2:14 p.m. EDT
MR PATEL: Good morning – well, good afternoon, everybody. Sorry. It’s not morning anymore. Apologies for being just a couple minutes tardy. I have two very brief things for you at the top, and then happy to dive right into your questions.
So, I want to bring Russia’s so-called “filtration” operations back to your attention ahead of the UN Security Council meeting this afternoon where Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will deliver remarks on behalf of the United States.
“Filtration” is a dehumanizing word describing a massive campaign that the Kremlin has launched to imprison, forcibly deport, or disappear those Ukrainian citizens Moscow decides could be a potential threat to their control over Ukraine. The tactics Russia has used to collect information are invasive, and victims of filtration are given no choice but to submit or face dire consequences. Russia has systematically used the practice of forced deportations previously, and the fear and misery it evokes for people forced to live under the Kremlin’s control are hard to overstate.
We have newly downgraded information about how, over the course of this conflict, Russia has increasingly relied on infrastructure – including facilities, technology, and transportation – to accommodate hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who have been and will be processed through these filtrations operations. Behind me is a map that DNI just made public earlier today, laying out some of these filtrations operations.
Russian forces and Russian proxies in Russian-controlled Ukraine are using dedicated information technology to support filtration operations, including online databases, tools, equipment to support the gathering of biometric data and facial recognition, and tracking and monitoring of Ukrainians’ cell phones.
The United States has information that officials from Russia’s presidential administration are overseeing and coordinating filtration operations.
We are further aware that the Russian presidential administration officials are providing lists of Ukrainians to be targeted for filtration, and receiving reports on the scope and progress of operations.
We assess that the Kremlin views filtration operations as a – crucial to their efforts to annex areas of Ukraine under their control.
And we demand that Russia halt its filtration operations immediately and allow the UN, independent observers, and humanitarian and human rights organizations access to these filtration sites.
We call on the global community to join us in condemning this practice and calling for humanitarian access to be granted.
One last thing. I know a few of you asked yesterday about Special Envoy Hammer’s travel to Ethiopia, so we just wanted to offer a brief update for you all on that. The U.S. continues to be deeply concerned about renewed fighting in Ethiopia. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer met in Addis Ababa September 5th through 6th with deputy prime minister, with the foreign minister, and the national security advisor to discuss the urgency of immediate cessation of hostilities and going to peace talks under the African Union’s auspices.
Special Envoy Hammer delivered the same message to the TPLF chairman, and we have condemned the TPLF offensive outside of Tigray, the Ethiopian Government’s airstrikes and ground offensive, and Eritrea’s re-entry into the conflict.
In the coming days, as part of the ongoing diplomatic effort, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee, Special Envoy Hammer, and other U.S. diplomats will be consulting with the African Union as well as key actors in the region – the UN, the EU, and UK envoys. Our goal is to mobilize diplomatic efforts to press the government and the TPLF to halt immediately their military offensives and for Eritrea to withdraw to its borders. There is no military solution to this conflict. The only path forward is for the parties to pursue a negotiated settlement through peace talks.
The Ethiopian people have suffered tremendously from this conflict. As the largest donor, the U.S. is committed to continuing to provide its life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in need affected by the resumption of conflict. It is important to note that we remain concerned by the negative impact of conflict and drought in other regions of Ethiopia.
Let me restate again that the U.S. commitment to Ethiopia’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and our conviction that only through a lasting peace will the Ethiopian people have an opportunity to achieve the prosperity they desire and deserve.
So, with that, I’m happy to take your questions. Daphne, if you want to start.
QUESTION: Thank you. The – if I could start with the grain deal, is the State Department concerned about Putin’s comments saying he wanted to discuss the grain deal being reopened and accusing the West of deception? I have a follow-up as well.
MR PATEL: Sure. So, a couple of things. The Black Sea Grain Initiative is a humanitarian arrangement to bring desperately needed food to the world’s hungry populations. The U.S. did not offer, nor did it provide, any sanctions relief in exchange for Russia’s participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. As a matter of fact, U.S. sanctions have always had clear exemptions for food and fertilizer, and our sanctions have never targeted humanitarian assistance. We want to see food and fertilizer reach global markets, and Russia must continue to live up to its commitments to the Black Grain Sea Initiative.
And some of these other allegations that we’ve seen, that, one, global food prices are rising, just aren’t the case. In fact, global food prices have fallen, as a result of the Black Sea port arrangement. Additionally, I believe there were allegations that grain was not going to countries that needed it. That simply is not the case either. Because of this arrangement, grain has been able to reach global markets and gone to countries that need it desperately.
