Department Press Briefing – October 18, 2022
- INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ARMS BOARD
- US / GREENLAND / DENMARK / JOINT COMMITTEE
- INTERNATIONAL VISITOR LEADERSHIP PROGRAM
- UKRAINE / RUSSIA / IRAN / UNITED NATIONS
- RUSSIA / IRAN
- RUSSIA/ UKRAINE / IRAN
- AUSTRALIA / ISRAEL
- ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
- CHINA / TAIWAN
- NORTH KOREA / KOREAN PENINSULA / EAST ASIA
- SAUDI ARABIA
- TURKEY / SYRIA
2:10 p.m. EDT
MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody. I am sorry for the slight delay. I have a couple things very quickly at the top, and then I’m happy to dive right in.
So first, today, Under Secretary Bonnie Jenkins announced the members of the Secretary’s International Security Advisory Board, also known as the ISAB. You can find more information about the members by going to the department’s website. As many of you know, the ISAB has been dormant for the past few years and was officially reconstituted today to continue its mission of providing the department independent advice and recommendations on international security issues. The ISAB’s relaunch comes at a critical time in arms control and international security and represents the State Department’s resolve to tackle the challenge ahead with innovative and diverse voices.
Additionally, we are pleased to announce that representatives from the Governments of the United States, Greenland, and Denmark met today in Maine to participate in the annual U.S.-Greenland Joint Committee; the U.S.’s commitment to working with the Government of Greenland and Denmark to enhance cooperation in economic, scientific, educational, and cultural spheres. We also underscored the importance of close coordination with our partners in the energy and mining sectors.
The U.S. seeks an Arctic region that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative, and we look forward with our – to deepening our engagement with our partners, such as Greenland and Denmark, to achieve these goals.
And last but not least, 15 journalists from various countries around the world are observing the briefing today as part of the department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, the department’s premier professional exchange program for current and emerging foreign leaders. The goal of the IVLP is to advance U.S foreign policy objectives by providing firsthand knowledge about U.S. society, culture, and politics. Throughout their stay, these journalists will visit locations across the United States to learn about new and traditional broadcast media. And I look forward to talking to you all a little bit after the briefing.
So, with that – Matt, if you want to kick us off.
QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. Sorry, on the Greenland, Denmark, U.S. meet, where was that again?
MR PATEL: In Brunswick, Maine.
QUESTION: Oh, in Brunswick, Maine. Okay. All right. I was going to ask you why New Brunswick – why it was in Canada. I thought you said New Brunswick. I missed that.
So did you hand over a check to the Danes to buy Greenland at this meeting or —
MR PATEL: We did no such – no such exchange took place.
MR PATEL: No.
QUESTION: Okay. Why in Brunswick, Maine?
MR PATEL: I can see if there’s some more specific reasoning on the locale, but I don’t have anything.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Moving on to Ukraine and specifically with the Iranian drones – can you explain why it is that you and the French believe that the Iranian supply of these drones to Russia for use anywhere, but obviously Ukraine, is a violation of UN Security Council 2231?
MR PATEL: Sure. So, as I said yesterday, Iran’s supply of these specific types of UAVs to Russia is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and it is an issue for the UN Security Council. The reasoning for that – and as you know, Matt – 2231 remains in effect. Various aspects of it, of course, have phased out, but a specific aspect called Annex B has not. And paragraph 4 of Annex B has made clear its distinct restriction remains in effect. And what that is, is: in Annex B, it’s laid out that it prohibits the transfer from Iran of all items, materials, equipments, and goods, and technology unless approved in advance by the UN Security Council on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, both of the types of UAVs that we spoke about earlier in the summer that Iran had been provisioning to Russia meet the parameters under Category 2 because they are capable of a range equal to and greater than 300 kilometers. I would also note that the manufacturer of one of these drones, Qods Aviation, is subject to the asset freeze provision of paragraph 6 of Annex B 2231. And all states are required to freeze the funds or financial assets of these designated entities when they’re under such restrictions.
