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1:31 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER:  Hello, everyone.  Sorry for being a few minutes late.

QUESTION:  Yes, well, we won’t hold it against you, your first day on the job and you show up 15 minutes —

MR MILLER:  Are you going to let me speak, before we get into grilling me, Matt?

QUESTION:  Of course.

MR MILLER:  Or are you going to just jump right in to the holding me accountable part?

QUESTION:  Well, this is kind of like off the record first bit.

MR MILLER:  Understand.  Let me start with a few brief remarks before we turn to your questions.  Excuse me.  I’m recovering from a little bit of a cold, so.

The Secretary is on his way back from a successful trip to Japan and Papua New Guinea, where we continued work revitalizing and strengthening alliances around the world.  Thanks to our shared efforts, the G7 is now stronger and more united than ever on our shared goals.

First, we made clear that we are united on the core elements that underpin our common approach to China.  We stand together as partners on a set of core shared principles.

Second, we are deepening our cooperation on economic security and resilience, which includes strengthening and diversifying supply chains, launching a new coordination platform to help deter and counter economic coercion, and affirming the need to protect emerging technologies.

Third, we reaffirmed our commitment to addressing global challenges, including the climate crisis.  We launched a Clean Energy Action Plan, which underscores the need for investment and incentives to build a clean energy economy of the future and create jobs at home and around the world.

We made clear we will continue to support the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s invasion.  In coordination with the G7, Australia, and other partners, we imposed new sanctions to further degrade Russia’s military and deny Russia resources to fuel its continued aggression and abuses against the people of Ukraine.  The sanctions hit over 200 entities, individuals, vessels, and aircraft.

Finally, President Biden announced our 38th tranche of security assistance for Ukraine’s courageous defenders, including fourth generation fighter aircraft training.  We are honoring our commitment to stand with Ukraine as long as it takes.  We welcome and support Ukraine’s commitment to a just peace, based on fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

And then let me just close by saying earlier today while in Papua New Guinea, Secretary Blinken reaffirmed our continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific and affirmed a vision of cooperation and partnership to address shared challenges, bolster Pacific regionalism, advance economic growth and sustainable development, maintain peace and security in the region, and expand opportunities for our people.

And with that, before I go to Matt, let me just say a few personal comments, and that’s that it is a – both an honor and a privilege for me to stand here before you, to speak to you and to the American people about the work that the men and women in this department do every day on their behalf.  I have long admired the work that goes on in this room, both from my predecessors that have stood here to take your questions, and of all of you who do so much to explain the work that we do to the American public and to the world and to hold us accountable.  And so my pledge to you will be that as long as I have the privilege of coming before you to take your questions every day, I will answer them as forthrightly as I can, share as much as information with you as I possibly can, and understanding that when I mess up – which I’m sure I will – you all will hold me to account.

And with that, Matt, you want to kick us off?

QUESTION:  Yes, please.  Well, before I get into it, I want to say welcome aboard.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  And I’m sure you’ll do just fine.  Two words of advice: don’t use the word of irregardless, because it doesn’t exist, and also fulsome doesn’t mean what you think it means.

MR MILLER:  I find myself —


MR MILLER:  — in longstanding agreement with you on both of those issues.

QUESTION:  (Laughter.)  All right.  So anyways —

MR MILLER:  And I reject the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary has changed the definition of fulsome, but I’m with you.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Well, anyway, welcome.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  And I’m sure we’ll have many fun times here in this room.  Let me start with Israel and the Middle East.  You put out a statement last night, or at least it was put out under your name, which was not particularly enthusiastic – let’s say it wasn’t enthusiastic at all.  It was actually highly critical of Israel’s decision on Homesh settlement, or outpost, as it were.  I’m wondering: one, have you heard anything in response from the Israelis to your criticism; two, does your criticism still stand, whether you have heard anything or not?

And then secondly, the second paragraph of your statement referred to the letters that had been exchanged between former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and former U.S. President George Bush – W. Bush.  And you seem to be complaining, and this is the second time this has happened – not – the first time under your name but the second time it has happened – that you guys have complained about this.  And yet it was in fact the Obama administration that said when it was in office that it no longer recognized or no longer felt bound by the assurances that were given by both sides in these.  So, why do you expect the Israelis to uphold this when you guys haven’t for 12 years?

MR MILLER:  So, let me start by restating what we said in the statement before I get to your questions, and that is that we are deeply troubled by the Israeli Government’s recent order that allowed citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which, according to Israeli law, was illegally built on private Palestinian land.  As you referred to, Matt, as our statement said last night, that order – this order is inconsistent with both former Prime Minister Sharon’s written commitment to the Bush administration in 2004 and, significantly, the current Israeli Government’s commitments to the Biden administration.

With respect to your question about communications with the Israeli Government, of course, we engage with our Israeli counterparts on a number of levels. all the time.  I’m not going to get into speaking specifically about the contents of those communications.  And I will say with respect to the letters our view has been clear and consistent that the expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution.  It exacerbates tensions, it further harms trust between the two parties, and that is consistent with the views of previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, including the views expressed in that exchange of letters.

