Department Press Briefing – September 25, 2023
1:21 p.m. EDT
MR MILLER: Afternoon, everyone. Don’t have anything to start. I feel like the room is missing something or someone, so – I don’t know. Oh, here it comes. Should I wait? Should I wait for Matt, or does anyone else want to go first while we wait for —
QUESTION: No, no, no, someone else can go first. Sorry about that. Move on.
MR MILLER: (Laughter.) Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have a quick question on Mr. Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations at UNGA last Friday. He showed a map that completely erases the Palestinians. I wonder if you saw the map and I wonder if you have any comment on it.
MR MILLER: I did see it. I’m not going to get into any discussion about the map that the prime minister chose to use. I will say that the President has been clear, this administration has been clear that the United States will continue to support a two-state solution.
QUESTION: So it doesn’t bother you at all that the map shows the Palestinians just evaporated and so on? I mean, isn’t that like a cause for concern, a cause for saying “that’s our position and we state it very strongly; there will be no normalization without it or anything of such” – or just maybe a mishap on part of the prime minister?
MR MILLER: I did just state what our position is. In addition to my just stating what our position is, that we support a two-state solution, the President made it clear in his meeting with Prime Minister Abbas – I’m sorry, Prime Minister Netanyahu – last week that we continue to support a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Well, you mentioned Abbas. Why wasn’t there any meeting between the Palestinian —
MR MILLER: I’m sorry. What was —
QUESTION: You just spoke of Netanyahu and —
MR MILLER: Of Abbas, yeah.
QUESTION: Why wasn’t there any high-level meeting with the Palestinian Authority president?
MR MILLER: They did not request a meeting with us during the UN General Assembly last week. But we continue to engage with the Palestinian Authority and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: (Inaudible) go —
QUESTION: Oh, if you want to stay on this – I just wonder – go ahead.
QUESTION: Well —
MR MILLER: Go ahead – go ahead, Matt. No – Matt, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I just want to know if you have anything to say about this Molotov cocktail at the Cuban embassy if you haven’t done it already. I’m sorry I was late.
MR MILLER: No, no, I haven’t. First of all, attacks and threats against diplomatic facilities are unacceptable. We are in contact with Cuban embassy officials, and consistent with our obligations under the Vienna Conventions, the department is committed to the safety and security of diplomatic facilities and the diplomats who work in them. The – our State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service works closely with law enforcement agencies to protect and maintain the security and safety of foreign missions in the United States, and we are doing that now with respect to this particular attack in coordination with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
QUESTION: Okay. And you don’t really have any more – or do you have any more information about —
MR MILLER: I don’t. I don’t.
QUESTION: Back on Israel?
MR MILLER: No, go – go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I go to Nagorno-Karabakh —
MR MILLER: Sure.
QUESTION: — the situation there? Obviously there have been some statements in recent days from the Secretary and from others. But could you comment on the latest attack? I mean, we’ve seen a stream of people fleeing – like Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh. How concerned are you with the situation and the assurances that Azerbaijan has given about allowing ethnic minorities to stay there? Do you take that at face value? Are you confident that that’s the case?
MR MILLER: We are concerned about the situation. I will say that in terms of what we think is important, it’s, number one, that the ceasefire that exists now be maintained, that there is no further military action; number two, that the humanitarian needs of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are addressed; and number three, that Azerbaijan and Armenia reach a lasting peace agreement.
With regard to the humanitarian situation from the ground, the population of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh should be able to remain in their homes in peace and dignity, with respect for their rights and security if they choose to do so. Those who want to leave and return should be allowed safe passage overseen by a neutral, independent third party. And Azerbaijan has a responsibility to protect civilians and ensure the humane treatment of all, including those it suspects of being combatants.
QUESTION: A couple things. The Armenians have called for some sort of international monitoring, whether it’s through the UN or through other partners. Is that something that the United States supports or would work toward?
MR MILLER: We do believe there should be an international mission to provide transparency, reassurance, and confidence to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and the international community, that the rights and security – their rights and security will be protected consistent with the public statements that Azerbaijan has made.