QUESTION: Okay. So, if that’s the case, why did you not say anything when these same drones were used in Yemen, in Syria, potentially Libya, dating back to 18 months ago, at the very least? Why is it now, when they’re being used in Ukraine, that you’re saying this is a violation?
MR PATEL: We would have said they were a violation then, too.
QUESTION: Well, you were actually asked in December of 2021. The Saudis asked you, the Israelis asked you, and I believe the Emiratis might have as well, after the first round – or one round of drone attacks, not just in Yemen but also inside Saudi and inside the UAE, to bring this up. And there was silence. So, the question is: Why now? Why not then? This is a repeated pattern of behavior.
MR PATEL: So, I think – first and foremost, I’m not going to get into specifics of diplomatic engagements that we’ve had with other countries. But what I can say is that the transfer of the specific UAVs by Iran would be a violation of paragraph 4 of Annex B. Whether they were sent to Houthis, whether they were sent to Russia, absent advance permission on a case-by-case basis by the UN Security Council, this would be a restriction. And in the case of the transfers in Yemen that you mentioned to the Houthis, these transfers would also have violated Resolution 2264.
And on the topic of Yemen, we are working closely with the UN Yemen Sanctions Committee panel of experts to facilitate their ongoing investigation of prior attacks in and from Yemen with the use of these types of UAVs. But I will also note that when we have assessed that Iran has transferred these same types of UAVs in the past, we have informed the UN. As in this case and as it relates to Yemen – but also, we have informed the UN about Iran’s transfer of the Mohajer-6 UAVs to Ethiopia last summer. I can’t speak to any public messaging around that. We – I certainly didn’t work here at the time, but this kind of transfer would fall under this restriction and would be subject to it.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then – but you’re making the case now publicly. So why didn’t you make the case prior, in the previous cases, publicly? Was it because you still had some hopes for getting – to revive or resurrect the JCPOA? Or was there something else going on that you didn’t think that it was a possibly a violation of 2231?
MR PATEL: Again, I’m not going to speculate on diplomatic engagements, because —
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not asking you to speculate. I just want – I want to know why it’s a big deal now, and it wasn’t a big deal then.
MR PATEL: It was a big deal then, but it is also a big deal now.
QUESTION: Because you just said that you weren’t going to comment on —
MR PATEL: If —
QUESTION: — you weren’t going to – you didn’t raise it publicly.
MR PATEL: As I said, that the assessment of these transfers even back then would have been subject to these restrictions. I can’t comment on previously, but what I would say right now is that – and as I said yesterday – Russia becoming more reliant on a country like Iran, a country known for its destabilizing actions in the region and across the world should be deeply concerning to the world. And anyone doing business with Iran that could have a link to unmanned aircrafts systems or ballistic missiles development should be very careful and do their due diligence.
QUESTION: That’s a broader point though that, that has to do with your interpretation, your analysis of Russia running low and – on its own weapons and needing to rely on what you – on Iran or whoever. My question is specifically why didn’t you make a big deal about this when these same drones were being used to kill civilians in Yemen and in Syria?
MR PATEL: Again, Matt, I can’t speak to whatever decisions were made around then other than to reiterate, as I just said, that it would be our assessment that these transfers would be problematic and would have fallen under these restrictions back then as well, because these are the same types of UAVs.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then can you —
MR PATEL: And when we’ve found that, we have raised it appropriately with relevant countries.
QUESTION: Well, in fact – but it was raised by the Saudis and others back in December of 2021, and nothing was done.
MR PATEL: Again, Matt, we engage with countries on these very important issues. We don’t read out every single one of these engagements. As I’ve said, we raised these with the United Nations —
QUESTION: All right. I’ll stop —
MR PATEL: — when we have found –
QUESTION: I’ll stop after this: what are you – you’ve raised this with the Security Council now?