QUESTION:  But I don’t care who the letters were exchanged between.  They could have been between Golda Meir and Lyndon Johnson, but the fact of the matter is – is that you guys were the ones who first said you’re no longer bound by them, so why do you keep bringing – why – if you think that what the Israelis are doing now is inconsistent with what they’ve told you – I mean “you” meaning this administration – that’s one thing.  But why keep bringing up the Sharon-Bush letters?

MR MILLER:  Because I don’t agree that our position has changed over time.  Our position has been clear and consistent across administrations, and it is our view that that letter was not withdrawn.

QUESTION:  Really?  The last administration, really?

MR MILLER:  It’s our view – our view is that —

QUESTION:  That was a clear and consistent view in the – during the last administration?

MR MILLER:  It is our view that the letter to which you referred has not been withdrawn and that the Israeli Government —

QUESTION:  It hasn’t?  Okay.

MR MILLER:  And that the Israeli Government has not withdrawn the obligations it made in its letter.

QUESTION:  Okay.  All right.  Well, then that’s interesting.  So, this administration still feels bound by the commitments that President George W. Bush made to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon back in —

MR MILLER:  We – our policy has not changed, and that is that the expansion of settlements —

QUESTION:  But I’m not asking – do you —

MR MILLER:  The letter has not been withdrawn and our policy has not changed.

QUESTION:  Well, then, what did the Obama administration do?  Maybe I shouldn’t ask you to speak —

MR MILLER:  I’m not a spokesperson for the Obama administration.  I’m not going to speak to them.  It’s what our policy is.

QUESTION:  No, but – well, but the current president was the vice president during the Obama administration, so I’m just – I am curious.  Do you expect the Israelis to uphold something that the Obama administration already said it was not interested in —

MR MILLER:  So, what I will say is we expect them to – to uphold their commitments that they made in that letter, their commitments that they made to the Biden administration, and, as I said, the fact that these settlements are illegal under current Israeli law.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Well, I could understand this a lot better if you just said that you expect them to uphold their commitments to the Biden administration.

MR MILLER:  Which I’ve said.

QUESTION:  The fact of the matter is that you’re asking them to uphold commitments that were made almost 20 years – 15 years ago that you – that the United States under the Obama administration has already said that they’re not bound by.  So why does Israel have to uphold them if you don’t?  And just drop it from the —

MR MILLER:  So again – no, again, we have not withdrawn that letter.  We do not believe that they have withdrawn their obligations under the letter.  But more to the point, these settlements would be inconsistent with current Israeli law and, as I said, consistent with the commitments that they made to this administration in the last few years.


QUESTION:  Can I have a follow-up?

QUESTION:  Just – wait, wait, I got one more.  It’ll be really brief on Homesh.  And – so the Israelis say that they are not going to rebuild anything on private Palestinian land.  Is that okay with you or is it – is that just a non-starter?

MR MILLER:  I would say, as we have said, we believe the expansion of the settlements undermines the geographic viability of the two-state solution – as I have stated.

QUESTION:  Including —

MR MILLER:  And their pledge was to remove all settlements from this area.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on that, Matt?

QUESTION:  Can I get a follow-up?

MR MILLER:  Yeah, go ahead, Andrea.

QUESTION:  Can we focus on the second paragraph as well?  Because clearly, Sharon did not observe any understanding about not going to the Temple Mount.  Is there an understanding, a legal understanding other than your concern, the U.S. concern about that holy area, about what you’re saying was the provocative visit?

MR MILLER:  I will just reiterate that we are deeply concerned by the provocative visit to Haram al-Sharif, Temple Mount.  We believe this holy space should not be used for political purposes, and we call on all parties to respect its sanctity.  And more broadly, we reaffirm the longstanding U.S. position in support of the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites and underline Jordan’s special role as the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

QUESTION:  Does that – did that apply when Israeli police entered the mosque, just in recent weeks?

MR MILLER:  I will say, not speaking with respect to that specific incidence – incident, but that we are concerned by any actions by either side that escalate tensions, and make an ultimate resolution more difficult.

QUESTION:  Aside from your statement, at what level has this been communicated to the Israeli Government?

MR MILLER:  As I said to Matt’s first question, we regularly communicate with the Israeli Government at a number of levels.  But I think it’s more productive for us to keep those conversations confidential.

QUESTION:  Matt, may I just follow on this?


QUESTION:  Thank you.  Good to see you behind the podium.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  And irregardless of what – (laughter) – I’m just kidding.

QUESTION:  No, no, no.  Not —

MR MILLER:  You’re going to get yourself ejected for that, and not by me.

QUESTION:  That’s okay.  All right.  I mean, look, good statement, strong statement, as far as stating your position on the settlements and so on and expansion and otherwise.  But what next?  I mean, regardless of the letters exchanged and so on, so we’ve heard from behind this podium by you, by the Secretary, by others, and so on, expressions of displeasure, of concern, and all these things.  But what steps are you willing to take?  I mean, it can be concerned, deeply concerned.  It can be – maybe you’re angry and so on.  But what steps can you take to really drive the point home?

MR MILLER:  So, I’m going to first of all somewhat disagree with the implicit premise of your question that the words that we deliver from this podium or elsewhere in the U.S. Government have no impact.  I think if that weren’t true, I wouldn’t be looking out at a full room of people here ready to ask what our position is on this issue and others.

QUESTION:  No, you underestimate your (inaudible).