QUESTION: Just briefly following up on that, an international mission, is that something that’s – are there actual discussions on that? Is the U.S. working on —
MR MILLER: There have been active discussions about it. I don’t have any readout of those discussions, but it is – we do – we have called for such a mission some time, and we are working with our allies and partners to secure one.
QUESTION: Sure. Can I just pursue one other thing on this? The – on the diplomatic side, there’s been a war of words of sorts between Prime Minister Pashinyan and the Russians, with the Armenian prime minister saying that Russia failed to protect Armenia, that Armenia should essentially seek other partners, perhaps. Does the United States have anything to say about this? Is – do you think that there was, in the prime minister’s words, a Russian failure to prevent this?
MR MILLER: I do think that Russia has shown that it is not a security partner that can be relied on.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that and —
MR MILLER: Yeah, Alex, go ahead.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just on that? Just to pick up from where Shaun left off, Russia responded to Pashinyan, criticizing Pashinyan over recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Do you have any concern about that?
MR MILLER: Any concern – I don’t have any —
QUESTION: Russia is criticizing Pashinyan for recognizing another country’s territorial integrity.
MR MILLER: I think —
QUESTION: And blaming him for this.
MR MILLER: I see the question you’re – I think it gets to the point I was making a minute ago, that Russia cannot be relied on as an international partner. And as it pertains to Russia’s respect for international territory and – or, I’m sorry, territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries, I think we’ve seen by its own actions that it’s not a principle that it holds itself to.
QUESTION: On that line, the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Pashinyan over the weekend, and he also reaffirmed U.S. support for Armenia’s territorial integrity. Do you have any concern on your end that Armenia’s territorial integrity must be jeopardized or they – something is –must be going on that will require U.S. support for Armenia’s territorial integrity?
MR MILLER: I think I would answer that by saying what we think is important is that Armenia and Azerbaijan reach a lasting peace agreement. It’s something that we have pushed for some time – for some time. It’s something that we have said publicly we believed was in reach if both sides were willing to make difficult compromises. Obviously, we have not seen that happen in the last few months. I do note that President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan have announced that they are going to meet next week. We think it’s important that they meet and ultimately bridge the divide between their two countries.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) meetings, the Secretary told us on Friday that he has been in touch with the leaders, highest level, which is right; he called the president and the prime minister. But it struck me that he was in the same building with the foreign ministers for five days and he did not meet with them. Is it a recognition of state of play in the context (inaudible) Azerbaijan —
MR MILLER: You – so the contention is that the Secretary’s engagement with the leaders of those two countries shows a lack of commitment?
QUESTION: I mean, he was in the same building with the foreign ministers, his counterparts, but he did not meet with them. I mean —
MR MILLER: He was in regular conversation with the leaders of those two countries. I think that shows the depth of his commitment to resolving this issue. In addition, Administrator Power and Assistant Secretary – Acting Assistant Secretary Kim are in the region today. I think it’s a stretch to question the depth of our commitment when you see the diplomatic engagement that we’ve had from the most senior levels over the past week. The fact that he didn’t meet in person when he’s talking to leaders of the foreign – to foreign countries, I – it would be a mistake to read anything into that.
QUESTION: Care to expand a little bit on Assistant Secretary Kim’s trip? She going to be in both countries —
MR MILLER: You said the last one was your last question.
QUESTION: But the – (inaudible) —
MR MILLER: I will answer this one, and then I’m going to move on – I’m going to move on to someone else.
MR MILLER: No, they are there to reaffirm U.S. support for Armenia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and democracy, and of course to help address humanitarian needs stemming from the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. Let me —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) come back —
MR MILLER: Let me – let me go – let me —
QUESTION: Matt, I wonder if you —
MR MILLER: I’m going to hold you to that one being the last.
QUESTION: If you wanted to comment on Turkish President Erdogan going to Azerbaijan, given the situation. He’s arrived in this exclave and there’s discussions about transport links between Türkiye and Azerbaijan, which would go through Armenia. Is that something that the U.S. has a view on?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment on that specifically other than to say we have been engaged with the Turkish Government on this issue. It was one of the issues that Secretary Blinken discussed with his Turkish counterpart when they met in New York on Friday. We continue to hope that all of our allies and partners could play a constructive role in reaching a lasting agreement, and that of course would include Türkiye. But I don’t have a comment on a specific proposal.