MR PATEL: We are working with our allies and partners, including at the UN, to address the escalating threats posed by Russia and Iran, and we’ll take appropriate actions as necessary. I’m not going to preview —
QUESTION: Okay. Sorry, I said I would stop. And if you were a betting — sorry, I said I would stop, but this is really the last one. If you were a betting man – well, even if you’re not a betting man, you’re going to bring this to the Security Council, asking for Security Council action to punish Iran and Russia for Russia taking – or Iran transferring these drones to Russia. What do you think the chances are of getting anything through the Security Council?
MR PATEL: Matt, I’m just not going to speculate on hypotheticals or get ahead of any previewed actions here.
QUESTION: On this?
QUESTION: New topic?
MR PATEL: Actually, can you stay on the region? Sure.
MR PATEL: Go ahead, Daphne, and then I’ll come to you Michel.
QUESTION: We’ve reported that Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface‑to‑surface missiles in addition to more drones. Does the State Department have any information on Iran providing these missiles to Russia? And how would the U.S. react to such a move?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any specific assessments to offer on what you raised, but as I said, Russia deepening an alliance with Iran is something the entire world, especially those in the region, should view as a profound threat. And we will continue to take practical, aggressive steps to make these weapons sales harder, including sanctions, export control actions against any entities involved. For instance, as you all know, in early September, we sanctioned several Iranian persons involved in the productions of UAVs and weapons, and we have extensive tools available at our arsenal to disrupt not just Iranian arms transfers but also to continue to hold Russia accountable for their preposterous acts in Ukraine as well. But I’m just – I don’t have anything else to offer on this specific reporting.
QUESTION: How quickly do you expect you’ll act in response to this?
MR PATEL: Again, I am not going to preview a timeline or preview any specific actions on this.
QUESTION: This was my question.
MR PATEL: Okay.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this one?
MR PATEL: Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) very quickly on this very issue? Have you seen or you heard the statement by former Russian President Medvedev about manufacturing these drones in Russia? Have you heard anything about that?
MR PATEL: I have not – I have not seen that report.
QUESTION: And how would you react if they begin manufacturing these very drones with the same technology, and apparently very cheap, like $20,000 each?
MR PATEL: Well, Said, the crux of this issue is that Russia is using them in Ukraine, and they are using them in a country that they have illegally invaded. They’re using them to kill civilians. Some of the reporting we’ve seen that – over the past couple days of children being killed, pregnant women being killed. So, it really doesn’t – I don’t have any comment specifically on his actions, but their actions writ large in Ukraine, including the use of this kind of weaponry, is deeply troubling and should be a concern for everyone. And that’s why you’ve seen this department and this administration react so strongly.
QUESTION: And quickly, in your – I didn’t understand in your response to Matt on the connection with the JCPOA. Is there – these drones can, let’s say, jeopardize any effort to go back to the JCPOA on behalf of this administration?
MR PATEL: So, look Said, we continue to view diplomacy as the best path forward to contain Iran’s nuclear program and as the best measure to put verifiable and accountability measures and metrics on Iran’s nuclear program. As you’ve seen, the Iranian regime continues to pursue parameters that are extraneous to the JCPOA, parameters that are unacceptable to the United States and its E3 partners. So really ultimately, it’s up to Tehran, but we continue to view diplomacy as an avenue to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
Anything else on the region before we move away?
QUESTION: On this topic, on this topic. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Iran?
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks so much. Back to the question on shipping missiles, if Iran and Russia have agreed to have this type of engagement – according to media reports they have, based on the October 6 agreement – then we’re in a different territory. I mean, transferring missiles requires ground transportation, right? It’s not like they can fly it as drones. That also means you need to start working with the countries located in between Iran and Russia, which is Armenia, Azerbaijan, and others. Do you think they have clear understanding of potential consequences if they allow their territories to be used for this sort of engagement?