QUESTION: Okay. And UN and Russian officials met in Geneva today to discuss Russian complaints that Western sanctions were impeding the ability to export grain and fertilizer. Did the U.S. also meet with UN official Rebeca Grynspan in Geneva on the issue? And have you discussed this with the Russians, like what specific sanctions relief are they asking for?
MR PATEL: Yeah, I don’t have any additional specifics to readout on any potential meeting, but what I would reiterate, again, is that we did not provide or offer any sanctions relief in exchange for participation in this initiative. And as I’ve said, there has always been a clear exemption for food and fertilizer, and our sanctions never target humanitarian assistance.
MR PATEL: Alex. Still on Russia-Ukraine?
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you.
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. Staying on Putin, he made a number of statements today. Broadly speaking, do you see his statements as part of his war strategy – particularly when he was talking about lift the sanctions or else, that language. Do you see he is – do you think – based on your assessment, is he blackmailing the West?
MR PATEL: I’m not going to categorize his comments one way or the other. I think what it’s important to look at here is Russia’s actions, and what their actions have been – have been deeply problematic, starting with the unjust and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, their initial reluctance to allow grain to leave ports of Ukraine. What this is really about is their actions. And so, what I would reiterate again is that this Black Sea Grain Initiative is a humanitarian arrangement to bring desperately needed food to the world’s hungriest populations. And any allegation or notion that our sanctions are standing in the way of that are just simply not true because we have always had clear exemptions for food and fertilizer.
QUESTION: But back to the filtration questions, if you don’t mind.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: You mentioned some technology, tools, equipment. Based on your assessment, is Russia alone in this, in terms of the source of those tools that Russia has been using?
MR PATEL: Is Russia what?
QUESTION: Is Russia alone in this, or is – is Russia cooperating with China, Iran?
MR PATEL: I’m not going to speculate on anything beyond what I shared initially at the top.
Still on Russia-Ukraine, Jenny?
QUESTION: Yeah – filtration camps as well. Does the U.S. consider this to be a war crime, and if so, how do you intend to hold Russia accountable for this? And have you assessed that Putin himself is involved in these filtration camps?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any specifics on who might be involved other than to reiterate that, clearly, it’s members of the presidential administration. We know that there have been activities that could be categorized as war crimes that have happened by Russian Federation forces over the course of this conflict, but I don’t have anything additional to offer.
MR PATEL: Sure, Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: IAEA —
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The report of the IAEA on Zaporizhzhia.
MR PATEL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Now the Russians are saying that the inspector had determined that the attacks are, actually, Ukrainian attacks on that plant? Do you have any comment on that?
MR PATEL: So —
QUESTION: That’s what the inspectors has allegedly said.
MR PATEL: We continue to appreciate the extraordinary efforts of the IAEA in their efforts to continue to maintain a presence at the ZNPP to assess its safety and security. I will note again, as I noted yesterday, that it is Russia that is unjustly and illegally and unlawfully infringing on Ukrainian territorial integrity and Ukrainian sovereignty by being present at the ZNPP. I know the IAEA put out a report yesterday. Our experts are continuing to review that report and its recommendations, and we continue to call on and support Ukraine’s call for a demilitarization zone around the ZNPP facility.
QUESTION: Right, right. But – I understand all this. But do you agree, or you refute, the notion that it is actually the Ukrainians who have been attacking in the last few days – I mean, we’re talking about a short period of time – the plant and putting in jeopardy the contents and so on that might cause something akin to Chernobyl.
MR PATEL: Sure, Said. I think we’ve been very clear from the onset that any kind of military or violent activity near a nuclear power plant is unsafe. But I would reiterate again that Russia is the country that is illegally infringing on Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty by being present at the ZNPP.
Janne, you had a question?
QUESTION: Yes, on sort of Russia’s – Russians’ ambassador to the United Nations refutes U.S. claims about the Russia’s purchase of arms from North Korea. How would you response this? Yesterday —
MR PATEL: You’re saying the UK —
QUESTION: No, no. North Korean arms —
MR PATEL: No, I know. Which ambassador are you saying?
QUESTION: I mean, Russian ambassador to United Nations.
MR PATEL: Got it, understood. So, I don’t have any comment to offer on that, but what I will reiterate again, and what we said yesterday, is that we believe the Russian Ministry of Defense is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use on the battlefield in Ukraine. This purchase indicates that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, which is in large part a consequence of our export controls and sanctions, and we expect that Russia could try to purchase additional North Korean military equipment going forward.