QUESTION: You said – it came up in – I mean, can you give any more sort of specific on – it came up as in the Secretary expressed a specific opinion, or —
MR MILLER: I’m not – other than him expressing the same opinion that I’ve just expressed publicly here a moment ago.
Jen, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I switch to Niger?
MR MILLER: Of course.
QUESTION: France announced they would withdraw their military forces by the end of the year. Does this have any impact on the U.S.’s posture there? Any moves forthcoming from us?
MR MILLER: It does not change our posture. I will say that the Secretary did meet on Friday with members – with ECOWAS member states to discuss the political crisis in Niger. We continue to call for the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland to release President Bazoum and his family and all the other members of his government who have been unlawfully detained, and to take steps to restore democracy in the country.
QUESTION: Has there been any engagement with the junta since Toria Nuland’s trip there?
MR MILLER: We have ability to get messages to the junta when it is in our interest to do so, but I don’t have any specific conversations to read out.
QUESTION: When was the last time that message was conveyed to them?
MR MILLER: I don’t have that – I don’t know that.
QUESTION: And lastly, do you have any updates on Bazoum’s well-being? Is he —
MR MILLER: We continue to be concerned about his well-being, the fact that he continues to be under detention and has not been released. It’s been a matter that has concerned us for some time. We do have engagements with President Bazoum and have regular conversations with him. And it is that concern for his well-being – that concern for his well-being is one of the reasons why we call for his immediate release.
Go ahead. Oh – yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Ladies first.
MR MILLER: No, go ahead.
QUESTION: After you.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you very much. Back on the on the Cuban embassy attack briefly, Matt, the Cubans have characterized this as a terrorist attack. Does the department have reason to agree with that characterization at this stage?
QUESTION: Would you say you disagree with that characterization?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any reason to either agree or disagree without seeing the evidence from that investigation, which is ongoing.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on a very separate topic, understanding that Secretary Blinken met with Vice President Han during UNGA, is there any clarity now on the timing of an expected visit by a Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States?
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have one question and one – something with regard to journalism. My first —
MR MILLER: A something – not a question? You typically do questions, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. So the question – my first question is about this transnational murder that has happened in Canada. We have heard several statements from Mr. Kirby, from the Secretary. But from the same podium, when Mr. Kirby was there, I did ask him when President – when Prime Minister Modi was elected PM for the first time, until now when this incidence had happened. And I have continuously raised this issue that it’s not about India, it’s about his leadership and the kind of things that has developed which has led to transnational murder. And the U.S. has played a vital role in providing intelligence.
If you could just give us some further details, any updates, any new developments that you can share with us?
MR MILLER: What I will say is we are deeply concerned by the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau. We remain in close contact with our Canadian partners, as the Secretary said on Friday. We believe it’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. And we have publicly – and privately – urged the Indian Government to cooperate in the Canadian investigation.
QUESTION: And are you aware that this RSS theory has reached towns like North Carolina, Marshall, town halls where there are official members of RSS meeting the officials? Are you aware of —
MR MILLER: I’m not. I’m not sure what reports you’re referring to. I wouldn’t want to comment on it.
QUESTION: Okay. And sir, just – Matt, one thing about journalism is I want to tell you – and I hope Matt Lee helps me out with this too. But at the White House, sir, you – since last eight years, State Department has shown me so much respect. Every time I’ve come here, they always have honored me with giving me opportunity to ask questions. After encephalitis – I don’t know how aware you are – multiple times at the State Department I went. First I was provided a handicapped stool after Tamara Keith had intervened, and Ms. Karine then called me up that I’m sorry after eight months, she tells me that, oh, I found out that you’re handicapped.
