2:13 p.m. EDT
MR PRICE: Good afternoon. Happy Monday. I am at your disposal.
MR PRICE: Taiwan.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. policy still ambiguous? Is it your – the President, of course, said there was no change today, but there was – in light of his remarks over the weekend, can you say what the U.S. policy is? Is there – will the U.S. militarily defend Taiwan in case of an invasion?
MR PRICE: As you heard from the President today, as you heard from the President the other day in Tokyo when President Biden said, and I quote, “Our policy towards Taiwan has not changed at all. We remain committed to supporting the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and ensuring there is no unilateral change to the status quo.” That is where we were then. That is where we are today, as you heard the President say again today.
What the President said is that our policy is not changed. He reiterated that our “one China” policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, of course, remains. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself. In short, there has been no change.
QUESTION: But the fact that he’s saying that there is a – the U.S. would defend Taiwan, I mean, do you think that the Taiwanese should feel more reassured than they were before about the possibility of a U.S. military defense?
MR PRICE: The Taiwanese should feel reassured that we will continue to comply with and to fully satisfy our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Acts – Taiwan Relations Act, that we will do so consistent with our “one China” policy and the other documents, including the three Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances.
QUESTION: Let me follow up on one more point there. You tweeted just a couple days prior to this that Beijing is misrepresenting the U.S. position on “one China,” on the “one China” principle. The President himself said that we agree with – on “one China.” Could you state what that means?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Is mean, is there any inconsistency there? Does the United States agree with the Chinese interpretation of it?
MR PRICE: Well, the Chinese – the PRC has frequently attempted to misrepresent our policy in their briefings and statements from senior PRC officials. Let me just give you one example of that. The English version of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs readout of the call between our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Wang Jiechi on May 18th incorrectly stated that, quote, “The U.S. pursues the ‘one China’ principle.” Beijing’s – and this is important – “one China” principle is not the same as our “one China” policy. In a May 12th press briefing, the PRC spokesperson stated that we had made a quote/unquote “commitment to uphold the ‘one China’ principle.” That is also not correct.
We are committed to upholding our “one China” policy, which, again, is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S. Joint China Communiques, and the Six Assurances. The PRC statements attempt to mischaracterize our position and our policy. Our longstanding – longstanding, bipartisan “one China” policy has not changed. These are policy issues of enormous sensitivity, and we are, I think, appropriately careful and precise with our language, and we urge the PRC to cease its mischaracterization of U.S. policy and statements from senior U.S. officials.
QUESTION: Well, the problem with that is that – you’re quibbling with the word “principle” instead of “policy?”
MR PRICE: It is – it has a different meaning.
QUESTION: Well —
MR PRICE: We stand by our “one China” policy.
QUESTION: So what’s your understanding of the difference between “one China” principle and “one China” policy?
MR PRICE: We have a “one China” policy, as we said.
QUESTION: But what is the difference between that and “one China” principle?
MR PRICE: We have heard from the PRC that there are so-called commitments under the – under what they call the “one China” principle that are distinct from our “one China” policy. And again —
QUESTION: So it’s broader?
MR PRICE: We are having this conversation now because for us it is important to underscore that we comply with, we abide by, our “one China” policy. It is a policy that, as we have said, is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances.
QUESTION: Well, maybe you could just like change the name of “policy” to “principle” without changing what’s in it, and then you can all be happy.
MR PRICE: I’ll take that suggestion onboard. Yes.
QUESTION: Just on Taiwan.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Ned, so I mean, I understand that you guys in the aftermath, President’s aide and he himself said the policy isn’t changed, but he also did say yes to a question which was asked whether United States would be willing to get involved militarily. I’m sure you guys have internal talks about this and he – since he did say yes, does that mean Washington would be willing to commit troops to battle in defense of Taiwan?
MR PRICE: The President was not announcing any change in our policy. The President actually —
QUESTION: But the question was like very, very clear, and he did say yes.
MR PRICE: Well, but —
QUESTION: And this is not the first time that he —
MR PRICE: But you are also – you are also omitting what he said when he started the question. I don’t want to embarrass you; I know you walked in a couple minutes late, but I did start by saying —
QUESTION: There was no 2-minute warning.
MR PRICE: I did start by saying that the President, when he was asked, very clearly stated, and I quote, “Our policy towards Taiwan has not – has not changed at all. We remain committed to supporting the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and ensuring that there is no unilateral change to the status quo.” He went on to say we’ve made a commitment. We support the “one China” policy. We support all that we’ve done in the past to ensure that Taiwan has what it needs to defend itself. That is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.
QUESTION: Okay, I’m going to join the group of people who can’t see how the two things are compatible together. But just on this China-Russia exercise, I’m just wondering if this is the kind of action for United States that requires a response from you and allies, perhaps beyond rhetoric. And if that’s the case, what kind of response would that be?
MR PRICE: So to your question, Humeyra, the PRC and Russia did conduct a joint military patrol involving their strategic bombers on May 24th. The patrol, as we understand it, traversed the Sea of Japan and continued through the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea. This exercise was likely planned well in advance by both countries, and Beijing’s decision to cooperate with Moscow in this way amid Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s dangerous nuclear rhetoric demonstrates the quote/unquote “no limits” partnerships that they talked about in their joint communique is quite alive and well.
And the President’s – on the other hand, the President’s successful visit to the ROK and Japan, where he met with our treaty allies on a bilateral basis, where he also convened the Quad for the fourth time during this administration, coupled with the launch of discussions on IPEF, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – that demonstrates a stark contrast to what we’ve seen from Russia and China. It demonstrates our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. That was at the heart of the President’s visit to Japan, to the Republic of Korea, and you also heard from the President and senior officials while there more about our longstanding commitment to the defense of those allies, including Japan and the ROK. We’ve consistently made the point that attempts to intimidate U.S. allies and partners will only strengthen our collective resolve. Of course, we have discussed and worked very closely with Japan, with the ROK, on matters of defense and deterrence.
