Department Press Briefing – June 4, 2021
2:06 p.m. EST
MS PORTER: Good afternoon and thank you so much for joining today’s briefing. I just have one announcement at the top, and then we will resume taking questions.
As a part of our continued U.S. support for the people of Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken announced today that the United States is providing more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to nearly $3.9 billion since 2002.
For many years, the United States has prioritized support for Afghan returnees, refugees, displaced persons, and other vulnerable populations. This assistance from the American people will allow our partners to provide lifesaving protection, shelter, livelihood opportunities, health care, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
As the United States withdraws forces from Afghanistan, we will continue to support the peaceful, stable future of – the Afghan people want and deserve, and using our full diplomatic, economic, and assistance toolkit.
We urge the Taliban and Afghan leaders to accelerate progress toward negotiated political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to bring an end to more than 40 years of conflict and create the conditions that will allow refugees to return to their homes safely.
And we’ll start taking your questions in just one minute.
Let’s go to Cindy Saine.
QUESTION: Yes, hello. Thank you so much. My Afghan service colleagues are asking whether this new assistance is brand new or whether it was part of the previously announced $300 million. Thank you so much.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Cindy. This – again, to reiterate the announcement at the top, this is new funding, and this funding, to just be a little bit more specific, includes $157.5 million from USAID and also $109 million from the State Department. So that will bring our total from Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 humanitarian assistance to more than 534 – I’m sorry, $543 million. And again, this totals $3.9 billion since 2002.
Let’s go to Simon Lewis.
OPERATOR: And your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I have a question on Iran. We’re reporting that the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany are not going to seek a resolution – a Board of Governors’ resolution at the IAEA Board of Governors next week over Iran’s failure to explain uranium traces at three sites. Can you confirm that and tell us why?
And if the Iranians fail to explain these – the Iranians fail to explain these uranium traces, why should you trust them to adhere to the terms of a renewed JCPOA agreement, assuming you can get one? And are you going easy on them over this in hopes of securing a new deal? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. So for your first question, I’m not able to comment on that from here and would have to refer you back to the IAEA. But again, as you know, these talks are ongoing, and again, we’ll continue to underscore that to enable a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA commitments, we’d like to build on the meaningful process that we’ve achieved and keep on doing that moving forward. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to announce.
Let’s go to Said Arikat.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. Very quickly, Jalina, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met today with Palestinian Americans. Can you share with us the topics he discussed with them and what kind of commitment he may have made or reiterated a U.S. commitment to help the Palestinians?
And second, I also wanted to ask about the ongoing sort of horrible situation in Gaza in terms of medicines, in terms of the people leaving or being allowed to leave the strip. Thank you very kindly.
MS PORTER: I think if I still have you, number one, I’ll answer your first question quickly. I can confirm the meeting, but I don’t have any other details to preview on the details of the meeting. But if I still have you, Said, can you repeat your first – your second question? Excuse me.
QUESTION: My second question, the situation has not – and despite there has been a ceasefire for the past, whatever, almost two weeks or close to that, two weeks, yes, in terms of patients who are in need of desperate health care and so on being allowed through the crossings into Israel, and to the West Bank, and to Egypt, and so on. So what is the administration doing in terms of either pressuring Egypt and Israel to allow the Gaza patients in and out? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Yes, thank you for holding. So what I would say to that is that we’re certainly not going to get ahead of the process that’s underway. And any other details we have to preview, we’ll be able to share those at a later time.
Let’s go to Jiha Ham.
OPERATOR: And their line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. So the U.S. is sharing 25 million vaccine doses worldwide, but the administration has no plans to share vaccines with the DPRK. I’m wondering if it is because simply there is no such request from North Korea, or it is just because there is a political decision you have made not to share the vaccines with countries like North Korea.
And my second question, if I may, the South Korean Government reiterated its commitment or willingness to resume its tourism project with North Korea. Could you tell us how you view on this? Is tourism between the two Koreas subject to U.S. or international sanctions? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Jiha. So to your – to answer your first question, no specific comment on any asks from the DPRK. But what I will say is that the United States and this administration has been priding itself as being a leader in vaccine diplomacy.
To your second question, we certainly have no comment from here on that either.
Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan.
OPERATOR: And their line is open. And Rosiland Jordan, if you’re on mute —
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, we can hear you now.
QUESTION: Okay, sorry about that. I see that the Secretary is scheduled to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week to testify about the proposed coming fiscal year budget. Are there particular items in the budget that the Secretary is really going to defend, especially since there is a pronounced anti-foreign aid component among congressional Republicans? And if so, how is he going to make the best case for defending that funding?
MS PORTER: Thank you for the question, Rosiland. So, of course, we can confirm that the Secretary will be testifying on the Hill next week, but we certainly won’t be able to get ahead of his testimony or preview anything from here today.
Let’s go to Hiba Nasr.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I want to ask a question about Lebanon. The start of the trial of the Ayyash case at a special tribunal for Lebanon has been cancelled due to insufficient funding. And the tribunal itself will have to close if it is unable to solve the funding problem. Do you have any comment on that, especially that the U.S. offered $10 million for information on Ayyash?
And I have one more question on Iran: Do we expect anything or a significant announcement before the Iranian election?
Let’s go to (inaudible). My apologies if I pronounced your name incorrectly.
QUESTION: You did great. Thank you so much, pronouncing (inaudible). Thank you so much for taking my call. I am just going to – regarding – I’m going to ask you regarding the current situation – as you know that Ethiopia – the Ethiopian Government just put out a statement this past weekend – I mean a week ago – for the situation that they going to have a second case for military movements or military action in Tigray. So what’s your assessment of the current situation? Are you still waiting for the Eritreans also to withdraw from Tigray region? And what’s the current situation in term of the overall on your assessment? Thank you so much.
MS PORTER: So thank you for your question. So what I can say at a broad level is that of course the United States has concerns about the crisis in the Tigray region, of course, as well as other threats to both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. The people in Tigray continue to suffer human rights violations, various abuses, atrocities, and urgently need humanitarian relief that is being blocked by the Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries as well as other armed actors. And, of course, the parties – despite any significant diplomatic engagement, we call on the parties to the conflict in Tigray that have no meaningful steps or – to end the hostility, to pursue a peaceful resolution to the political crisis.
Let’s take our last question from Pearl Matibe.
QUESTION: Hello, Jalina, and thank you so much for taking my question. Happy Friday. I’m wondering now that we are almost exactly 30 days or a month away from July 4th, the United States celebrates its independence. And given your foreign policy, looking at your domestic policy that determines your foreign policy, where do you think you are at now this number of days into President Biden’s administration? How can you – how are you assessing – what are the indicators that you are succeeding in this new foreign policy approach? Maybe if you can share something about that.
MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. So as you noted, we are 30 days away from July 4th, but at the same time President Biden has also already previewed all the accomplishments that our administration has made within the first 100 days, so I would have to guide you back to his remarks that he made to the public that day and any other remarks on the administration at a wider level to the White House.
That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you all so much for joining, and I hope you have a great weekend ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)
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