MR PATEL: Thanks, Alex. I’m not going to speculate on how other countries might feel about one country or the other, but I would use this opportunity to reiterate again that Russia deepening an alliance with Iran is something that the whole world, including those in the region – including some of the countries that you mentioned, should view as a profound threat. On one hand, you have Russia, which is taking part in a barbaric, illegal, and unjust invasion of another country; and on the other hand, you have Iran, one that is known for partaking in destabilizing, violent actions in the region as well. So, the entire region should be – should be concerned.
QUESTION: Yeah. I have colleagues in Europe reporting that European Union countries are still reviewing evidence to fully certify that it was Iranian drones that were used, and they’re looking to get a new sanctions package together by the end of the week. Is the U.S. involved in any of that verification and has any new sanctions coming down potentially?
MR PATEL: So broadly what I would say is that we continue to have a number of tools in our toolbelt to continue to hold both Iran and Russia accountable. I am not going to preview or speculate anything on that.
As it relates to your question about the EU, we are aware of those reports, but I’m not going to – I don’t have anything to offer, and not going to get into specific diplomatic engagements on that.
QUESTION: Let’s assume the – it is proven that it is Iranian-made drones sold to Russia, the subject is taken to the UN Security Council. How is a statement or even more sanctions going to help stop the transfer of these drones and the Russian attacks subsequently against Ukraine?
MR PATEL: Well, Guita, I think in both instances, both as it relates to Iran and Russia, our sanctions and our – the actions that we have taken have had an impact. In Russia specifically, you have seen Russia and the Russian economy contract. You have seen major multinational corporations choose to leave Russia, choose to stop doing business there. And in – as it relates to Iran, sanctions potentially could further isolate them, and it could have further impacts on their country as well. But I’m not going to speculate or preview anything.
But again, this is something that we are deeply concerned about and we’re going to continue to take practical and aggressive steps to not just make these weapon sales harder, but also potentially use sanctions, export controls against any entities involved, as you’ve seen us do so as recently as last month.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
QUESTION: On this, Vedant, if the sanctions are working on Iran, how are they able to do such drones and transfer them to Russia?
MR PATEL: Well, Michel, I didn’t mean to indicate that it’s black and white. I think what we are seeing, through a lot of the destabilizing and problematic actions that we see in Iran, is condemnation and actions being taken in unison – not just by the United States but by our allies and partners, actions that further isolate Iran. As you saw even in the light of the protests over the past month, you’ve seen the U.S. take a number of actions to continue to hold Iran accountable as well.
MR PATEL: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba says that Ukraine will move to sever diplomatic relations with Iran. Is that something that the United States has any comment on, has any support or opposition to?
MR PATEL: Well, Iran’s provision of these weapons for use inside Ukraine and as part of Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion of Ukraine is abhorrent, and we would support whatever President Zelenskyy wanted to do in that regard.
QUESTION: Going back to a comment last week, the EU foreign policy chief compared Russia to a garden and said the rest of the world – most of the rest of the world – was a jungle. I know this was last week. I may have missed it, but the Emiratis came out last night and I think a couple other countries condemning the statement, calling it racist. Does the U.S. have any comment on this?
MR PATEL: I would just refer you to our European Union partners on that. I don’t have anything to offer.
QUESTION: So, the U.S. doesn’t condemn or any – these comments that he made?
MR PATEL: Again, I would just – I would just refer you to the EU. I don’t —
QUESTION: Sorry, just a second one. Can you give us any updates or details on Toria Nuland’s travel? I believe it just says she’s on travel on the public schedule.
MR PATEL: I will see if we can get you some specific information on her travel, but I don’t have anything at my fingertips.
MR PATEL: Go ahead, Shaun.
QUESTION: Can I go to a different topic?
MR PATEL: Yeah.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: The new Labor government says it’ll no longer recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The United States, of course, under the previous administration moved its embassy. Does the United States have any comment on Australia’s move to do this?