QUESTION: He said this is not true, is false. So how are you going to verify —
MR PATEL: Well, we believe that it is true, and this is rooted in the important work being done by our Intelligence Community. But I don’t have anything else to offer on that from here.
QUESTION: And one more. Is there any update about Special Representative Sung Kim meeting with his counter partners South Korea and Japan?
MR PATEL: Yeah, so as I mentioned yesterday, Special Representative Sung Kim was in Tokyo. He met with his counterparts from the ROK and Japan today, earlier today, to discuss how to address the DPRK’s ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction program. We, of course, place a lot of importance on this trilateral cooperation. It is integral to our efforts in attempting to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as we continue to take necessary action to address the threat that Pyongyang poses to the U.S. and our allies as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PATEL: Nadia, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: So, the Israeli press are reporting that the administration told Prime Minister Lapid that any potential deal with Iran is off the table. Yesterday, the EU chief diplomatic – to Iran said that – Mr. Borrell said that the deal could be in danger. So where are we? Are you still confident that we are actually on track for any potential return to the 2015 deal? Are you still optimistic, like you’ve been talking about the last few days?
MR PATEL: Sure. So, this obviously is a negotiation and it’s a very complex set of circumstances, and we’re continuing to work through that process.
On your question about President Biden’s call with the Israeli prime minister, I’d refer you to the White House’s readout of that call. In general, we don’t get into specifics beyond that. But as we have said, part of this diplomatic process is regular engagement with our allies and partners, including our allies in Israel. And as we’ve said before – late last week – Iran’s response did not put us in a position to close the deal. We continue to work through that process. We are reviewing Iran’s response, and we hope to have an update soon. But this is something that we’re going to continue to pursue because we continue to believe and affirm that a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA continues to be not only in the national security interest of this country; it’s an important step to contain Iran’s nuclear program; it is an important step for regional stability as well.
QUESTION: So, you’re saying it’s wrong to conclude that the deal is off?
MR PATEL: As I said, this is an extraordinary complex set of issues. It is unfortunate that Iran’s response to us took us backwards, and we of course are not going to conclude a deal that is not in U.S. national security interest. But this is something that we’re continuing to pursue. We are studying Iran’s response. We’re coordinating with our E3 allies, and wef’re continuing to go through this process.
QUESTION: Does Israel have veto power over the deal, whether it goes or does not go? Because that is in – that’s really the essence of the story. Do they have a veto power over whether this deal, or returning to the deal, see the day of light or it doesn’t?
MR PATEL: Well, like I said, Said, engaging with our allies and partners on a mutual return to compliance to the JCPOA continues to be a key component of this, and that of course includes engaging with our Israeli partners. But like I said, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the negotiations from here. We continue to believe that a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA is not just in the national security interest of this country, but it continues to offer important nonproliferative benefits that will contain Iran’s nuclear program.
QUESTION: So just to be clear on that —
QUESTION: I’m sorry, just one follow-up.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: Sorry. Does the Israeli election slated for next month play a factor whether the deal is gone back to now or thereafter?
MR PATEL: I think there is – there is really, only one ultimate end goal of this deal, Said, and that is to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. And that continues to be our vision forward and the reason why we continue to pursue this because we believe that a mutual return to compliance will help us get there. It will put restraints on Iran’s nuclear program, and it’s an important step for regional stability and in the national security interest of the United States.
Leon, you had a question?
QUESTION: Just to be clear, so you believe that negotiations are worth continuing; you want this deal, the return to the JCPOA, notwithstanding the IAEA report saying that they can’t guarantee it’s a peaceful program, the cyberattack which – in Albania which Albania and the U.S. is accusing Iran of having planned – notwithstanding all that and all the back-and-forth and saying their response is not constructive, you are adamant in saying, we want this deal and we’ll continue to negotiate with Iran?
MR PATEL: So, let me widen the aperture a little bit here for you. We have never sought to insinuate that a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA will address every single activity that we find problematic that Iran undertakes, that it’ll address every single one of those. But what we do know is that an Iran with a nuclear weapon takes – makes all of these problems a lot worse, and that is why we continue to believe that a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA will put restraints on Iran’s nuclear program; it is in the best national security interest of this country; and it will offer steps towards regional stability as well.