QUESTION:  I didn’t say – I didn’t say that —

MR MILLER:  That’s – yeah.  No, I think that’s one thing I definitely don’t.  What I will say, Said, is that we will continue to make our views known – we will make our views known publicly, as we did in the statement last night, as I am here, and we will continue to make our views known privately.

QUESTION:  Are we ever going to hear “or else” kind of a thing?  You do this or else, this is our position?  And just before you answer that, let me ask you about my own village.  I mean, there are plans today to build in my own village, in Abu Dis, 400 housing units.  So, I mean, it seems that the Israelis, they may take what you say very seriously, but then they go on with their own plans.

MR MILLER:  I will say, with respect to those reports, we have made abundantly clear, on a number of occasions, that the Biden administration, like most before it, views the expansion of settlements as counterproductive and an obstacle to peace that undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution.  And Said, we will continue to make that view clear both publicly and privately to governments in the region.

QUESTION:  Building 400 housing units in the heart of that town, it will make it like Hebron.  It will be a flash point.  It will be a constant confrontation and so on.  I mean, would you – how would you dissuade them from doing such a thing?

MR MILLER:  I will – we will continue to make —

QUESTION:  Before it happens?

MR MILLER:  We will continue to make our views known, as I have just done.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  Humeyra.

QUESTION:  Hi, Matt.  Welcome, and good luck with your new gig.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  So, I just want to move to China.  A lot of things happened over the weekend, and President Biden said a shift in tides could occur shortly.  We’ve Chinese MFA come out and respond to that.  I don’t want you to read President Biden’s mind, but then I am curious if his comments were a reference to Secretary Blinken possibly rescheduling the Beijing trip.  When can that happen?  And after this weekend, do you see it more likely to happen soon rather than – sooner rather than later?

MR MILLER:  So, I don’t have any announcements, as you probably anticipated I would say.  Don’t have any announcements about rescheduling that trip or other further travel.  I think what I would say is that as you know, the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, met with Wang Yi.  I think it was week before last now, and this was one of the things that they discussed, the way in which the U.S. Government will continue to engage with China.  We’ve made clear that we think it’s important that we engage with China about issues of shared concern and about issues where we have concerns about actions by the PRC.

So, we continue to work through, with our colleagues at the White House and with our colleagues at other agencies in the U.S. Government, the timing of any engagements with China, who would make – who would be responsible for those engagements, where they would occur, when they would happen.  But I don’t, as I said to start, have any announcements to make today.

QUESTION:  Right.  So, your answer actually kind of answers my second question because we also know that other officials might be traveling, too.  There’s talk of Secretary Yellen, Kerry, Raimondo.  You said that there are talks across the government.  So, would you still say it’s more likely for Secretary Blinken to go first, or it might be another high-level Cabinet-level official going there?

MR MILLER:  I wouldn’t want to speculate at all about the timing or sequencing of events.  Secretary Blinken has made clear that he looks forward to rescheduling that visit – when conditions allow, but I don’t have any announcements to make about when that will happen.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then I have something specific on the Marshall Islands.  So, I just want you guys to clarify when you expect to finalize the new COFA agreement with the Marshall Islands.  Because Joe Yun was just there for three days, you guys have been negotiating this for more than a year, and he told Reuters on Saturday that he hoped to finalize the deal in – within the coming weeks.  But then Secretary Blinken said – told the Pacific Islands Forum today the U.S. is looking forward to entering negotiations with the Marshall Islands.  Did he misspeak or can you explain what —

MR MILLER:  No.  We continue to work on that matter.  It’s a high priority for us.  But I don’t have any further details to offer about when such a negotiations could be concluded.

QUESTION:  Do you think the fact that it wasn’t signed on this one was some sort of a setback, or —

MR MILLER:  No, not at all.  It’s a priority for us; as you know, we finalized other similar agreements in the region.  We’re continuing to work to this one and look to finalize it in short order.

QUESTION:  Can I change the topic?


QUESTION:  In the —

MR MILLER:  Oh, we got – before we do anything else on China, before we –

QUESTION:  On China?


QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome to the podium.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  China?  She was asking about the Marshall Islands.

MR MILLER:  Well she started in China, so some forbearance, Matt.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

QUESTION:  Is the State Department considering whether to lift sanctions on Chinese Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu?

MR MILLER:  No, we are not.  We – I’ll leave at that.  No, we are not.

QUESTION:  President Biden say during the press conference in Japan that it’s under negotiation.  So are you saying that the – President Biden have different —

MR MILLER:  Very – I – very much not so.  He also made clear that we are not planning to lift any sanctions on him or on China more broadly.

QUESTION:  But is the U.S. entertaining the idea of whether to not to lift sanctions to – for negotiation purpose?


Before – before – anything else on China, and then I’ll come —

QUESTION:  Taiwan?

MR MILLER:  I’ll come to you as soon as – go ahead.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) News.  So, there was a Taiwan Science and Technology Cooperation Dialogue today earlier, and I’m wondering if you could speak a little bit about how this fits within the wider framework of keeping Taiwan included in the Asia-Pacific commerce – body of commerce and development, and beyond that, within the global commerce and development area.