MR PATEL: We would defer to the Government of Australia to comment on its own policy, but the U.S. position is that our embassy will remain in Jerusalem, which we recognize as Israel’s capital. And the ultimate status of Jerusalem is a final status issue which will need to be resolved by the parties in the context of direct negotiations.
QUESTION: You’re not trying to encourage other countries to follow suit and – in terms of recognizing Jerusalem or West Jerusalem as —
MR PATEL: I don’t have any specific engagements to offer on that.
QUESTION: You can’t – you say – okay, you say that you’re going to keep your embassy in Jerusalem and that U.S. policy, as it has been since the previous administration, is that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. But this administration really believes, then, that you can still say that the final status of Jerusalem is up to negotiations when you’ve already made a determination or are sticking with the determination of the previous administration?
QUESTION: How do you – if it’s a final status issue, then how can you – how does this administration – I know how the previous administration explained it. But how does this administration explain it, if you still believe it’s a final status —
MR PATEL: Matt, again, I’m not – we are not reversing our decision to move the U.S. embassy, nor revisiting U.S. recognition of —
QUESTION: I’m not asking that. I’m saying that fine, you’re not going to reverse it, but how can you not reverse it and at the same time say that the status of Jerusalem is up to negotiations between the two sides when the original decision that you’re sticking with wasn’t made with – after negotiations or an agreement from both sides?
MR PATEL: Well, I’m certainly not trying to offer – what we have said about Jerusalem and it being a final status issue is not new. It’s not something new over the course of this administration.
QUESTION: Well, no, it’s not new, but you answered Shaun’s question about the Australian decision, and then you made your own announcement or restated the U.S. position.
MR PATEL: Correct.
QUESTION: But then at the same time you said that the status of the city, of Jerusalem, is up to – the final status is up to negotiations. But I don’t see how you can square the two.
MR PATEL: I just don’t have anything else to offer on this, Matt.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Israel?
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: The U.S. says that Israel is still not in compliance with Visa Waiver Program requirements. Could you elaborate on this? Could you —
MR PATEL: Sure, Said. So, I’m not going to get into specific bilateral negotiations, but we continue to work with Israel towards fulfilling all Visa Waiver Program requirements such as extending reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans. And we seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin. But I don’t have any other updates to offer on that.
QUESTION: You know the COGAT ruling, Israeli ruling, will go into effect like in two or three days, which will restrict the movement of Palestinians, their entry, what they need to comply with and not comply with, and so on. So, this is really a timely issue that you guys should respond to this in more clear statements on this issue.
MR PATEL: Said, I think we spoke to this last month as well, and we have reviewed the pilot procedure that was published; and it’s something that we’ve remained engaged on with the Israelis. And as you noted, we understand that these plans will take into effect over the weekend or in the next couple days. I would also note that we note improvements in some of the regulations from the original draft that was published in February. We, of course, remain concerned about potential adverse impacts that some of these procedures could have on civil society, on tourism, on health care facilities, on academic institutions, and this is something that we’re continuing to remain engaged on. But I don’t have a new assessment to offer you.
QUESTION: And lastly, today an Israeli soldier was seen grabbing the bicycle of a six or seven-year-old child, and taking it and dumping it in the dumpster. And I mean, this happens time and time and again. I remember asking you predecessor, Mark Toner, back I think in 2016 or something like this – well, the incident, and they keep doing this. Have – they seem to have a thing against bicycles of Palestinian children and so on. Would you deduct some money that you give Israel so readily – billions of dollars – to maybe compensate this kid for his bicycle?
MR PATEL: Said, I have not seen this specific report, but the U.S. urges the full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Israel, in the West Bank, and Gaza. And as we have said many times, we believe that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measure of security, prosperity, and freedom as well.
Let’s go in the back right there. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. So yesterday at Stanford, Security Blinken said that Chinese is – China is determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline. So, I wonder if he was referring to a 2027 timeline – the Pentagon’s estimate – or was it based on a new analysis?