QUESTION: Staying on China, the BBC has a report out today on Xinjiang which is based on data from police computers in the region, and they – it lays out in meticulous detail the way police have been targeting any expression of Uyghur identity or culture and also evidence that the chain of command runs all the way up to Xi Jinping. So I wanted to ask, first of all, does the State Department have any reaction to the information in the report?
MR PRICE: So I did happen to see that report. We are appalled by the reports and the jarring images of the PRC’s internment camps in Xinjiang from 2018, those reports that are – and those images that are being shared online. Unfortunately, the PRC’s genocide and crimes against humanity against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and Muslims of other ethnic and religious minority groups remains ongoing in Xinjiang, and this new reporting further adds to an already damning body of evidence of the PRC’s atrocities in Xinjiang, including evidence previously disclosed in earlier publicly [sic] reporting, seen in satellite imagery, and gathered via witness testimony from survivors and escapees of the internment and forced labor camps.
Despite increasing public awareness and strong calls for accountability, the PRC Government continues to deny any wrongdoing. We are deeply concerned by the PRC’s failure to acknowledge and to stop these atrocities and to transparently address the chorus of concerns raised by the international community. And we’ll continue to work with our partners and our allies to promote accountability for those responsible for these atrocities. We have and we continue to call on the PRC to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained people; to abolish the internment camps; to end mass detention, torture, forced sterilization, and the use of forced labor.
QUESTION: And does the State Department assess that the chain of command on Uyghur repression runs directly up to the president?
MR PRICE: I don’t want to offer a tactical assessment of that, but I will just say in a system like the PRC’s, it would be very difficult to imagine that a systemic effort to suppress, to detain, to conduct a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity, would not have the blessing, would not have the approval, of the highest levels of the PRC Government.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: This, of course, happens as the UN high commissioner for human rights is in China. Do you think this adds any complications to her visit? Do you think that she should be looking specifically at this? Are you at all optimistic that she will get more answers?
MR PRICE: We discussed this on Friday, and I then voiced our deep concerns about the upcoming visit of the High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to the People’s Republic of China. Based on our understanding of the planned restrictions that she will be subjected to during the visit, we have no expectation that the PRC will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete, unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang. We think it was a mistake to agree to a visit under these circumstances where the high commissioner will not be granted the type of unhindered access – free and full access – that would be required to do a complete assessment, and to come back with a full picture of the atrocities, the crimes against humanity, and the genocide ongoing in Xinjiang.
QUESTION: Sorry, did I just – you went – in your response to Barbara’s second question about whether the chain of command went all the way up to the president of China, in your response, are you suggesting that it’s hard for the U.S. to believe that President Xi, or his inner circle, his top aides, didn’t – did not specifically order war crimes – well, crimes against humanity —
MR PRICE: I don’t believe I said “war crimes.”
QUESTION: Well, you said “crimes against humanity.”
MR PRICE: Correct.
QUESTION: Crimes against humanity. Are you saying that you —
MR PRICE: I believe the question was: Are they aware of it?
QUESTION: Yeah, but you said it would be difficult —
QUESTION: No, I said that the chain of command runs up to the president.
MR PRICE: Right. So —
QUESTION: So is it the – so is it the administration’s position that President Xi, or his inner circle, have, like, specifically directed local authorities on the ground to commit crimes against humanity?
MR PRICE: I believe what I said is that it would be hard for us to imagine that the type of systemic atrocities, crimes against humanity, and ongoing campaign of genocide would not – that the senior-most levels of the PRC Government would be unaware of it.
QUESTION: No, no, not unaware, but that they ordered it.
MR PRICE: Again, I don’t want to speak to specific potential crimes against humanity, specific acts, but what we’re seeing is not a one-off occurrence. What we’re seeing is a systemic campaign of repression, of crimes against humanity, of genocide.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you made any statement regarding the Turkish plan to control more territories in north Syria or if you have any comment on that.
MR PRICE: Yes, I do. So we are deeply concerned about reports and discussions of potential increased military activity in northern Syria, and in particular its impact on the civilian population there. We condemn any escalation. We support maintenance of the current ceasefire lines. We believe it’s crucial for all sides to maintain and to respect the ceasefire zones, to – that serve to enhance stability in Syria, and to work towards a political solution to this conflict. We expect Turkey to live up to the October 2019 joint statement, including to halt offensive operations in northeast Syria, and we recognize Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border. But any new offensive would further undermine regional stability and put at risk U.S. forces in the coalition’s campaign against ISIS.
QUESTION: A couple questions on Russia-Ukraine. Today marks three months of the war. Let me start with the Secretary’s call with Ukrainian foreign minister. One of the topics was about unblocking food export. The question is: What are you going to do about it? Will there be U.S. warships involved to ease up the situation, or —
MR PRICE: Sorry, I —
QUESTION: A U.S. warship. Are you considering sending a U.S. warship to the Black Sea to help Ukraine on this?
MR PRICE: So we are deeply concerned with the attendant consequences and implications of Russia’s war against Ukraine. And one of the most concerning trend lines has been the rise in food prices, the rise in commodity prices that Russia’s war has precipitated. This is, of course, a result of the fact that much of Ukraine has been subjected to Russian aggression, to Russian violence. There has been death and destruction wrought by Russian forces. But also because Russia’s forces have seemingly targeted silos; they have targeted ships containing foodstuffs. They have, of course, made impossible the task of completing the cycle of planting and harvesting for the country of Ukraine, a country that is a major supplier of both wheat and fertilizer to the region and well beyond.
