Go ahead, ma’am.
QUESTION: On that —
QUESTION: Change —
MR MILLER: I’ll come back. I’ll come back to you.
QUESTION: Change regions on —
QUESTION: A follow-up on China?
MR MILLER: Can I come – can I come back to you as soon as I get this —
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Sorry, sorry.
MR MILLER: I’ll come back if you need. If you want to do Israel or —
QUESTION: I’ve got one on Jerusalem.
MR MILLER: Okay, let me —
MR MILLER: Leon, go ahead with Sudan. Yeah.
QUESTION: On Sudan real quick.
MR MILLER: Sorry about that. Sorry, I was just trying to —
QUESTION: No problem. On Sudan, because there are two things. The – Saudi Arabia announced a major international conference for humanitarian aid to Sudan. It doesn’t say where that would be held, but it’s apparently June 19th. And that would be jointly led by Qatar, Egypt, Germany, the EU, and the United Nations, and surprisingly the U.S. is not part of it. So could you explain why and if that is in fact the case, or are you going to be part of this conference?
And then secondly on Sudan, could you give us the exact status right now of the talks, I mean, that were suspended but the talks in Jeddah? And are the delegations still physically there? Is there anything, or is it already over?
MR MILLER: So I will say first of all with respect to humanitarian assistance, leaving aside this conference, which I’ll happy to – I’ll be happy to get more specifics on, the United States remains the largest single humanitarian donor to the region. We’ve been involved in delivering humanitarian assistance to the region since the outset of this conflict. And of course, the – one of the major purposes of the ceasefire that we along with our Saudi partners have helped broker, the series of ceasefires, was to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
So we will remain engaged in trying to secure the conditions to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance and then get humanitarian assistance into the country. And —
QUESTION: Okay. But are you in fact participating in —
MR MILLER: I’ll get – I don’t know. I’ll get you a direct answer to that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Because, I mean, the Secretary of State obviously was there last week.
MR MILLER: Yeah, we were just – I can’t – but whether we’re involved in one conference or not, I don’t know the answer to that. But I can tell you our humanitarian assistance commitment to the region has been unparalleled, as well as the work we’ve done to make sure that humanitarian assistance by other countries can flow into the region.
With respect to the question about talks, they have been suspended. Ambassador Godfrey, who was in the region leading the U.S. delegation, is back in the United States now for consultation. We have other officials who are in the region to resume engagement if and when conditions merit it. But as you noted, the talks are suspended at this time.
QUESTION: So there’s no – any American delegation in Jeddah still?
MR MILLER: No, there are American officials. Ambassador Godfrey is not there. We do have an American official who’s in —
QUESTION: Yeah, but the —
MR MILLER: We – yeah.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
MR MILLER: Was it Sudan? Because I thought I had one more Sudan. I swear, I’ll do the Sudan and then I’ll come to you.
QUESTION: I had two questions. I’ve got a different question on Yemen.
MR MILLER: Okay, let me – go ahead, Olivia.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt.
MR MILLER: Sorry.
MR MILLER: I am not aware of any – I’m not aware of any such conversations. And I would say that when I was the Justice Department spokesperson I very much did not enjoy it when people from other agencies commented on ongoing cases, so I will decline to do so here.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, just broadly —
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — if it’s not specific to Mar-a-Lago – I mean, this is one of a series of potential compromises to the Pence documents, Biden documents, the Teixeira disclosures. I mean, has there been a net effect on information sharing between the United States and its allies?
MR MILLER: So I will say that, speaking broadly, we do have conversations with our allies and our partners about these exact issues. There are times they have questions for them, and we answer those questions honestly and forthrightly. But we remain committed to sharing intelligence with our allies and partners when it’s appropriate to do so. That’s actually been one of the hallmarks of this administration, of our strategy to counter Russia’s war in Ukraine. We were sharing intelligence in an unprecedented way with our allies and partners leading up to the war, and of course declassifying intelligence in some cases, and we’ll continue to do so when it’s appropriate to do so.
QUESTION: But you’ve heard of no concerns about the U.S.’s ability to have proper custodianship of that intelligence?
MR MILLER: No.
QUESTION: Separate topic since I waited patiently? Yesterday —
MR MILLER: You can have as many as you would like. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yesterday the White House said that the U.S. had made it – made its concerns known to the Cubans regarding the potential spy facilities which – or existing spy facilities with China, for China. Can you offer some more context there? What engagement has taken place, if any? Are the Cubans being incentivized in any way not to deal with the Chinese?
MR MILLER: I can’t speak to that other than to say that the administration has raised those concerns privately with the Cuban Government, and I can’t give any more details about the nature of those conversations.
QUESTION: How recently did those conversations take place?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to get into that either.