MR PATEL: So, this is something Secretary Blinken and other senior administration officials have said on a number of occasions, that Beijing is seeking to change the status quo with a more coercive approach than in the past. And as the Secretary also said in that same fireside conversation, that this is a very different PRC under Xi’s leadership. The PRC is more repressive at home, aggressive abroad, and challenging interests and values of the United States – but not just the United States, also our allies and partners. And so, we will compete with the PRC, but we also will cooperate when it comes to a number of issues as well.
Can we stay on the region before we move away? Anything else? Nike, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, just seeking for clarification – the wording “reunification,” did State Department mean “unification?” The reason is because the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan since 1949, so the reunification, do you mean actually unification – is one. And I have another North Korea question.
MR PATEL: So, I would – what I would say is that our position on Taiwan has not changed and is the same. I’m not going to prognosticate on what that potentially meant, but we have had a longstanding “one China” policy, one that is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances as well. And we continue to oppose any unilateral change to the status quo from either side, and we continue to believe that cross-strait differences should be resolved peacefully as well.
QUESTION: Right, on North Korea, just happened a short while ago – according to South Korea military, North Korea just fired a hundred artillery shells off its coast. Do you have any comment on this? Is the United States still open for diplomacy?
MR PATEL: So again, we’re – we’ve seen this happen over the course of this week. We are aware of these reports, and we’d call on the DPRK to cease all provocative and threatening actions. And we continue to believe and be open to dialogue without preconditions with the DPRK as it relates to our ultimate goal here, which is the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: And in November – sorry – November’s – final question, if I may.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: So, several summit in Southeast Asia in November; one of them is APEC. The – reports coming from Thailand saying that President Biden is going to skip APEC summit due to a family event. And then the U.S. commitment to Asia was – there’s a question mark on U.S. commitment to Asia. Do you have any comment on that, and do you know if Vice President Harris is going to attend the summit on behalf of President Biden? Thank you.
MR PATEL: So, I will let the White House speak to the President’s schedule. I don’t have anything to offer on that. But what I would say is that our commitment to Asia and our commitment to the region is ironclad. And while I don’t have a specific delegation to offer today or from here, I can assure you that our representation will be robust and include the highest levels of this government possible. And this is a – not just an institution that were committed to, but a region. And as you know, the Vice President in her travels last year offered up the United States as a potential host for the 2023 summit as well. So, this is something that we are deeply committed to and plan to be continue to be engaged on as well.
QUESTION: Sorry. Just going back to Blinken’s comments yesterday on Beijing pursuing a faster reunification timeline, is that an assessment that is shared across the Biden administration?
MR PATEL: I’m not going categorize it one way or the other. But what I would reiterate is what you saw the Secretary say, that this is a very different PRC, and it is one that is more repressive and aggressive abroad. And it’s one that seeks to advance an illiberal order while the U.S. has sought to organize itself with likeminded nations and surrounded around ideas of the rule of law, democracy, and personal liberty.
QUESTION: So, is this a State Department view then, not a Biden administration view?
MR PATEL: Well, the Secretary is a member of the Biden administration, so I will leave it at that.
QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia?
MR PATEL: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I want to ask about the Washington Post report yesterday on the American Saad Ibrahim Almadi, who was arrested when he traveled to Riyadh last year and then sentenced to 16 years in prison. Can you just give a State Department response to that and your determination as to if he is wrongfully detained or not?
MR PATEL: Sure. So, a couple of things. First, we can confirm the detention of Mr. Almadi in Saudi Arabia. We have been following the case closely. We have consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding the case at senior levels of the Saudi Government, both through channels in Riyadh and Washington, D.C., as well. And we will continue to do so. We have raised this with members of the Saudi Government as recently as yesterday. And it’s something that we’re continuing to pay very close attention to.
Exercising the freedom of expression should never be criminalized. And as it relates to a potential designation, that process is ongoing. We are looking into it. There are a number of strict criteria that are involved in making that designation, so I’m just not going to get ahead of that deliberative process.