And so this is precisely why we have sought to do several things. First and foremost, the most effective means by which to put an end to the spike in food prices is, of course, the – it would, of course, be – to be to put an end to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. That’s what we have sought to support, including by strengthening Ukraine’s hand at the negotiating table as we hold Moscow to account with the sanctions and other measures, including the export controls that we have placed.
We have also – and you saw this last week, when Secretary Blinken was in New York City – we have focused on the task of shining a spotlight on this, but also engaging in concerted diplomacy. And the ministerial last week brought together dozens of countries, including countries that are in need of additional food supplies, that are suffering from President Putin’s war and the attendant rise in food and commodity prices, and those countries who are in a position to potentially do something about it, whether that is to donate funds, whether that is to make in-kind donations, in-kind contributions to those countries who are in need of additional food.
Of course, the UN secretary-general has been deeply engaged in this as well. He has been working very closely with our Ukrainian partners, with our Turkish allies, and others to determine if there are ways to help facilitate the export of Ukrainian food supplies. That is something that we stand ready to assist, knowing that it is in the – not only our national interest, but of course in the interest of those countries that have been deeply affected by the rise in food prices.
QUESTION: One more question on Ukraine. There are rumors about the U.S. considering sending special operations forces to Kyiv to protect the embassy. Is that on the table?
MR PRICE: We are – as we always are, we’re in close discussions with our colleagues at the Department of Defense about security requirements for our resumed operations at our embassy in Kyiv. We haven’t made any decisions about the potential return of U.S. military members to Ukraine for that purpose, and that purpose being an effort to guard our embassy compound. We have said all along that U.S. forces are not engaged with conflict with Russia, and we have worked to put in place mechanisms to avoid the potential for escalation. But as you know, we don’t make a habit of commenting on our security mechanisms or requirements, and so we’ll leave that there.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Senate passed 40 billion Ukraine aid bill last week and the State Department provided additional 100 million. In this situation, we’re just witnessing some suggestions that Ukraine must make some concessions to Russia to end this war, and one of the statements was in Davos, Switzerland by the former secretary of state. I wonder if you could give me your commentary on that, please?
MR PRICE: Our commentary on that is that it’s not for the United States to decide how and when this war should end. It is for the Ukrainian Government, representation of the Ukrainian people, to determine how and when this war should end. It is our task to support our Ukrainian partners, to see to it – as I’ve said before – that their hand at the negotiating table is as strong as it could possibly be. And so that’s why, to your question about the $40.1 billion in additional assistance that’s now been signed into law, we are in a position to provide more security assistance, we are in a position to provided more economic assistance, we are in a position to provide more humanitarian assistance, just as we will continue to impose increasing costs on Russia, should it not end its war against the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Government.
QUESTION: And quickly, the second question, there will be NATO summit in Madrid next month. We understand in today’s (inaudible) agenda is Sweden, Finland membership. However, there are some countries who are trying to get membership action plan, I mean, Ukraine and Georgia. What is administration’s position on further expanding NATO?
MR PRICE: Our position is that NATO’s door should and must remain open. It should and must remain open for all aspirant countries. Right now, we have two applicant countries whose accession is pending before the Alliance. These are countries that have worked closely with NATO over the course of decades. We have worked closely together militarily. We – these are developed democracies. They are fully integrated in terms of, with NATO militarily. They’re close partners of the United States; they’re close partners of many members of the Alliance. That, in large part, is what undergirds our assessment that their accession process will be swift. It is something that we are confident will continue to have support from the Alliance and its membership.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: As Russia appears to be making some gains in Ukraine, Ukraine has ramped up calls for multiple launch rocket systems, and they’ve even said that it’s a potential that they could clear sea routes for trade in that case, and other allies have been ramping up the kind of supplies they’re giving to Ukraine. What’s the administration’s temperature on that?
MR PRICE: Well, in terms of what we’ve been doing, no country has provided more security assistance to Ukraine than the United States – $3.8 billion since the start of this invasion alone, since February 24th; more than approximately $4.5 billion since the start of this administration. What we have done is our – is to provide our Ukrainian partners with weapons and systems that are appropriate with the contours of the battle in which they find themselves. The systems that we provided early on in this conflict, the types of systems that they would need to defend urban centers like Kyiv, of course, are going to be different systems than we have provided more recently, in more recent weeks, as the battle has shifted to the east and to the south, as the Russians have narrowed – been forced to narrow their war aims given the effective resistance and the effective defense that our Ukrainian partners have managed to muster with the enabling support of the United States and the security assistance that both we and dozens of countries around the world across four continents have provided.
So these are discussions that we constantly have with our Ukrainian partners, as has been alluded to already. Secretary Blinken had an opportunity to speak to Foreign Minister Kuleba earlier today. Oftentimes in those conversations, Foreign Minister Kuleba does relay needs and the assessment of needs from Ukraine to the United States. In response to those calls, the Secretary, in turn, often does get on the phone, get in contact with countries that may have systems or capabilities or models of systems that the United States doesn’t have in our inventory. So this is a constant dialogue, a constant conversation to ensure that our Ukrainian partners have precisely what they need when they need it and where they need it.
QUESTION: So yesterday, the Ukrainian prosecutor general mentioned that they are investigating more than 13,000 war crimes now. She also said that because Ukraine is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that certain crimes in Ukraine cannot be prosecuted by the ICC. And at the same time, the chance of establishing an international criminal tribunal similar to the ones for Yugoslavia and Rwanda seems low since those were established by UN Security Council resolutions. China and Russia, of course, would almost certainly veto such a resolution for Ukraine.
Is the U.S. still considering supporting an international criminal tribunal for Ukraine? And what mechanisms exist for establishing a viable tribunal without the support of the UN Security Council?