MR MILLER:  Let me take that one back and get you an answer.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  First off, welcome to the podium.  Nadia Bilbassy with Al Arabiya.  Iran just announced appointment of a new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alireza Enayati.  Do you support this, and do you see it as a way to de-escalate within the new frame of agreement that was signed between the Saudis and the Iranians recently?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any comment on the appointment of a new ambassador.  That’s an issue between Iran and Saudi Arabia.  As I think – believe we’ve said before, we welcomed – we welcome continued diplomatic engagement in the region.  But I – and if any such diplomatic engagements could lead Iran to curtail its malign activities in the region, we would, of course, support that.  But I don’t have any comment on that specific announcement.

QUESTION:  But some people were doubtful that the agreement actually can be implemented, but the fact that now they have appointed an ambassador – initially, the administration said they did support the agreement.  I’m just wondering if you see practically if this is – actually, will lead to more stability in the region, or do you still that Iran – you hold Iran accountable for everything else that it’s been doing in the region?

MR MILLER:   I think two things can be true.  Number one, they appointed an ambassador, and number two, we very much continue to hold responsible – Iran responsible for its activities in the region.

QUESTION:  Okay, thank you.

QUESTION:  Since you are in the region —

MR MILLER:  Yeah.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Do you have any comments on the on the Arab League summit final statement in general?

MR MILLER:  I will just say, as we have said before, we continue to oppose normalization with the Syrian regime.  We do not believe it was appropriate to admit – readmit Syria into the Arab League and we made that position clear to our partners in the region.  That said, if those countries are to continue to engage or to resume engagement with Syria, we think it’s important that they demand progress on a number of areas where we have concerns with Syria’s behavior and where we understand they have concerns with Syria’s behavior.  That would, of course, be the trafficking of Captagon, humanitarian issues in the region.  And so, while we oppose any normalization with the Assad regime, we do hope and expect that our partners in the region will press for progress on the many issues on which we have shared concerns.

QUESTION:  And one more:  Any comments on Hizballah war games yesterday in south Lebanon?

MR MILLER:  So, we have seen these reports.  We reiterate our position that Hizballah remains a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specifically Designated Global Terrorist.  Hizballah is more concerned with its own interests and those of its patron Iran than what is best for the Lebanese people.  And I just want to note something that the prime minister of Lebanon said, which is the event constituted a diminution of Lebanon’s authority and sovereignty, and add that moreover, it threatens Lebanon’s security and stability.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  Yeah, Alex.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Matt.  Welcome to the podium.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  I look forward to asking you some tough questions in the weeks and months ahead.


QUESTION:  But since it’s your first day, I have a very simple question.  Given what’s going on in Ukraine —

MR MILLER:  Simplest questions are sometimes the hardest ones, so —

QUESTION:  Let’s try it out.  Sixteenth month we are entering into Russian consistent attacks.  Today, Ukrainians woke up again to apartments damaged.  Is Russia a terrorist state?

MR MILLER:  So, we have not designated Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  As I think you’re aware, we’ve spoken to this before.  We don’t believe that that’s the most effective mechanism for holding Russia accountable, and that, in fact, doing so could have counterproductive – or could have counterproductive side effects in our ability to deliver humanitarian aid to the region.  But what I will say is we have continued to hold Russia account – to account through a number of other – another – a number of other steps.  Those started even before Russia invaded Ukraine with our delivery of weapons to Ukraine.  It’s continued with the sanctions and export controls that we have imposed and that our allies and partners have imposed on Russia.

And I think most significantly, it’s continued with the weapon systems that we have delivered to Ukraine; and as I said in my opening remarks, further weapon systems that we announced even in the last few days.  So, we will continue to look at all the ways that we can hold Russia accountable for its actions, but most significant of those is to continue to back our Ukrainian partners so they can repel the Russian forces that have invaded their country.

QUESTION:  And the reason why I’m asking is that because, given the familiar pattern that we have seen in terms of weapons – you guys have – first you say no and then you reconsider your decision.  I’m just wondering if you are still reconsidering your decision on designating Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

MR MILLER:  No, we —


MR MILLER:  We have said – look, we – we do always look at every tool that’s in our toolbox.  But we do not think that it is the most effective way to hold Russia accountable, at this time.  It does not necessarily or significantly add to the mechanisms we have already taken.  And I think you have to look at the measures that we have imposed – which have had a serious impact on the Russian economy, which have had a serious impact on Russian oil revenue, which of course helps fund the war machine.  And so, while there – we will always look at what other measures are appropriate to impose on Russia, I’m not going to make any apologies for the measures that we’ve imposed to date.

QUESTION:  And let me get your sense on what’s going on in Belgorod.

MR MILLER:  What’s the limited number of questions from one reporter, before you move on?

QUESTION:  It’s my last one.

MR MILLER:  I’m new here, so –

QUESTION:  I promise, my last one on this.  In Belgorod, what’s going on there?  Som what’s your sense of –

MR MILLER:  What’s going on where?

QUESTION:  In Belgorod.

QUESTION:  Belgorod.

QUESTION:  Belgorod.  The border – Russian-Ukrainian border, which is Russia side of the town.  And do you have any sense of what’s going on, and its implications?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any updates on activities on the ground.  I would refer you to the Pentagon for any updates, or of course the Ukrainian Government.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on that one?


QUESTION:  So, in Belgorod there were – there are obviously these reports, and there’s images online that suggest American weapons have been used.  So, I know you don’t know, but do you support U.S. weapons being used on Russian territory?  And would that change the calculus of providing F-16s to Ukraine?