QUESTION: And when you say that this has been raised multiple times at multiple levels, what does “raising it” mean? And are you guys pushing for him to be released, for this prison sentence to be no more?
MR PATEL: We are raising the issue of his detention, and we are raising it appropriately through the appropriate channels.
QUESTION: And then just one last question.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: The report noted that there was no State Department official at his sentencing hearing, which was earlier this month. Can you just explain why that was the case?
MR PATEL: Sure. So, the Saudi Government offered no information in advance, despite the embassy’s repeated requests for a confirm of any date. The court date had initially been scheduled for October 9th; this was our understanding. And on September 14th, the U.S. Government sent a request to Saudi officials to attend the October 9th hearing. However, we did not hear back from the Saudi Government until after the October 3rd date had taken place and the hearing had been rescheduled.
QUESTION: Sorry —
QUESTION: On —
QUESTION: — you said that it was raised with the Saudis as recently as yesterday?
MR PATEL: Correct.
QUESTION: Well, when was it first raised with the Saudis? This guy has been in jail there and detained there since November of last year.
MR PATEL: So, let me take a little bit of a step back, Matt. So first and foremost —
QUESTION: That’s exactly what I’m asking you to do, take a little bit —
MR PATEL: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: So, when was the first time you raised this case with the Saudis?
MR PATEL: So, as the article also indicated, this specific detainee requested that the State Department not engage on his behalf as it relates to the specific of his detention initially.
QUESTION: But that – when was the first time that you raised the case with the Saudis?
MR PATEL: I’m just not going to offer a specific date, Matt, due to the nature of diplomatic engagements and negotiations. But what I can say is that —
QUESTION: So why can – how can you say that you’ve raised it as recently as yesterday with them, but you won’t say when you first raised it? Whether he asked you to or not – or gave you permission to or not, when was – and I’m not saying you did anything wrong or anything right. I’m just asking: When was the first time that U.S. officials raised his case with the Saudi Government?
MR PATEL: That would have been as soon as we were made aware of the arrest, which was in December 2021.
QUESTION: Okay. So, you first raised it with —
MR PATEL: Correct —
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MR PATEL: — as – to demand our consular access, as we do with any detained American citizen abroad. We were made aware of this in December. And we raised it appropriately immediately.
QUESTION: And is it – so, like, you had proper consular access then, if you raised that like right when he was arrested?
MR PATEL: So, the last consular access that we had with Mr. Almadi was in early August, on August 10th, and had it previously before that in March. As you all know, in many cases we have difficulties obtaining access to detained U.S. dual nationals in Saudi Arabia, but we do make every effort to push for consular access and consular assistance, as we have done in this case as well.
Go over here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV, Pakistan. Yesterday we heard your statement about the President Biden’s remarks regarding Pakistan, like, the most dangerous country with the nukes. But your statement was totally different. Is it any disagreement with the White House, or is a policy shift?
MR PATEL: Again, I’m not and nor was I yesterday speaking directly to the President’s comments. I will let the White House and my colleagues there speak to that. But I will reiterate again that the U.S. has always viewed a secure and prosperous Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests and, more broadly, to U.S. values – our longstanding cooperation with Pakistan.
QUESTION: So, U.S. ambassador was summoned in Islamabad. We know the reasons, but Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan was also summoned here in the State Department. What was the reason? It was just like you summon ours, we’re going to summon your ambassador? Why was he summoned to the State Department yesterday?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any specifics to offer. As you know, the U.S. meets with Pakistani officials and vice versa regularly, at regular intervals. As standard practice we don’t comment on the specifics and don’t get into private diplomatic engagements as well.
QUESTION: We have seen some rise in Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, in Pakistan – Pakistani Taliban and some other extremist groups. What are your concerns?