MR PRICE: Well, we’re supporting all appropriate mechanisms, and right now, we are providing extensive support to the Ukrainian prosecutor general and to her team, as we’ve discussed. The prosecutor general and her team have appropriate jurisdiction, they have the capabilities, they have the wherewithal that, with our support, can be effective at holding to account those who are responsible for war crimes. We’ve already seen one Russian soldier not only go on trial but plead guilty for the crime that he has committed.
Now, of course, the war crimes have been committed seemingly at scale, and so this will be a large-scale effort. It will have deep requirements. We are prepared to continue our support for the Ukrainian prosecutor general, providing expertise, providing funding, providing information – part of that effort to collect, to analyze, to document, and to share the evidence of war crimes with the Ukrainian prosecutor general and her team.
Now, of course, this is not the only venue that we’ve talked about. The Moscow Mechanism emanating from the OSCE is another important tool. We worked with the Human Rights Council at the UN to help establish a commission of inquiry on potential war crimes in Ukraine. There are other mechanisms, including the ICC, and we did welcome the announcement by the prosecutor general of the effort to investigate potential war crimes in Ukraine that we are prepared to support as well.
QUESTION: Sir, the President of Turkey Erdoğan said yesterday that Greek prime minister no longer existed for him after he visited the United States and met with President Biden. Also, Erdoğan is threatening Greece with war. Please, I wondered if you have any comment on this very serious escalation. And what are you going to do if Turkey attacks Greece? Thank you.
MR PRICE: Well, we continue to encourage our NATO Allies, of course, including Greece and Turkey, to work together to maintain peace and security in the region and to resolve differences diplomatically. We urge our allies to avoid rhetoric that could further raise tensions. As you know, the Greek prime minister was in Washington last week. The administration had a very good, important set of meetings with our Greek counterparts. We know that Greece is an indispensable partner and a key NATO Ally to the United States. Similarly, Turkey is an important partner of the United States, an important NATO Ally. We want to see our partners work together to maintain peace and security in the region.
QUESTION: On North Korea, South Korean officials today said North Korea has finished preparations for a seventh nuclear test. Does the United States share that assessment?
MR PRICE: We share the concern that North Korea may be on the verge of another provocation. This is a concern that we have spoken of for some time now. We have said for the past couple weeks – we have spoken of our expectation that the DPRK may undertake an additional provocation either during the course of the President’s visit to the region, which has now essentially concluded, or in the days that followed. Our concern for another potential provocation, be it an ICBM launch, be it a potential seventh nuclear weapons test, our concern has not abated in any way.
QUESTION: What would a U.S. response look like or a coordinated response look like? It’s unlikely there’s going to be any additional UN Security Council sanctions given current relations with China and Russia.
MR PRICE: Again, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are, but we believe it is important for the international community to weigh in on the side of accountability for these provocations, to impose costs on the DPRK for its continued provocations. This is something that we are discussing with our allies and partners in New York. It is something that the President had an opportunity to discuss in Japan and the ROK as well. He made clear that our commitment to the defense of our treaty allies Japan and South Korea is ironclad. We will continue to work closely with them to ensure that we are postured appropriately in terms of our defense and deterrence, and to continue to impose appropriate costs on the DPRK should its provocations continue, as we are concerned they might.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Sorry about missing the beginning, but —
MR PRICE: Oh, no problem.
QUESTION: — I – we did not hear the call. Can I switch to the Palestinians —
QUESTION: It wasn’t that you didn’t hear it.
QUESTION: There wasn’t one.
QUESTION: There wasn’t one.
QUESTION: There wasn’t one, okay. All right. Apologies. I don’t know if you talked about the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh in the beginning, Ned. Maybe not. But it’s been two weeks, and I wonder if you saw the review today by AP that basically puts it squarely and – that put the blame squarely almost on the Israelis, so – and Israel. I mean, a lot has happened in the last couple weeks. Israel said that it will not pursue a criminal investigation, and – now, you demanded an investigation. So where do you stand? Tell us where – how to navigate this issue.
MR PRICE: Said, it’s my understanding that your depiction is not quite right. And in fact, the army chief prosecutor in a speech on Monday noted that the decision of a pending criminal prosecution would have to wait until the initial probe is completed. That initial probe has not yet been completed, so I’m not aware that there has been any final determination about the suitability of a criminal investigation or not.
Regardless, we have publicly condemned the killing of American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. We continue to do so. Not only was she a close partner of ours; she was an inspiration to millions around the world. She was a dear friend to many in the U.S. Government. Her death is a great loss. It is a great tragedy for those who knew her, including my colleagues, my counterparts, but also for individuals around the world who counted on her coverage, who counted on her ability to report from the region.
We have reiterated to both Israel and to Palestinian officials our call for an investigation that is immediate, is thorough, transparent, and impartial into her killing. We do expect full accountability for those responsible for her killing. And importantly, we do expect both Israelis and Palestinians to keep us apprised of developments in their investigation and to share with us their findings. We deserve – but much more importantly, Ms. Abu Akleh’s family deserves – to understand the circumstances surrounding her death.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, that’s all fine, but the Palestinians are saying we don’t trust the Israelis investigating themselves, almost – the Israelis are saying they want to conduct their own investigation. They insist on retrieving the bullet, which the Palestinians have, and so on. You are at a stalemate. Now the Palestinians are saying they are willing to share whatever information they have with anyone, any international body, presumably including the Americans. Would you sort of endeavor to do something like this, to work with the Palestinians on this issue on your own without the Israelis?
MR PRICE: We have urged our Palestinian and Israeli counterparts to cooperate as appropriate. Our interest is that there is a thorough, complete, immediate, transparent investigation that entails accountability. We want to see that carried out.
QUESTION: Well, you’ve used the word “immediate” twice now in two different responses, so what’s your definition of “immediate” —
MR PRICE: Well, an investigation is ongoing, and so these investigations we know we can’t prejudge.