MR MILLER:  So, with respect to the calculus of providing F-16s to Ukraine, the President has made very clear that we will begin training the Ukrainian military to pilot F-16s, and we will work with our allies and partners on the provision of F-16s to Ukraine.  I don’t have any announcements about when or how that will happen, or what countries they’ll come from.  But it is a priority for us, and we will begin to implement that in the coming months.

And then with respect to the broader policy question, we have made very clear to the Ukrainians that we don’t enable or encourage attacks outside Ukrainians’ borders, but I do think it’s important to take a step back and remind everyone, and remind the world, that it – of course it is Russia that launched this war.  It’s Russia that continues to launch attacks on civilians in Ukraine.  It’s Russia that’s targeted schools and hospitals and civilian infrastructure.  So, it is up to Ukraine to decide how they want to conduct their military operations, but it is Russia that has been the aggressor in this war.

Yeah, Jenny.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Matt.  Welcome to the podium.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Do you have any updates on the efforts to free Paul Whelan or Evan Gershkovich?  Has Russia engaged at all with the proposal that Secretary Blinken mentioned a couple months ago?

MR MILLER:  So, I don’t have any specific updates with regard to the proposal that we made.  As you know, as we’ve spoken to before, we oftentimes have found that it is not conducive to our efforts to return wrongful detainees home to speak about the details of those efforts.  So, we tend to, for the most part, keep them confidential.  I will say that I did see Paul Whelan’s comments in the interview that was released over the weekend.  And I can assure him and I can assure his family member that we have no higher priority than returning him safely home to the United States.

And the Secretary continues to work on it, other people in this building, other people throughout our government continue to engage on it.  And the same goes – the same holds true for Evan Gershkovich.  As we announced on Friday, the Russians again denied a consular visit for Evan.  It was the second time that they’ve refused to fulfill their obligations.  We will continue to press them to fulfill those obligations, as they are supposed to do under consular conventions.  And at the same time, we will continue to work to return both Evan and Paul to the United States.

QUESTION:  What sort of engagements have you had with the Russians on that front?  Are there plans to summon Antonov, for example, over the fact that they keep denying consular access to Evan?

MR MILLER:  Secretary Blinken had a call with Sergey Lavrov some time ago that we made known publicly.  And beyond that, for the reasons I outlined a minute ago, we’ll keep the communications confidential.

QUESTION:  Will he call again?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any announcements to make.  And for the most part, as I’ve said, usually we’ve found that it’s counterproductive in such a delicate situation as returning wrongfully detained Americans home to make public all of the work that we’re doing to secure their release.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Moving back to Sudan, do you have any update?  And are you – do you have any reason to believe that the parties will uphold the – this ceasefire, which is supposed to enter into force very shortly or has been already?

MR MILLER:  A few hours.  Yeah, a few hours.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Do you have any reason to believe that the parties will uphold this ceasefire , since they haven’t upheld any other ceasefire?  And could you tell us a little bit more on this monitoring mechanism, and who exactly is going to be monitoring, and if that has been set up definitively ahead of this ceasefire which is supposed to come into force –?

MR MILLER:  Let me make a few comments about this in response to your question.  Number one, we believe this was an important agreement that for the first time was signed by the two parties.  It will allow the delivery and distribution of humanitarian assistance.  It will allow the restoration of essential services.  The two parties are supposed to withdraw their forces from hospitals and essential public facilities.  These are all important steps for the Sudanese people.

And I will say, in response to your question, the first question about prospects for it, one of the things that is included in this ceasefire agreement that we think is important is this international monitoring mechanism.  And I’m not going to get into all of the details of that other than to say that from our part, Ambassador Godfrey will lead – will remain in Jeddah and lead the U.S. delegation that’s in charge with monitoring and implementing this agreement.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And that mechanism has been set up already, or I mean – it’s set up?  We know who’s in it?

MR MILLER:  Ambassador Godfrey will lead the U.S. —

QUESTION:  From the U.S.?

MR MILLER:  — for the U.S.

QUESTION:  But on the other side?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any further details to make public at this time?

QUESTION:  Who else is on it?

MR MILLER:  Other than Ambassador Godfrey leading, I don’t have any other specifics.

Yeah.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Welcome to the podium.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Late last week, there were some reports that Wagner Group has been trying to procure weapons for its fighters in Ukraine by sourcing them from African countries, specifically Mali, and those would be going to their fighters in Ukraine.  Do you have any confirmation of that or any sort of additional details?

MR MILLER:  Yeah.  What I will say is we do believe that Wagner is trying to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine, including by working through third – third-party countries where it has a foothold.  We have been informed that Wagner is seeking to transit material acquisitions to aid Russia’s war through Mali and is willing to use false paperwork for these transactions.  In fact, there are indications that Wagner has been attempting to purchase military systems from foreign suppliers, and route these weapons through Mali as a third party.

We have not seen, as of yet, that – any indications that these acquisitions have been finalized or executed, but we are monitoring the situation closely.  We have sanctioned a number of entities and individuals across multiple continents that support Wagner’s military operations, and we will have more to share on this question soon.