So I just have a humble request to at least talk to the State Department that those journalists who come in health conditions, and then their stool gets stolen too, and they’re sitting on a wooden piece of plank, and then they don’t get opportunity. At least State Department can share their thoughts on those kind of journalists, because in these eight years, beside Benjamin Hall, I have not seen any journalist in worse health condition than me. And I hope that you guys can at least raise this question from a journalism point that, come on, respect at least —
MR MILLER: — and take your questions, as I think I’ve shown in the time that I’ve been here.
QUESTION: You have always.
MR MILLER: And I’m happy to look into it further.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And you’re also wrong. It’s not just Ben Hall; there are others.
MR MILLER: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. The question is about Mexico and Russia. Is the U.S. State Department concerned that Mexico, one of your closest partners, invited Russian troops to take part in its independence day celebrations on September 16th? The Ukrainian ambassador to Mexico expressed her displeasure immediately, but we haven’t heard from the U.S. administration.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Matt. It’s a judicial matter, but it’s a judicial matter that also concerns the State Department, according to this indictment that was unsealed last week about Senator Menendez. There are some damning allegations that say he took some information from the State Department and gave it away to Egyptian businessmen. So is there any kind of concern or when already ongoing investigation in this State Department that the senator, the indicted senator, might have taken some information from the State Department in the past using his position and, again, allegedly sold those information to other foreign governments? Because he’s been very well known to be favorable towards some specific governments over the past years.
QUESTION: Is there any kind of measure that’s going to be taken by the State Department, like an internal investigation as to what information might have leaked?
MR MILLER: Again, it just wouldn’t be appropriate to me to comment on what very clearly is an ongoing law enforcement matter.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Last week you announced that United States taking steps to impose visa restrictions under the visa policy on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for undermining the democratic elections in Bangladesh. Bangladesh ruling prime minister responded this decision by saying in case of any move to thwart elections from outside, indicating U.S., Bangladesh will also impose restriction on those who will take such initiative. And joining her, foreign minister has said U.S. has given assurance that there will be no sanction before elections. So is that true, and what is your reaction on that?
MR MILLER: I will say, as we have said previously, as we said when the Secretary announced this new policy in May, that this – the purpose was not to take – to take a side in an election in Bangladesh, but to ensure or to support free, fair, and peaceful national elections in Bangladesh. I will say that, as we noted when we announced these new visa restrictions on Friday, they include – they include both members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.
QUESTION: On Bangladesh.
QUESTION: One more on Bangladesh main opposition party gave a 48-hours ultimatum to the government to release their party chairperson and allow her to go abroad for advanced medical treatment, as her medical condition is very serious, and she is under arrest and hospitalized, this 78-years-old former prime minister. So what is your stance on the releasing of the former prime minister?
MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on that.
Was there another Bangladesh one?
QUESTION: I have Bangladesh.
MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Matt. Just one concern: The U.S. ambassador in Bangladesh mentioned 24th September in Bangladesh of inclusion of media person on new visa restriction raised huge concern. Taking into account the imposition on media person, a member of former editor with credential of working with Western outlets expressed concern that such a move runs contrary to uphold freedom of press. Don’t you think this sanction, if applied to media, would undermine U.S. call for stand for human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of press?
MR MILLER: So let me just be clear, because I missed the first part of the question. This is a reference to the —
QUESTION: U.S. ambassador.
MR MILLER: — to the 3C actions —
QUESTION: Yes. Yes.
MR MILLER: — that we announced on Friday?
MR MILLER: And the question is about whether they —
QUESTION: Whether that – that the U.S. ambassador in Dhaka —
MR MILLER: So —
QUESTION: — day before yesterday told that it will – there – yeah, it will be applied also on media person.
MR MILLER: I think what we have said, and we – so we have not announced because visa records are confidential – we have not announced the specific members or the specific individuals to which this will apply, but it made clear that they will apply to members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Gabriel Escobar in an interview with The Pavlovic Today told me that Kurti’s letter to Secretary Blinken in which Kosovo prime minister is accusing Lajcak and Borrell of colluding with Russia to have a biased approach towards Kosovo is factually incorrect, and he said that the president of Kosovo also should condemn those attacks on the partners of the U.S. So will you call on President of Kosovo Osmani to denounce attacks on Lajcak and Borrell?