But, I will also note that President Biden and this administration are not going to re-enter a deal that is not in the national security interest of the United States. But also, it’s important to note that this is an extraordinarily complex set of issues. We’re continuing to study the response, work closely with our allies and partners, including our E3 partners. It is, as I said, unfortunate that Iran’s step took us backwards, but we’re continuing to work through this process.
Anything else on JCPOA? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you just comment more specifically on the IAEA report today about Iran having moved closer to having more of its enriched uranium to near weapons grade? Is that not – is that not a – is that not a red line for the U.S. yet with this —
MR PATEL: So, we continue to seek a full implementation of the JCPOA precisely because of Iran’s nuclear activities like the ones that you described. And under a JCPOA, Iran’s nuclear activities would be strictly limited and fully monitored by the IAEA. As you said, and as the IAEA report indicated, Iran now has a substantial amount of highly enriched uranium for it – which it has no credible civilian use. But in a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA, Iran would need to get rid of all of its enriched uranium stockpile, aside from the limits that were laid out in the JCPOA.
Still on Iran?
MR PATEL: Another topic? Go ahead, Michel.
QUESTION: I understand a State Department official met with the Mossad chief?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any meetings to preview or read out.
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MR PATEL: Anything else on Iran before we change topics? Okay, Said. Then we’re going to work the room a little bit. You got a couple questions.
QUESTION: This will be a very quick question on the Palestinian issue. I want to ask you about where you began, actually, about filtration and so on.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: You began by citing how Russia does filtration. You could be talking about the Palestinians. That’s what Israel has been doing for decades. In fact, it was legislated in law only a few days ago, and you expressed your concern yesterday about what the Palestinians have to go through and so on. But beyond that, there has been no scolding in the kind of language that you use, let’s say that you leveled on Russia and so on. Will the United States ever show the kind of strong language towards what is happening to the Palestinians, similar to that, that we see happening elsewhere, like in Russia?
MR PATEL: Well, Said, we engage in serious diplomatic conversations with all of our allies and partners. Sometimes that’s on issues that we disagree with or continue to have to work through. Sometimes those conversations remain private. But as I said yesterday on the topic that you mentioned, and Ambassador Nides, our ambassador in Israel, spoke about this over the weekend, since February the department, including through channels at our embassy in Jerusalem and at the Office of Palestinian Affairs, have engaged with the Israeli Government on this; and we’re going to continue to do so moving forward.
As I said yesterday, we continue to have significant concerns with the published protocols that were published yesterday, particularly regarding COGAT’s role in determining whether individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions are qualified to enter the West Bank and as well as the potential impact it could have on family unity. This is something we’re continuing to work on, and we’ve engaged directly with our respective counterparts on this.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: Israel signaled opposition today to U.S. calls to review rules of engagement in the occupied West Bank. The U.S. has repeatedly called for accountability over journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s death. If Israel resists reviewing the rules of engagement, how will accountability be achieved?
MR PATEL: Again, I’m not going to – I don’t have anything additional to provide beyond the extent that – which I talked about this yesterday. But to reiterate, we continue to underscore the importance of accountability in this case, and we’re going to continue to press our Israeli partners to closely review its policies and practices on the rules of engagement and consider additional steps that will mitigate risk in this circumstance.
Anything else before we shift away to different topics? Why don’t we go back to Jenny?
QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant.
MR PATEL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that a document about a country’s nuclear defense information was recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Has the State Department been briefed on which country this was, the contents of that document, and are you concerned it could damage bilateral relations with whatever country this is?
MR PATEL: I don’t have anything to offer on that. This is a Department of Justice activity, and so I would refer you to them and let them speak to this.
QUESTION: Same topic. Given that the report is out there, though, is there any concern within the department that this could alarm foreign governments and perhaps jeopardize intelligence sharing?
MR PATEL: I think, again, I am not going to speak to the Department of Justice activity directly. I will let my colleagues speak – at the DOJ to speak to that. But what I will note is that in countries where we have bilateral relationships, we remain – we have open lines of communication where we engage with them directly on a variety of issues, and those communication channels are open, and we continue to work closely. But I don’t have any specifics to offer on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any – any plans to engage those channels on this topic?
MR PATEL: I don’t have anything to preview on this right now.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, is the State involved at all into a damage assessment? Because that’s what the State Department does, right?
MR PATEL: I understand, but I just – I don’t have anything to offer on the DOJ investigation. I appreciate that.
Let’s go back to Michel and then we’ll work through.
QUESTION: Yeah. Any readout from the Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf in Iraq today?