QUESTION: Okay. So right now you’re okay with the status of whatever the investigation is? Obviously, it’s still in progress, but the —
MR PRICE: The investigation —
QUESTION: But it has not yet gone beyond “immediate” —
MR PRICE: The —
QUESTION: — where you would complain that it’s not taking – it’s taking too long?
MR PRICE: Again, we can’t prejudge the conclusion of the investigations, nor can we unduly rush any investigation. Our desire is to see the investigations be completed in a comprehensive and transparent way, in a way that culminates in accountability.
QUESTION: It’s my understanding that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have actually requested U.S. assistance in this – or whatever investigation or plural investigations are going on. Is that correct?
MR PRICE: I am not aware of any request for assistance.
QUESTION: But the Israelis have said that the U.S. could participate as an “observer,” quote/unquote as an “observer.” Has the U.S. taken them up on this offer?
MR PRICE: I am not aware that we have. But as you said, I am not aware of any request for assistance.
QUESTION: All right. Then I just want to ask you about another investigation. It’s one that I’ve raised sporadically over the course of the last year or so. And that is the discovery of the swastika in the elevator. It’s been 300 days now since the Secretary promised an investigation into this incident.
MR PRICE: And it’s been almost 300 days since we’ve had an investigation. This has been an incident that has been investigated thoroughly by our Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We don’t have anything to share in terms of the individual or individuals who may be responsible for this.
But the investigation was focused on attempting to determine if we could identify a culprit, a person responsible or persons responsible, but also steps we could take to see to it that any such incidents would either be deterred or, in the event that something as horrific as this were to happen again, we would be able to identify the individual or individuals responsible in due course.
QUESTION: So was an individual or individuals identified as being responsible for this?
MR PRICE: I don’t have anything further to share on —
QUESTION: Is the investigation over?
MR PRICE: The investigation is not over in the sense that if we learn information that is germane to, again, the identity of the individual or individuals behind this, of course, we will take appropriate action.
QUESTION: So, okay, but it’s been 300 days, literally 301 days now. I mean, we’re coming up on a full year next month – or July. Are you telling me there has been no determination of who did this at all?
MR PRICE: Matt, there is no one who would like to see —
QUESTION: I’m not asking – I’m sure you – everyone wants to know – everyone wants to get to the bottom of it. But the investigation that’s been now going on for 300 days has not yet uncovered a culprit or culprits; is that correct? Is that correct?
MR PRICE: And there is no one who would like to see the perpetrator of this horrific act, this horrific graffiti, identified as much as Secretary Blinken and other members of the State Department leadership team. That is why he immediately ordered an investigation, why this investigation was launched, but importantly, why this investigation has also focused on steps we could potentially take to see to it that an incident like this does not happen again.
QUESTION: Well, but it seems to me that when you undertake an investigation like the investigation you were just talking about with Said, you want accountability for it, right? And so what you’re saying is that no one has been – no one – no one person or people have been identified as doing this, so there has been no accountability for it.
MR PRICE: Matt —
QUESTION: Regardless of what you might – what steps you might take to prevent something like this from happening in the future, there hasn’t been any accountability for what did happen. Is that correct?
MR PRICE: I will make the point that in order to have accountability, you have to have credible facts pointing at a specific perpetrator. In this case —
QUESTION: Okay. All right. So there isn’t —
MR PRICE: In this case, I will say, as I have before, that this is a large building with many people coming through this building – some people employees, some are guests. We are focused on trying to determine if we can identify the perpetrator of this, and in some ways just as importantly, to see to it that we put measures in place so that something like this cannot happen again.
QUESTION: If I may, I have a couple more issues —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: — to raise, if I may. Now, the Palestinians are saying they have turned whatever investigation they have, the results or the story they have, narrative they have, to the ICC. Would that be agreeable to you?
MR PRICE: As we said, we want to see a thorough investigation.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MR PRICE: We do not believe the ICC is an appropriate venue.
QUESTION: Okay. Now there are also a lot of other things that have happened in the last two weeks or in the last 10 days, including —
QUESTION: I’m sorry, can I just interrupt there? Why is the ICC an appropriate venue for the Ukraine —
QUESTION: — the Ukraine, but not for – for the – the situation in Ukraine, but not an appropriate situation here?
MR PRICE: We believe —
QUESTION: Because it’s an individual and not a collective —
MR PRICE: We believe that the ICC should maintain its focus on its core mission, and that core mission is to serve as a court of last resort —
QUESTION: For a war crime, okay. All right.
MR PRICE: — in punishing and deterring atrocity crimes.
QUESTION: So there are orders for home demolition, there are expansion of settlement, there are killing of other Palestinians, something like maybe four or five people, including maybe two or three teenagers, and so on. I don’t want to go on and on lamenting, but I mean, tell us – I mean, and tell us where you stand. There is an article in the – in Foreign Affairs by a former U.S. official and so on, on the settlement and say – and it said that you – nobody listens to you in Israel on the expansion of settlements when you express your dissatisfaction or your disagreement, and so on.
So when will the United States take a stand – I mean a real stand – and say, “If you do this, we are going to do this?” A tit for tat. Are we likely to ever see something like this?
MR PRICE: Said, we have spoken publicly, we also have conveyed very strong messages in private, when it comes to settlement activity. And you know better than most that we have spoken out very forcefully, including in recent days, making clear our deep concern about steps that exacerbate tensions, that have the potential to move us further away towards a two-state solution. We remain committed, as successive American administrations have, to that two-state solution. We believe it’s important in its own right, but also because, importantly, it would convey what is really at the heart of our policy. That is to see to it that Israelis and Palestinians alike have equal measures of security, of peace, of prosperity, of dignity. That is not something we can see until and unless there is a two-state solution to this conflict.
QUESTION: Yet we have not seen the Israelis roll back any expansion of settlements as a result of your statements, have we?