MR MILLER: So you said the deputy assistant secretary gave you a comment on – spoke to you about this earlier today? I don’t think I have anything further to add to the —
QUESTION: He —
MR MILLER: — to those comments that he gave to you.
QUESTION: But you agree with that, yeah?
MR MILLER: He’s speaking on behalf of the State Department.
QUESTION: Okay. So another urgent matter. Violent clashes yesterday in Kosovo. A Kosovo policeman has been killed as well as four – so far confirmed – Serbian nationals. It has been confirmed that two Serbs were killed by a sniper. Given that Kosovo police is partially funded by the United States, will you call for an investigation into potential excessive use of force and police brutality by the Kosovo police force, especially in light of the reported use of snipers?
MR MILLER: So first of all, we strongly condemn the coordinated violent attacks on the Kosovo police. We express deep condolences to the family of the Kosovo police sergeant who was killed in the line of duty. The perpetrators of this crime must be held accountable via a transparent investigative process, and we call on the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to refrain from any actions or rhetoric which could further inflame tensions and to immediately work in coordination with international partners to de-escalate the situation, ensure security and rule of law, and return to the EU-facilitated dialogue.
QUESTION: And in regards in the – the reported use of snipers?
MR MILLER: I have not seen those reports confirmed. I have seen the reports but I’m not going to speak to them as they have not been confirmed as far as – as far as to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Sorry. Can I also check, what you just said just before was verbatim what the Secretary’s statement on this was —
MR MILLER: Correct. That is – that is —
QUESTION: — this morning. So there hasn’t been any change in any —
MR MILLER: There has not. Correct.
MR MILLER: Shannon.
QUESTION: Thank you. With so much attention on the southern border, I was wondering if you could give an update on the Regional Processing Centers the State Department set up. Are those up and running? What kind of traffic are they getting? And is there still hope that that might alleviate pressure on the border?
MR MILLER: We have set up those – a number of those centers, secure mobility initiatives. I’d be happy to get to you with specifics on numbers. I don’t have them at my fingertips at the podium, but I’d be happy to follow up and get you numbers that we’ve seen.
MR MILLER: Guita, go ahead.
QUESTION: On Iran, it seems like the U.S. and Iran are making an attempt at de-escalating tension. Prisoners and hostages have been exchanged. Iran is reportedly enriching less 60-percent uranium. Now, if a possible further step – could it – could it be that if the – an Iranian official who comes to New York for UNGA, given the travel limitations, if he requests to come to Washington, D.C. – for example, the foreign minister —
MR MILLER: For example; just picking somebody out of thin air. Yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. Would the Biden administration consider that maybe in a positive light to – as another step to reduce tension, given that there are also reports that they did make such a request?
MR MILLER: I was about to say, you seem to be framing this as a hypothetical when in fact it’s something that happened. They did make that request and it was denied by the State Department. We do have an obligation to allow Iranian officials and other officials of foreign governments to travel to New York for UN business, but we do not have an obligation to allow them to travel to Washington, D.C. And given Iran’s continued wrongful detention of United – or I – for – not continued anymore, but given Iran’s wrongful detention of U.S. citizens, given Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, we don’t – did not believe it was either appropriate or necessary in this instance to grant that request.
QUESTION: And since you mentioned hostages and prisoners, there’s also a report that a U.S. national died in Iranian prison in the past few days. What do you have – what can you tell us about this person? Is he a U.S. citizen, a Green Card holder, or what?
MR MILLER: We have seen those reports. He is not a U.S. citizen, to our knowledge. We have no records to indicate as well that he was a lawful permanent resident. I will say, however, we are still alarmed by the reports that he was denied medical care by Iranian authorities while they were in – while he was in their custody. And we, of course, express condolences to his family.
QUESTION: Did the administration even know of the existence of this person who was – at some point was here in the United States? And —
MR MILLER: Again, he was – he’s not a U.S. citizen, to our knowledge. We have no records that he was a Green Card holder, a lawful permanent resident. As you might imagine, we are not tracking the status of every person in Iranian custody. We’re aware of American citizens who – to whom we provide consular – or to whom we request and provide consular access around the world, and of course, the wrongful detainees whose release we secured last week. But no, we are not tracking every individual who might have lived in the United States at some point who’s been detained in Iranian prison.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. (Inaudible) from Nikkei. I was just wondering if you could comment on the impact of a potential government shutdown on the State Department’s ability to process arms sales, especially to Taiwan.