MR PATEL: I do have an update for you on that. So, as we noticed over the weekend, Assistant Secretary Leaf is in Iraq and is meeting with a range of Iraqis and Iraqi political leaders both in Baghdad and Erbil. In her meetings, Assistant Secretary Leaf expressed U.S. support for Prime Minister Kadhimi’s call to hold a constructive dialogue to help resolve the current political and economic crisis and urged all parties to attend. She is focused on advancing U.S. support for Iraq’s sovereignty, stability, and security; and this includes working to advance the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement to support areas in which we can collaborate together, including energy, education, and infrastructure as well.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) You said Prime Minister Kadhimi?
MR PATEL: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you.
MR PATEL: Yes.
Lalit, let’s go to you.
QUESTION: Assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs is in India these days. Do you have a readout of his meetings, who he met and what he discussed there?
MR PATEL: Yeah. So Assistant Secretary of State Lu is leading a U.S. delegation to India from September 5th to 8th. This is to deepen the U.S.-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. This delegation will meet with Indian officials. They will discuss ways in which the U.S. and India can expand our cooperation to support a free, open, connected, prosperous, and resilient Indo-Pacific. We also understand that Assistant Secretary Lu will engage in roundtable discussions with senior business executives about how India can realize its full economic potential over the next 25 years and become a central hub in global supply chains as well.
Let’s go in the back.
QUESTION: On Assistant Secretary Leaf’s visit to Iraq, I know you just had the readout, but where does the U.S. stand on the political impasse? Do you see in the current political environment that the Iraqi leaders can form a government?
MR PATEL: As I spoke to this a number of weeks ago, we do not view this as a U.S. issue. It’s an Iraqi issue, and our posture has continued to be calling on calm and calling for peace amid some of the demonstrations. And ultimately, what we want to see is a strong, united, resilient, and sovereign Iraqi state. We regard Iraq as a vital partner on a number of issues and a partner with whom we do many things across the region, whether it be food security, water security, addressing climate change, and among other things as well.
QUESTION: And then in Erbil she also discussed energy issues between Kurdistan region and Baghdad. I know that you’re saying the Iraqi formation of the government is not a U.S. issue, but then this one has some sort of U.S. angle where there are a lot of American companies – or some American companies – that are working in Kurdistan region and threatened by Iraqi supreme court’s ruling. Where do you guys stand on that? Do you want to see the continuation of American energy companies working in Iraq?
MR PATEL: Sure. So, to take a little bit of a step back for the rest of the room, as you mentioned, Assistant Secretary Leaf is taking a number of meetings with political leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan to strengthen the enduring relationship between the U.S. and the people of the IKR. Assistant Secretary Leaf is emphasizing the urgency of resolving Iraq’s political impasse in an inclusive way, including the importance of unity among the Kurdish parties in a – in forging a more secure, democratic, and prosperous future.
On your question about the energy, we encourage the parties to determine a way forward that supports existing and future investment and advances the interests of the Iraqi people, including those in the Kurdistan region as well.
QUESTION: One more quick question.
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: Does this visit have to do anything with the number of letters that you guys have been getting from Congress and Senate members asking you to engage Iraqi – Iraqi Government and Kurdistan government at the highest level?
MR PATEL: Sorry, I didn’t hear the —
QUESTION: The question I was asking was: Did this visit have to do anything with the number of letters that you’ve been receiving from Senate and Congress.
MR PATEL: I wouldn’t assign a connectedness to that. I think, again, this is an issue that we are paying very close attention to and that’s why Assistant Secretary Leaf is in the region as well.
Let’s go in the back.
QUESTION: Let me just go back to the Russia and the DPRK.
MR PATEL: Okay.
QUESTION: In addition to the purchase, Russia had asked North Korea to send workers to reconstruct Donbas and the eastern region of the Ukraine. So what is your reaction to Russia and North Korea strengthening their ties? And does the U.S. consider any additional sanctions against North Korea?
MR PATEL: Well, we’re certainly not going to preview any actions, and I think in recent weeks we have seen Russia rely on states like the DPRK and Iran in ways that are deeply problematic. And everyone, not just in the region but around the world, should be concerned with Russia closening alliances to such countries.
But on your questions about the workers, I think we addressed this a number of weeks ago. But to reiterate, DPRK workers dispatched overseas, including to Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, would be in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and these resolutions highlight that the revenue generated from overseas DPRK workers would essentially contribute to the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles program, and all UN member‑states are required to repatriate DPRK nationals pursuant to this.