MR PRICE: Shaun.
QUESTION: If you’ll allow me, switch to Latin America?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: One more on the peace process?
QUESTION: Wait, can I just do one more on Shireen before we —
MR PRICE: Sure, we’ll take these two and then we’ll go to Latin America. Kylie.
QUESTION: Sure. Just – so CNN came out with a new investigation just today that has evidence that Shireen was killed in a targeted attack by Israeli forces. I’m just wondering if you have a response to it and what your response is to the fact that a news outlet has been able to definitively come up with what happened here more quickly than the Israelis themselves.
MR PRICE: So on the second part of your question, Kylie, at least the coverage I have read has not portrayed this as absolutely definitive. And of course, any investigation that is conducted from afar I think would have a hard time claiming that it would be absolutely definitive. We want to see an investigation that is thorough, that is comprehensive, that ends in accountability. I don’t have any comment on the allegation you just made, but it is precisely why we want to see these investigations conducted. If that is in fact the case, we would expect to see those responsible held accountable.
QUESTION: And do you view investigations like this by news outlets as something that the Israelis should take into account when they are conducting their own investigation?
MR PRICE: Just as when we conduct our reviews, when we monitor any given situation, we take into account all the various inputs. It is information that is available to us as the U.S. Government, but also, importantly, inputs, including from open-source press reporting. Those can be quite valuable, quite insightful, quite useful. So it would be – it is our belief that they should be incorporated. That is the way we tend to operate in terms of our own reviews.
QUESTION: On the peace process, Ned, is the U.S. talking to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel and bringing Saudi Arabia to Abraham Accords? And will there be a regional summit in the region next month when the President visits the region?
MR PRICE: The White House has not announced any POTUS travel for next month. I think as you probably noticed in a recent readout between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett, President Biden did offer that he would seek to travel to Israel in the coming months. But we haven’t announced any travel formally, of course.
QUESTION: Well, it was a bit more than that. He accepted an invitation. He didn’t offer to travel.
MR PRICE: He – he —
QUESTION: The prime minister invited him, and he said sure, I’ll come.
MR PRICE: He indicated that he looked forward to traveling to the region in the coming months.
To your – to the broader question of normalization agreements and the Abraham Accords, we’ve made the point repeatedly that we welcome, we support the Abraham Accords. We welcome the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim-majority countries. We don’t have anything to announce regarding additional countries joining the accords or normalization agreements, but this has been a topic of discussion with countries around the world. And we’ll continue to engage with Israel and with countries in the region – and in some cases, beyond – as we seek to expand these normalization agreements and look for additional opportunities to enhance cooperation between Israel and its neighbors – and in some cases, countries that are farther afield.
At the same time, we do not believe that normalization agreements and the Abraham Accords are a substitute for progress when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peace. This was a point that you heard from Secretary Blinken. You also heard from several of the ministers that took part in the Negev Summit in the Negev desert a couple of months ago in Israel. So it will be important for us to continue to seek to make progress towards a two-state solution, just as it is important for us to see if we can continue to build bridges between Israel and its neighbors and other Arab and Muslim-majority countries.
QUESTION: Can I go to Latin America?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Colombia has an election coming up shortly. Gustavo Petro, who is considered the frontrunner by many polls, has expressed concern about the conduct of the election, about the counting process, and also about his physical security, saying that from the right wing there may be threats. Do you share – you being the United States – does the United States share any concern about the elections? Are you confident that the elections will be held on time and peacefully?
MR PRICE: We are confident in Colombia’s democratic institutions. Ultimately, we’re not going to weigh in, of course, on the election beyond that, other than to note this will be a decision for the Colombian people.
QUESTION: Could I actually just jump completely to a different region, to Ethiopia?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: There was – there has been a round-up, according to various reporting, in Amhara of particularly people in the media but also of others. Just last weekend, the Secretary was discussing – saying that there had been some progress in Ethiopia. How concerned are you about this and what it means for the –
MR PRICE: Well, there has been progress. There’s been important progress in terms of the humanitarian truce that has allowed additional provision of humanitarian aid into the Afar Region. Some – it is still not at a point where the humanitarian aid that is flowing in is able to meet the requirement, but we have seen an influx and we hope to build on that by sustaining the ceasefire and continuing to work with our partners on the ground to see to it that that humanitarian aid continues to flow into the region.
You are correct, though, at the same time we are concerned, deeply concerned about the narrowing space for freedom of expression and independent media in Ethiopia, including a troubling increase in reports of harassment, detention, arrests of journalists, media professionals, and activists. We strongly urge the Government of Ethiopia and regional authorities to uphold the rule of law and provide all applicable procedural safeguards for any individual arrested. We also urge the protection of press freedom online and offline, and for the safety of all persons advocating for their rights.
QUESTION: Just one thing on Quad and India. So there was no mention of Russia or Russian, both of – neither of those words in the joint Quad statement. Do you know why it was left out? Was that a concession to India?
MR PRICE: Obviously, we don’t speak to the diplomacy that goes into joint statements, but we have heard from countries around the world, including from the Quad, the importance of key concepts like territorial integrity, sovereignty, the idea of a free and open Indo-Pacific in which the rules of the road are adhered to and respected. Those rules of the road that apply in the Indo-Pacific of course apply equally in other regions as well, including in Europe. And so you’ve heard our fellow Quad counterparts speak to the importance of upholding and respecting those principles around the world.
QUESTION: Does it bother you guys that whenever India is in these groupings, that you guys seem to fail to put out a strong statement when it comes to Russia? And in other venues, other groupings, you guys do make an effort to call out Russia as the invader. Do you have any worries that that might weaken Quad?