MR MILLER: And she has the floor. She has the floor, so —
QUESTION: I do have a list. I’ll do a couple more. Can you provide an update on the status of the most recently detained American in Russia? Is there an effort underway to determine if he’s wrongfully detained?
MR MILLER: So I will say that with respect to Michael Travis Leake, embassy officials attended his arraignment on June 10 and are seeking consular access. When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, we work to provide all appropriate assistance, and we are doing so in that case. We take seriously our commitment to U.S. citizens abroad. Their safety and security is our first priority.
QUESTION: And on the question of whether he might be wrongfully detained or not?
MR MILLER: So we have not made any such determination at this point, but any time a U.S. citizen is detained, we review the circumstances surrounding the detention, including those in Russia, for any indicators that they are wrongfully detained.
QUESTION: Okay. And just checking: Has the U.S. detected any movement of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus since that specter arose recently?
MR MILLER: I – let me defer that one to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Okay. I will cede the floor (inaudible).
MR MILLER: Cede the floor. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So how many do I get? (Laughter.) Just on Yemen, Special Envoy Lenderking is back in the region. There was a statement earlier today. He – I guess it was last month said that there are still – Iran is still sending weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, and there are also reports that the Houthis are impeding flow of goods inside the country. Is his trip just a part of his routine consultation – consultations with regional officials, or is there a concern that this I guess relatively – I guess you can call it somewhat of a ceasefire the past year or so is kind of collapsing?
MR MILLER: So I won’t speak to the details of his trip other than to say that we remain engaged in seeing that that ceasefire is upheld and remain actively involved in the region. The Secretary had discussions about this when we were in Saudi Arabia last week attending the meetings of the GCC – had a number of bilateral conversations about it – but with respect to this specific trip, I don’t have anything to offer.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on Secretary Blinken’s —
MR MILLER: It is part of our ongoing engagement in the region. It’s not necessarily a follow-up. It’s – we have an ongoing series of engagements.
QUESTION: You guys – are you still seeing – is the U.S. still seeing Iranian weapons – are there still – do you still see Iranian weapons flowing into the country?
MR MILLER: Let me take that one back.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just a second one.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Lebanon, I believe the country is going to – they have a parliamentary session tomorrow, maybe to elect a new president. Now there are two candidates, one backed by Syrian and Iranian proxies or backsides and another one that – another candidate who is an IMF official and that the – his opposing, I guess – the opposing candidates and those sides backing him are claiming he’s backed by the West and the U.S. specifically. Does the U.S. have a stance on this upcoming presidential election and/or either of the two candidates?
MR MILLER: So what I’ll say is we won’t predict outcomes. We do believe that until a president is selected the parliament must be allowed to continue its work to get that job done. We remain committed to Lebanon’s sovereignty, and as we press the country’s leadership to adopt a sense of urgency in meeting the critical needs of the Lebanese people, starting with the selection of a president. And it’s important to note that our support for the Lebanese people cannot substitute for the work that the Lebanese Government, including the parliament, must urgently undertake to fulfill its responsibilities for – to its citizens. And then —
QUESTION: On this, Matthew, news reports said that Under Secretary Nuland called the speaker of – the speaker of the house yesterday and talked to him about the upcoming elections. What was her message to him? And do you have any message to the Lebanese parliament at this time?
MR MILLER: She did have a constructive conversation with the speaker of the Lebanese parliament yesterday. She thanked the speaker for his willingness to try to maintain a quorum and thereby hold open electoral sessions so that parliament can select a president. And they also discussed the urgent need to pass meaningful legislation that can unlock IMF support and create lasting change to get Lebanon back on the path to civility – stability and prosperity.
All right, Alex – go ahead.
QUESTION: Did she ask him specifically to do – to elect a president tomorrow?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment other than what I just mentioned (inaudible).
Alex, last – and this will be the last one.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. On South Caucasus, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were supposed to meet in Washington this week, which apparently was canceled. I was just wondering how much of this reflects the state of the negotiation process and the differences. I mean, you don’t expect us to believe that this is another (inaudible) on Google Calendar issue, is it?
MR MILLER: Not at all. It was 100 percent due to scheduling issues. We look forward to hosting another round of talks in Washington as the parties continue to pursue a peaceful dialogue for the South Caucasus region. As we’ve said before, we believe direct dialogue is key to resolving the remaining issues. We believe an agreement is within reach. This meeting unfortunately couldn’t go forward 100 percent due to scheduling issues, and we look forward to rescheduling it as soon as we can.
QUESTION: Do you expect them to visit Washington by the end of this month?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to put a timeframe on it other than to say we look forward to holding the meeting again.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Thank you all.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)