QUESTION:  Is there any sense that this might have been what happened in South Africa?  I mean, there was a lot of confusion related to the ambassador’s comments a few weeks ago now that there was shipments of weapons going out, he would bet his life on it.  The South African Government obviously objected to that characterization, and there was some confusion as to where, I think, all of that ended up.  And the South African Government is looking into it.  Is there a sense that it might not have been South Africa that was shipping weapons but that possibly a third-party group like Wagner or another mercenary group was trying to use that port or ship weapons that were not an official sort of South African weapons shipment?

MR MILLER:  I don’t think I have anything to add other than what we said several weeks ago, which is we were concerned about that incident in South Africa, but I don’t have any other – any further details to share.

QUESTION:  Well, can you just say – how recent are – the guidance that you just read on Mali?  Did that just – was that from like a couple days ago or is it from December?  And —

MR MILLER:  It’s new.  This is a new —

QUESTION:  New from —

MR MILLER:  A new map.

QUESTION:  New from —

MR MILLER:  A new concern from the —

QUESTION:  Yes.  From?

MR MILLER:  No, the broad concern is not new.  These are specific details.

QUESTION:  Well – no, no, no, I get that.  But that language and this specific allegation that they might be trying to get stuff from Mali, how new?  Like a day?

MR MILLER:  The last several days.

QUESTION:  Two days?  Three days?

MR MILLER:  I think we made it public in – under some form or fashion.  It was reported over the weekend and confirming it here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.


QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Congratulations on the new role, and the best of luck with the briefings.  Earlier this morning in Manhattan, New York, there was an attack against the Turkish diplomatic mission just across the street from the United Nations as well.  I think the suspect is still at large.  What would you have to comment as the State Department against this – about this attack against a diplomatic mission?

MR MILLER:  Sure.  We have seen these reports of vandalism at the Turkish House in New York City.  I can tell you the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service is working with local law enforcement authorities on the investigation.  We condemn the vandalism.  Violence against –  diplomatic crimes is – in – within the United States is a punishable crime.  And for additional details, I’d refer you to the NYPD.

QUESTION:  A tiny follow-up on that.  There’s obviously a long-running history of attacks against Turkish diplomats and diplomatic missions.  Even in Los Angeles, we had a diplomat that was killed by the ASALA Armenia terrorist group.  So have you been able to find out if there’s been any plans or plots prior to this attack and if threats against Turkish diplomatic missions on U.S. soil?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any other further – any further details to add.  Obviously, it’s a matter that remains ongoing, and I think, as will often by the case about investigative matters, I would leave comment to law enforcement – in this case, the NYPD.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  I would like to ask on the G7 Summit in Hiroshima.  Ukrainian President Zelenskyy joined the summit by arriving at Hiroshima on a French Government airplane.  I know its operation was basically arranged by French and Japanese Government, but I’m wondering if United States provided any diplomatic or security support regarding this – Zelenskyy’s trip?

MR MILLER:  I’m not aware of any.  I would refer you to the French Government and the Japanese Government for further details, especially since he traveled on a French Government plane.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you, and welcome to the podium.  I wanted to ask you about Bakhmut.  The fog of war there has been making it very difficult —

MR MILLER:  About where?  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  Bakhmut in Ukraine.  So. the fog of war there has made it very difficult to understand who is in the control of the city.  I was wondering if you could shed any light on whether the U.S. assesses that Russia or Ukraine is currently in control.  Have you been in communication with your Ukrainian counterparts on the city?  And does the U.S. address the situation there – we do know that there are very few Ukrainian troops.  Does the U.S. assess that is a setback or perhaps part of a broader strategy?

MR MILLER:  So again, we remain in constant contact with our Ukrainian partners, really at several – at several different levels of the government, from the State Department, from the White House, obviously from the Pentagon.  And for any comment about the military situation on the ground, I think it’s more appropriate that it comes from the Pentagon or from Ukraine themselves.

I would just note that whatever the exact situation in Bakhmut, as the President noted over the weekend, the Russian military and private military corporation, the Wagner Group, collectively suffered around 100,000 casualties in its assault.  And in their attack on Bakhmut – we’ve all seen the pictures – destroyed the city.  And so of course we lament the loss of life there, but I don’t have any specific comment on the situation on the ground.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Just a welcome and good luck, of course.  Sir, yesterday we’ve had elections in Greece, I’m sure you know.  The current prime minister, who is a pro-American, emerged as the big winner against the left.  I wanted to know if you have any comment.

MR MILLER:  Sure.  First of all, I’ll say about our relationship with Greece, the U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship has strong support across political parties in both the United States and Greece.  It has been strengthened over years of cooperation between multiple administrations and governments in both countries.  We congratulate the people of Greece on exercising their democratic right to vote in the birthplace of democracy.  And for our part, we look forward to continuing to deepen our partnership with Greece and work with any government that’s chosen by the Greek people.

QUESTION:  Thank you.


QUESTION:  Thank you.  First and foremost, welcome to the podium.

MR MILLER:  You all have to stop saying that.  It’s every —

QUESTION:  No, it’s a tough one, but I am sure you will enjoy this experience.

My question – the Senate hearing on the Western Balkans took place last week.  And given that State Department officials Gabriel Escobar and Derek Chollet gave their testimonies, I have a few follow-up questions.

So, Counselor Chollet said at the hearing that the U.S. wants to deepen the relationship with Serbia, and at the same time Chairman Menendez opened the hearing on the Western Balkans with attacks on the Serbian president, who is the actor in the ongoing high-stakes negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.