MR PRICE: We talked about this quite a bit in the context of the 2+2 that we had with our Indian counterparts a number of weeks ago now here at the department with Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken and their Indian counterparts. We made the point then that India has a relationship with Russia that has developed over the course of decades. What we have seen Russia perpetrate in Ukraine is something that has now transpired over the course of three months. And of course, our focus and our concern for potential Russian aggression against Ukraine only extends to the past six or so months.
So we have never thought it realistic or possible to attempt to refashion or recontour a historic relationship that India has had with Russia that has developed over the course of decades in days, weeks, or even months. But the United States is now in a position owing to a bipartisan legacy that goes back to the administration of George W. Bush to be a partner for India that we were not able to be when Russia’s – excuse me, when India’s relationship with Russia first developed during the Cold War. The United States is now a partner of choice for India when it comes to – when it comes to economics, when it comes to trade, and yes, when it comes to security.
We were not able to be that partner of choice before, but we have been gratified by our ability to deepen those links between our economies, between our peoples, between our militaries, and we are confident that those ties will strengthen going forward as well.
QUESTION: Anything on Turkey?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Very quickly. Apparently, Turkey announced the plans or it’s been reported that Turkey plans to establish a security zone in Syria, and that –
MR PRICE: We’ve talked about that.
QUESTION: Oh, you did?
MR PRICE: We did. Let me – someone I haven’t called on. Yes.
MR PRICE: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Have any State Department officials met with Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim during his visit this week? And if so, was there a discussion of Americans missing in Syria?
MR PRICE: I am not aware of any department engagement with him, but we will let you know if there has been a meeting.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, sir. Secretary Blinken met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in New York. And after that meeting, Bilawal Bhutto talked about Pakistan economy, which is in crisis right now.
Sir, does U.S. plan to do something to stabilize it? I mean, is U.S. helping Pakistan in forthcoming talks with IMF that might help strengthen the Pakistani economy?
MR PRICE: I’m sorry, repeat that once more?
QUESTION: So is U.S. helping Pakistan in the forthcoming talks with IMF?
MR PRICE: There was a discussion of Pakistan’s economic standing. Again, I wouldn’t want to go into the details of that. But of course, our relationship with Pakistan is multifaceted. We have important ties across a number of arenas, including our economic ties. We want to see Pakistan on stable and advantageous economic footing, and we’ll continue to work with our Pakistani partners to help achieve that.
QUESTION: Sir, new ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, reach Islamabad, and he talk about building strong relationship with Pakistan. Sir, is he open to meet any political party, like Imran Khan’s PTI, who is spreading anti-American sentiments in Pakistan?
MR PRICE: Our ambassadors around the world not only engage with their government counterparts, but tend to meet with and listen to a range of stakeholders, including stakeholders from the opposition, including stakeholders from the business community and stakeholders from civil society. So I wouldn’t want to speak to any potential meetings, but we do make it a point around the world to meet with and hear from a diversity of voices and perspectives.
QUESTION: Yeah. On Iran. What’s behind the profound silence in Washington regarding the talks with Iran and the nuclear agreement? And if you have any comment on the assassination of the IRGC officer in Tehran last weekend?
MR PRICE: I don’t know that I would characterize it as a profound silence, because I am frequently asked —
QUESTION: Not profound, just silent. (Laughter.)
MR PRICE: I am frequently asked most days I’m up here for —
QUESTION: But there’s no statement; there’s no update on the talks.
MR PRICE: Well, as soon as we have something to update, if and when we have an update that we’re able to share, we will. The update that I relayed last week is precisely where we are now. We continue to believe that a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is profoundly in our national security interest. That is why we remain open to testing the proposition that we can potentially get back to the JCPOA.
That remains our position. We know it remains the position of our European allies, our other partners, that the JCPOA provides the most appropriate solution to what has become a very serious nonproliferation challenge. As Iran has been unshackled from its nuclear commitments, as it has – as its nuclear program has galloped forward in ways that are deeply concerning to us, it is not only the United States, it’s our European allies, it’s our other partners that continue to wish to see those nuclear constraints reimposed on Iran so that it is, once again, permanently and verifiably prohibited from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. That is the potential return to compliance. It is something we continue to see if it might be possible.
QUESTION: And on the assassination of the IRGC officer in Tehran?
MR PRICE: We’ve seen the reports. The only thing I’ll say is that we had no involvement in the killing, of course.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Sweden and Finland are sending their delegations to Turkey tomorrow. Now that Turkey has published its demands, do you think we have better understanding of both sides’ differences? And what do you expect from tomorrow’s talks? And I have second question on Armenia.
MR PRICE: Well, as you said, our Swedish and Finnish partners are going to – and have been – discussing this with our Turkish allies. I am hesitant to weigh in here, precisely because this is not a bilateral issue between the United States and Turkey. This is currently an issue between Turkey and our Swedish and Finnish partners. I will only add that in following our engagements with our Swedish and Finnish partners and engagements with our Turkish allies as well, we do remain confident that we’ll be able to maintain and preserve the strong consensus within the NATO Alliance for a swift accession of Sweden and Finland.
QUESTION: Thank you. A second question —
QUESTION: Could I go back to your last answer on the IRGC?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: You said – I think you said we had no involvement in this killing, comma, of course. Where does this “of course” come from? It’s not like the United States hasn’t assassinated IRGC officials in the past. I recall the previous administration actually boasted about how they took out an IRGC – the IRGC commander. So why is this “of course”? And why are you denying it? No one even asked you if you were responsible for it.
MR PRICE: Well, we were asked for a comment, so I provided a comment.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But you don’t – so that’s your only comment, is that we had nothing to do with it?
MR PRICE: That’s our only comment, correct.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: On Armenia, heard that there was a phone call between the Secretary and Armenian prime minister today. I haven’t seen the State Department’s readout yet. But did the Secretary have a chance to discuss last weekend’s dialogue and what is his take out of the results?