MR MILLER: So we do have the ability to – well, let me start by saying I don’t want to get too far down into a hypothetical, something that hasn’t happened yet and we hope will not happen and do not believe should happen in any instance. We do have the ability to continue to provide arms to our allies and partners in the event of a government shutdown. That has been true in the past.
But, of course, when you have people at the State Department and at the Defense Department and other places in the government who are not able to come to work, obviously it could affect the pace of delivery – not speaking with respect to any one country, but overall could affect the pace of delivery of weapons, and that’s something that would be of concern. And you can be certain that our adversaries would be watching. And it’s one of the reasons why we think Congress should take steps to keep the government funded.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. The executive director of D.C.-based Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian, made a social media post yesterday in English, where he criticized Armenian prime minister over the situation in Karabakh and the security officer guarding him. In one of the posts this official said, quote, “the moment an Armenian guarding Pashinyan values his soul more than his paycheck,” unquote, which is sort of an appeal for – or encouraging a security guard to take an elected prime minister out. So is it in line with the U.S. democratic values and the law that a director of a prominent lobbying group based in U.S. making such a call? And is it okay that that same director in the U.S. make efforts through social media to overthrow a government and even asks for a use of armed force for this purpose?
MR MILLER: So I haven’t seen the post to which you’re referring, and I’m always hesitant to comment specifically with respect to things that are read to me for the first time at the podium. I want to see the full context, not that – I can imagine what it would be in this instance. But I will say, speaking generally, of course we always condemn threats against government officials or any attempts to overthrow lawfully elected governments.
QUESTION: Thank you. Do you have any comments with respect to what happened in Canada, in the Canadian parliament on Friday? And in general, what is the U.S. position on glorification of Waffen SS veterans that’s taken place in Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia every year?
MR MILLER: The position on – what was the – I just missed you.
QUESTION: What – with respect to what happened in the Canadian parliament, in the House of Commons on Friday, with the standing ovation to a Nazi veteran?
MR MILLER: I will admit that I was at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in a full slate of meetings and I’m not sure of the report you’re – to which you’re referring. So —
QUESTION: One more question.
MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in an interview to a Swiss —
MR MILLER: This will be good.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) He said that he – the U.S. Government obstructed him from taking an interview – interviewing Vladimir Putin. Do you have any comments here? Do you know anything about it?
MR MILLER: I have no idea what he’s talking about.
QUESTION: Question for North Korea. It seems like North Korea has allowed foreigners to enter their country from 25th, and I’m just —
MR MILLER: I’m sorry. Enter from where? From —
QUESTION: So North Korea has allowed foreigners to enter their country from the 25th.
MR MILLER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So I’m just wondering: Are you expecting diplomacy to DPRK and the approach get, like, more easier to – compared to before?
MR MILLER: I wouldn’t say that. I would say that we have always made clear that we welcome diplomacy with North Korea. That has been the policy of this administration since the beginning of this administration, but North Korea has rejected it at every turn.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Alex, go ahead.
QUESTION: There’s so much discussion going on, potential government shutdown. I’m just wondering if the department is considering an exempt for its Ukraine operations, given – so you don’t want your operations getting uninterrupted?
MR MILLER: So that is a legal question that pertains to who is allowed to work during a shutdown and who is not allowed to work. The same answer that I gave a minute ago would apply with respect to Ukraine, which is we are able to continue to provide assistance – military assistance, security assistance – in the event of a government shutdown. But when you have a number of people who aren’t allowed to come to work, that could affect the pace of any deliveries. It’s why we think a shutdown would be so concerning and why we would urge Congress to fund the government.
QUESTION: Thank you. And my last question: A Moscow court last week rejected an appeal request from Evan Gershkovich. Do you have any reaction to that? I know it’s been long ago, but we haven’t seen you for a long time.