My question:  Do you find this approach constructive and aligned to the U.S. diplomatic effort and what Secretary Blinken is trying to achieve between Serbia and Kosovo?  That’s my first question.

And the second question, Chollet said that Western Balkans is the priority for Secretary Blinken and the Biden administration.  He said, quote, “For so many of us this is personal.”  What does are this “personal” mean exactly, if you can unpack this a little bit for us?  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  Let me take that question back and get you a more complete answer.  Given that you asked about what Counselor Chollet meant and another meant, I’ll take that question back and get you a complete answer.

QUESTION:  And the first question about the attack on the president in the middle of the negotiation while the U.S. was saying they want to deepen —

MR MILLER:  I’ll take that one back as well.

QUESTION:  Okay, thank you.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.  Let me get – you’ve had four or five, I’m not sure – back to – I’ll come back to you, yeah.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  There was a G7 summit was going on in Japan at the Hiroshima on the 19th.  And on the other side there was a summit meeting with five Central Asian countries led by China, which began on the 18th at Xi’an.  It’s western China.  How does the United States view Chinese independent diplomacy?

MR MILLER:  How does the U.S. view —

QUESTION:  How the United States view Chinese independent diplomacy?

MR MILLER:  Independent diplomacy with respect to —


MR MILLER:  — Ukraine?

QUESTION:  No, for – in China, at ASEAN.  Chinese, they did a summit meeting on the 18th with Central Asian countries.

MR MILLER:  Oh, sure.  I will say, with respect to that, we have never asked any country in the world to choose between the United States and China.  As you know, Secretary Blinken traveled to Central Asia just several months ago to talk about how we can deepen U.S. diplomatic and economic ties with the region.  But at the same time, we expect and understand that countries will have diplomatic relations, and discuss the concerns and interests they share with China as well.

QUESTION:  Thank you.



QUESTION:  Yeah, thank you.  Congratulation on your new position.  So, China announced yesterday that they banned major Chinese firms from purchasing products of Micron technology, saying that they found significant security risks.  Do you have any reaction to it?

MR MILLER:  Yeah.  So, number one, we’re aware of the news.  We saw those reports.  Obviously, we have very serious concerns that with the reports that the PRC has restricted the sale of Micron chips to certain domestic industries.  The Department of Commerce is engaging directly with the PRC to make our view clear.  And broadly, this action appears inconsistent with the PRC’s assertions that it is open for business and committed to a transparent regulatory framework.

QUESTION:  And another quick one.  There were fake images of explosion outside the Pentagon, circulated alarm on the internet from this morning, I think.  So, do you have any information on this you can share with us?

MR MILLER:   I don’t.  I’m happy to follow up after the briefing.

QUESTION:  Sorry, just on Micron.  Is that – is there anything in your guidance there about Huawei?

MR MILLER:  No.  I don’t have any comment on Huawei.

QUESTION:  No?  Okay.

MR MILLER:  No.  I think – I think our comments about Huawei are well known.

QUESTION:  So, I mean, if you guys – if you guys – if you guys ban or seek to ban a Chinese company from doing – from conducting business here or overseas, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do the same thing?

MR MILLER:  I will say that we have made clear that – our concerns that we have with Huawei and the use of Huawei technology.  That’s a national security concern.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Well, yeah.  Well, but okay, but —

MR MILLER:  But – and —

QUESTION:  — China is allowed to have national security concerns too, aren’t they?

MR MILLER:  They are.  But as I said, they have made clear —

QUESTION:  But so, they’re just —

MR MILLER:  They have made clear that they’re open for business and said there would be a transparent —

QUESTION:  Well, you’ve made clear that you’re open for business too.  (Laughter.)

MR MILLER:  Hold on.  Hold on.  They have said they would have a transparent regulatory framework, something I think we have here that does not exist in China.

QUESTION:  Okay.  But still —

MR MILLER:  I think the difference is the transparent regulatory framework I just said.  The rule of law is quite clear in the United States.

QUESTION:  Okay, but —

MR MILLER:  Less so —

QUESTION:  Well, I don’t know.  People are talking – there are states in the U.S. that are banning TikTok, right?  Not just from government phones but from all kinds of phones.  So —

MR MILLER:  I think I’m —

QUESTION:  So – well, you may be on solid ground as it relates to the federal government, but – and with Huawei because – but still, why can’t the Chinese ban or stop —

MR MILLER:  The Chinese Government – the Chinese Government —

QUESTION:  Why can’t they?

MR MILLER:  The Chinese Government can take —

QUESTION:  I mean, even if they don’t have a legitimate reason to.  Why can’t they?

MR MILLER:  So, they can take every decision that they want to take, obviously, but we believe that it ought to be taken —

QUESTION:  Okay, so what’s the —

MR MILLER:  — through a transparent regulatory framework.  They’ve said that’s what they’re going to do.

QUESTION:  Okay, so the – okay.  All right.

MR MILLER:  We don’t believe they have in this case.

QUESTION:  So, what’s the – all right.  Okay.  So what are you going to do about it?

MR MILLER:  As I said, the Department of Commerce is engaging directly with the Chinese Government.



QUESTION:  Thank you —

MR MILLER:  And then I think I’ll – this will be the last question.  I have to wrap up.

QUESTION:  Thanks so much.  The —

QUESTION:  No, I – wait, wait, because I’ve got one more.