QUESTION: North Korea. So, after the trilateral meeting of the special representatives in Tokyo, what is the latest assessment of the United States on the possible nuclear test by North Korea?
MR PATEL: Again, our goal remains to the – towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We harbor no hostilities or – nor hostile intent towards the DPRK and our policy has called for a calibrated, practical approach that will explore diplomacy.
Michel and then we’ll go to Nadia. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Lebanon, the presidential elections there should happen between now and the end of October. So far, no reforms and no new government after the elections, and the parliament doesn’t look ready to elect a new president. What is the U.S. view on this?
MR PATEL: Sure. So, this is for the Lebanese people to decide who is in their government, and we call on Lebanon’s leaders to hold a free and fair presidential election, in a timely manner, in a way that is in accordance with the Lebanese constitution. We want to see a government in Lebanon that is capable of restoring the trust of its own people and committed to implementing the political and economic reforms needed to effect meaningful change, promote good governance, and rescue Lebanon’s economy as well.
QUESTION: My two questions also on Lebanon. Iran offered to give free fuel to Lebanon to avoid sanctions and any transaction. Would you welcome that? What’s your comment on that? Do you think that’s a good idea?
MR PATEL: Well, we think that any activity that could skirt sanctions would be deeply problematic.
QUESTION: Okay. And also, on the port, Lebanon seems to appoint another judge to investigate the previous judge – was kind of backed by the U.S. Do you think – is this is something that you welcome, to have a new judge to investigate the port explosion?
MR PATEL: Are you – I don’t have any updates to offer you on that from here, but I’m happy to check back with the team and see if we can get you something.
QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. Do you have any concern on Turkey’s parroting of Russian propaganda, which raised eyebrows in the region? As I mentioned yesterday, they blamed sanctions for energy crisis, and today President Erdoğan was quoted as saying that the West is “provoking,” quote/unquote, Russia. How much do these statements reflect the current state of Turkish-U.S. relationship? Is there any miscommunication, lack of coordination? Where is this coming from, your assessment?
MR PATEL: So, I think it’s important to note that we view Turkey as a vital and key NATO Ally and partner, and they played an – a really important role in the implementation of this Black Sea Grain Initiative, which, again, I would reiterate is a humanitarian arrangement bringing desperately needed food to the world’s hungry populations. And again, there has always been clear exemptions on food and fertilizer, and our sanctions have never targeted humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: Are you planning to meet with Turkish officials to discuss this misunderstanding or —
MR PATEL: I don’t have any meetings to preview, but as a key NATO Ally, we are in touch with our counterparts in Turkey on a regular basis.
QUESTION: And lastly, any comment or concern on upcoming China-Russia leaders meeting in Uzbekistan next week? Thank you.
MR PATEL: Sure. So, I’m not going to speak to reported meetings between other countries, but we’ve made clear our concerns about the depth of the PRC’s alignment and ties with Russia even as Russia prosecutes a war of aggression in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Chile?
MR PATEL: Sure.
QUESTION: On Sunday there was a referendum on a new constitution, and Chileans overwhelmingly rejected —
MR PATEL: Yeah.
QUESTION: — a left-leaning constitution after three years of debate and so on. Do you have any comment on that? Did you issue a statement?
MR PATEL: So, I believe we might’ve spoken about this earlier in the week, but the Chilean people have again demonstrated Chile’s commitment to democracy, and we remain committed to supporting Chile as it continues the democratic process of building a more perfect nation that expands prosperity and opportunity for all Chileans.
Let’s finish up with Leon.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up to the Erdoğan question. So, I mean, he’s clearly, publicly said – accusing the West of imposing sanctions on Russia that are not helpful – provocative is a word he used. So, I mean – and you’re saying now that he’s – of course, Turkey is an ally and they did this Black Sea deal and all that. But do you find those, his comments – do you disagree firmly with those comments? Do you find them helpful, not helpful? I mean, give us some feedback.
MR PATEL: What’s important to note, to any country and to anybody talking about this, is that the U.S. did not offer or provide any sanctions relief in exchange for participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And we have been clear from the very beginning that we have exemptions for food, for fertilizer; and our sanctions have never targeted humanitarian assistance. We want to see food and fertilizer reach global markets. We think this has been a very important development that has allowed grain to get to people in countries who need it most, and now it’s up to Russia to live up to its commitment of this initiative.
All right, thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:52 p.m.)
- Black Sea Grain Initiative ↑