MR MILLER: No, I mean, my reaction is the same as it’s been every – in every turn of this situation, which is that we urge his immediate release. We reject the Russian Government’s characterization of him. He never should have been arrested in the first place. He should be released immediately and allowed to return home and be reunited with his loved ones.
QUESTION: I’ve got two brief Middle East ones. One, on the – ever since the latest UN Security Council resolution extending the UNIFIL mandate was adopted, there have been questions about whether the administration is changing the previous administration’s policy on recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Can you once and for all answer the question? Is there – are you – is there a change? Are you changing it? Is the language in the resolution regarding Shebaa Farms an indication that something is in the works?
QUESTION: Okay. If you – you would not take the language – so why did you sign on to it?
MR MILLER: We decided it was the appropriate thing to do in this instance, but our policy has not changed.
QUESTION: Is it going to?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any announcements about steps to take.
QUESTION: Should we get into Western Sahara now?
MR MILLER: (Laughter.) Please. I don’t have any announcements to make about steps that we may or may not take down the road.
QUESTION: All right. And then secondly —
QUESTION: Sorry – what is the policy?
MR MILLER: As the Secretary has said, leaving aside the legalities of the question, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security. And as long as Assad is in power in Syria and as long as Iran is present in Syria, there is a significant threat to Israel and control of the Golan remains real important to Israel’s security.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, wait a second. That again tries to split the – split hairs. Do you recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan or not?
MR MILLER: Our policy on that has not changed.
QUESTION: So you do.
MR MILLER: The United – the United States has had a position —
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re talking about – wait, wait, hold on – you’re talking about the policy of the United States that was enunciated by the Trump administration, and that has not changed?
MR MILLER: It has not changed.
QUESTION: But you won’t say Israel has sovereignty over the Golan.
MR MILLER: I – I would speak to it the way the Secretary spoke to it, which is legalities – leaving aside the legalities of the question —
QUESTION: Yeah, but – but —
MR MILLER: I understand, but —
QUESTION: But recognizing sovereignty from the previous administration is a legal determination.
MR MILLER: I understand. As I just said, our policy on it hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Well, then it has, because you’re saying it’s no longer a legal determination. You’re just saying —
MR MILLER: No, I said leaving aside the legalities of the question —
QUESTION: But leaving – yeah, but you can’t leave them aside.
MR MILLER: I spoke to the practicalities of it, but I also reiterated, as we have in the past, that the policy hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: So the issue of sovereignty is not contingent upon sovereignty itself but contingent upon who rules Syria? Is that what you’re saying?
MR MILLER: I was speaking to the —
QUESTION: As long as the president of Syria —
MR MILLER: I was speaking to the practicalities of the situation as the Secretary has in the past, but as a policy matter the United States policy remains the same.
QUESTION: Well, look, can you go back to the – can you go back to your lawyers and find out what exactly it is? Because, I mean, look, the Trump administration said that it was recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. You guys seem to be doing something short of that by saying leaving aside the legal questions, the practicalities are – well, the practicalities in a lot of places are – if we want to get into the Chagos Islands and – there – people from there are here this week too.
And anyway, my second question on this is: Are you still expecting the Secretary to send his recommendation on Israel and the Visa Waiver Program to Secretary Mayorkas in the next day or two?
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into the exact timing other than to say that that is a matter that has to be determined by the end of the fiscal year, which I think is this weekend, if I have it correct, so —
QUESTION: It is. It might also be the end of government operations —
MR MILLER: Let’s hope not, but you’re right about the realities of the situation, so certainly we would need to make a determination in the next week or so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Israel?
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Israel?
MR MILLER: Shaun, go ahead.
QUESTION: That mean I’m not going to get any questions —
MR MILLER: Shaun, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you – there’s a human rights report on Abu Ghraib 20 years later, saying that there’s been no compensation for Iraqis who were abused there. It might be more of a DOD thing, but is there anything you have to say about whether there’s any process —
MR MILLER: No. I think as you anticipated, it’s a question I’d refer to DOD.
Okay. With that, thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: So President Biden —
MR MILLER: Thank you, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)
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