MR PRICE: So I expect we will have a readout to offer later today, but the Secretary did have an opportunity to speak with the Armenian prime minister. They discussed the positive momentum that we’ve seen in recent days, in recent weeks in the South Caucasus. The Secretary spoke of the fact that we stand ready to assist with border delimitation and demarcation efforts. He encouraged continued progress to develop regional transportation and communication links. The Secretary went on to highlight the importance of continued bilateral dialogue to solve the challenges in this region. He reaffirmed our support for, as you alluded to, the EU-brokered conversations between President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan. He also reaffirmed, as you’ve heard from me and from others, our readiness to engage through – bilaterally and through our role as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group to help Armenia and Azerbaijan find a long-term and comprehensive peace.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Sir, the current Government of Pakistan has started arresting and administering cases against some journalists who are critical – a few of my colleagues, Sabir Shakir, Arshad Sharif, who are also been booked. Sir, Secretary Blinken spoke about the freedom of speech in Pakistan like a few weeks ago in Foreign Press Center. So would you like to share your concerns on that?
MR PRICE: Secretary Blinken did share our perspective of freedom of the press, media freedom around the world. He was specifically asked about media freedom in Pakistan. He made the point that journalists, those in the media industry, should never have their voices suppressed, they should never be subject to suppression or repression solely because of the important work they are doing to shine a light on events around the world. So it’s important to us that countries around the world respect the right of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, whether that is in Pakistan, whether that is in any other country.
QUESTION: Sir, after the meeting of President Biden with Indian Prime Minister Modi, Indian media claimed that U.S. President Joe Biden and PM Modi reached substantive outcomes regarding situation in Ukraine. Can you please tell me something about – more about that? What kind of substantive outcomes about Ukraine?
MR PRICE: I would need to refer you to the White House for that question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Wait, Ned. Since Friday —
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: This has to do with American citizens detained in Russia.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: I just want to know if there’s any – if there are any updates since Friday’s update on consular access or anything else with Brittney Griner or Paul Whelan.
MR PRICE: There is nothing that we’re in a position to share since Friday. We did note that a consular official from our embassy in Moscow was able to visit with Brittney Griner on the margins of her court hearing in Moscow that day. We have made the point that one-off consular visits are in our view not sufficient, but it’s not only in our view. It is in the requirements that are put forward by the Vienna Convention and other bilateral agreements that stipulate that we should have regular, sustained access to Americans who are held in detention around the world, including to those in pretrial detention.
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: Okay, and did —
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Austin Tice, anything new. Are you —
QUESTION: Well, that kind of already kind of came up with the (inaudible).
MR PRICE: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Quick – no, I wanted to ask – sorry – I wanted to ask about Austin Tice. Are you guys involved in any kind of direct or indirect negotiation to pursue his release if he is still alive and held captive?
MR PRICE: Austin Tice is someone who is constantly on our minds. He is someone who has spent about a quarter of his life in prison. I believe within the next couple of months he will mark a grim milestone, having spent 10 years separated from his family. He recently, as I recall, celebrated his 40th birthday. We are and we will continue to do everything we can to see his release, his safe release, his return to his family, as soon as we can. Of course, whether it’s the case of Austin Tice, whether it is the case of Americans who have been reunited with their families, you know that we tend not to speak of these – speak of our efforts in public before Americans come home so as not to jeopardize our efforts precisely to bring them home.
But our special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Secretary Blinken, they are deeply engaged on this case. They are deeply engaged on all cases of Americans who are wrongfully detained, Americans who are held hostage overseas. They have no higher priority than to see the safe return of these Americans to their families.
QUESTION: Did you have any comment on Tedros being re-elected to the head of WHO? And given the fact that they still have not invited Taiwan to attend the WHA, I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that and his leadership of this group.
MR PRICE: I do. So we – of course, we congratulate Dr. Tedros on his re-election as the WHO director general. We look forward to working with him to make real progress on reform at the WHO, to improve the organization’s agility, its transparency, its accountability. We strongly support ongoing efforts to strengthen the WHO and to make it more agile, transparent, and efficient as an essential centerpiece and convener in the global health architecture. And we appreciate the steps the director general has taken, such as his transformation agenda, to help the organization reach its potential, to promote universal health coverage and healthier populations, and to respond to health emergencies, especially in conflict areas, as we have seen most recently in Ukraine, where Russia’s brutal invasion has created a real health emergency.
We acknowledge, of course, that there still remains much work to do, and we remain committed to working with the director general and the organization to reform and modernize the World Health Organization so it is more transparent, more effective, more sustainably financed, and more agile.
QUESTION: So you don’t have concerns that he might be too influenced by China?
MR PRICE: We are committed to continuing to pursue the reform agenda at the WHO to see to it that it can meet the growing needs of the global population.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: One final thing, Ned. Politico has reported that President Biden has decided to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organization, and a senior Western official saying that the decision is absolutely final and the window for Iranian concessions has closed. Do you have any comment on this?
MR PRICE: We’ve been asked this question repeatedly over the course of recent weeks. We have not weighed in, and I’ll continue to toe that line. Of course, we want to see a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as I said before, because it would be manifestly in the national security interest of the United States.
Now, the precise dynamics of potential sanctions lifting that would go along with it, that has been a subject of discussions with our Iranian counterparts by way of our European allies and other partners in Vienna, just as the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take if it were to decide to resume full compliance with the JCPOA have also been a topic of discussion. The discussions in Vienna, the negotiations in Vienna have been solely focused on the nuclear issue. If Iran were to seek to discuss issues that are extraneous to the JCPOA, to the nuclear agreement itself, that is an – that is a discussion we are prepared to have, but, of course, Iran would have to make concessions of its own.
Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:17 p.m.)
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- Politburo Member Yang Jiechi ↑