QUESTION:  Yes.  (Inaudible.)

MR MILLER:  This is definitely the last question.  Oh, you in the – you, you, and then —

QUESTION:  Thanks so much.

MR MILLER:  — we’ll close with Matt.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but mine is not —

MR MILLER:  For whatever – for whatever —

QUESTION:  Mine is – mine is not going to be difficult.

MR MILLER:  For whatever has broken front – while I’m at the podium that I have no idea about.

Go ahead, Alex.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Moving to Georgia, South Caucasus.  A number of events happened since our last press conference.  First of all, we found out that Lavrov’s sanctioned daughter showed up in Georgia, and Russia – Russian aircraft showed up in Tbilisi.  Now Georgian aircraft is poised to fly to Moscow.  Where has the U.S. been in these days?  There is no reaction and no sanction.

MR MILLER:  So, I will say with respect to Russian aircraft in Georgia, many Western countries, including the United States, prohibit Russian aircraft from entering airspace.  We have been concerned about direct flights between Russia and Georgia resuming.  It mean – it could mean that companies in Georgian airports could be at risk for sanctions.  We – the entire Western community has distanced itself from this regime, and now is not the time to increase engagement with Russia.

QUESTION:  But do you have any timetable for reaction?  So, it has been happening already.

MR MILLER:  I do not.  I do not.

Go ahead.  I said I’d come to you next.

QUESTION:  Welcome to the podium, Matt.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  The supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday met with the country’s diplomats and ambassadors.  He basically gave them guidance on how to conduct their diplomacy, the short version of which is, number one, he said don’t beg, don’t conduct a, quote/unquote, “begging” type of diplomacy.  Even if you don’t mean it, make sure it doesn’t sound like you’re begging.  Number two, stick to your own – to our principles, the Islamic Republic’s principles.  And when it comes to heroic flexibility, which he had used before in terms of showing flexibility during negotiations – for example, with the P5+1 about the nuclear program – he clarified here that he didn’t mean that people – that the Iranian side give up their principles or what they believe in, but to work around anything that may come in front of what they’re trying to achieve.

So, do you have any comments?  And do you think given these issues, it seems like they’re toughening again.  And all the concerns that the U.S. has with Iran, is continuing diplomacy with Iran possible, especially with regards to the nuclear program?

MR MILLER:  So. I will just say, without commenting in detail on those reports, some of which I’m familiar with, some of which I’m not, that we continue to – it continues to be a first principle for this administration that Iran should not – that Iran not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.  We have always believed, we continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to reach that solution, but we have seen no progress in terms of actions from the Iranian Government in the region.

Matt, you want to close us off?

QUESTION:  Yeah, I just – and these will be extremely brief because I think you’ll only have a five-second answer for both.

One, do you know anything about the U.S. embassy in Cuba renting Cuban Government EV cars that are made by China?

MR MILLER:  I do not.   As I think you —

QUESTION:  Okay.  Could you —

MR MILLER:  As you seemed to anticipate.

QUESTION:  Could you – yeah.  Well, I just heard about it, so I didn’t think you would have anything, but I wanted to get it out there on the record.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Can you – could you – or maybe not you, someone look into this and find out if it’s true and what the deal is?  I mean, it might be completely innocent.

And then the second thing is just the whole email thing from last week, is that – that’s been resolved, right?

MR MILLER:  It has been resolved.  That was an unintentional glitch.  I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to look into this before answering.  My colleague Vedant did not —


MR MILLER:  — since it broke while he was at the podium.  It was an unintentional —

QUESTION:  Well, I didn’t —

MR MILLER:  It was an unintentional glitch.  It was an attempt – or actually, the systems team here, the IT team, was looking at ways to allow users, if they want, to select their pronouns and to be displayed in their – in their email address, and it was certainly not the intention to choose them for anyone.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So it —

MR MILLER:  And it has been resolved.

QUESTION:  So, it was fixed?

MR MILLER:  It has been resolved.

QUESTION:  It was – it was fixed that day or —

MR MILLER:  It was fixed that day.  It was fixed that day.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then – but then there was this notice that went around offering people psychological or – help if they were offended or upset by this.  Do you know if anyone took them up on that?

MR MILLER:  I don’t, but we always look to offer whatever resources are available to State Department employees.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I’m not trying to make light of it.  I’m just asking if you know —

MR MILLER:  I don’t.

QUESTION:  — that anyone felt strongly enough about it that they went to —

MR MILLER:  I know you felt strongly about it, but I —


MR MILLER:  (Laughter.)  I don’t.  I’m not trying to bait you, I promise.

QUESTION:  I didn’t feel that strongly about it, but anyway, thank you.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Can I just – can I just follow up on something that Matt had asked?

MR MILLER:  What – yeah.

QUESTION:  There was apparently a license, an export license, issued more than a year ago to a Maryland-based company to export an electric car and a charger to the embassy, and that four were supposed to be sent, and for some reason, apparently, Brian Nichols did not approve that. So —

MR MILLER:  I will say I’m not aware of these reports, and I think I will make it a practice not to comment on things that broke while I was at this podium that I have not had a chance to look into.

QUESTION:  Understood.

MR MILLER:  So more tomorrow.  Thank you all.

QUESTION:  All right.  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)

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U.S. Department of State

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