MR PATEL: So, few countries have suffered from terrorism like Pakistan and have a shared interest in combating threats to regional instability and regional security like the TTP. We seek a strong partnership with Pakistan on counterterrorism and expect sustained action against all militant and terrorist groups, and we look forward to the cooperative efforts to eliminate all regional and global terrorist threats.
Alex, and then I think we’ve got to wrap up.
QUESTION: Today is Brittney Griner’s birthday. I want to give you a chance to update us on the latest around her case. You have probably have seen Russian officials – President Putin’s aide Yury Ushakov – saying that her case is not a priority for them. How did you read that?
MR PATEL: So, a couple of things. First and foremost, the U.S. Government continues to urge Russia to wrongfully – to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. As the Secretary has said, there was a substantial proposal on the table earlier this summer to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and the Russians should take that deal.
In terms of – in specific communication, a consular officer had the opportunity, today, to speak with Brittney briefly on the phone. A consular officer also had the opportunity to briefly speak with Paul Whelan as well. Roj.
QUESTION: On Syria – thank you, Vedant – about five years ago, Turkey took Afrin out of control of your SDF partners, and today Tahrir al-Sham, a designated terrorist organization, is in control of the city. Are you concerned about that? That’s part one, and then part two: Are you in any form of communication with the Turks on the situation there?
MR PATEL: So first what I would say is, as you know, Turkey is an important partner in the region, an important NATO Ally, and so we are in touch with them on a number of issues. But as it relates to your specific question, we are concerned, of course, about recent violence in northwest Syria, especially its impact on American citizens, and we urge all parties – on – sorry, its impact on civilians, not American citizens. My apologies. We urge all parties to de-escalate and prioritize the safety and well-being of the Syrian people. And as you know, HTS is a designated terrorist organization and it should stop its escalatory actions in the region.
All right, thanks everybody.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Can we have a Haiti question in here?
MR PATEL: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: What’s the latest on – what’s your understanding of where the latest is at the UN?
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: Are there any plans to go ahead with this intervention or – intervention is the wrong reason – it’s the wrong word, but —
MR PATEL: Sure, sure. So, a couple of things, and largely I know many of you saw Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield speak a little bit about this yesterday. So, I would reiterate what she said, which is that the U.S. and Mexico have worked closely to draft two new resolutions, resolutions that we hope that the Security Council will unanimously support. I don’t have any timeline to offer or to get ahead of, but for knowledge’s sake, the first proposed resolution imposes financial sanctions, a travel ban, and targeted arms embargo on criminal actors who are inflicting suffering on the Haitian people.
The second resolution authorizes a non-UN international security assistant mission to improve the security situation and enable the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid. This would be a limited, carefully scoped, non-UN mission led by a partner country with the deep and necessary experience required, with whom the U.S. could find ways to support.
QUESTION: What does a “non-UN mission” mean? Does that just mean that it doesn’t have the imprimatur of the Security Council?
MR PATEL: I – again, I’m not going to offer assessments on specific countries and engagements, but —
QUESTION: Well, I – okay, well – no, no, no, I’m not – not asking who’s going to be in it. I just – what does that mean? What does a non-UN mission like this mean? Just that it doesn’t have UN Security Council approval?
MR PATEL: Again, I’m not going to speculate on the specifics of the resolution, but —
QUESTION: Well then, what’s the point of calling it a non-UN mission if you don’t know what “non-UN” means?
MR PATEL: The United States will consider the most effective means available to support and enable resources to this mission. And – as I said, we’re proposing a limited and carefully scoped non-UN mission led by a partner country, and we will work with partners and other council members.
QUESTION: Okay, fine, but what does that mean? Does that just mean that it doesn’t have UN approval?
MR PATEL: I can see if we can get you a specific definition, Matt, but I don’t have anything.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) last question about Afghanistan, sir?
MR PATEL: Thank you, everybody.
QUESTION: One question – the last question – Afghanistan?
MR PATEL: Unfortunately, I have to wrap, Nazira. I’m so sorry. Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:52 p.m.)