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MR PATEL: Good morning or good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Morning?

MR PATEL: Morning. Time is —

QUESTION: Are you on west coast time?

MR PATEL: Time is a construct. I don’t have anything for you at the top today, so Matt, if  you want to kick us off?

QUESTION: Actually, I – I don’t have anything, actually, to start either.

MR PATEL: Oh, wow. Humeyra.

QUESTION: Hello. So can we get you to talk a little bit about the U.S. assessment on how influential Iran has become over the past few months in Russia’s war in Ukraine? There has  been like quite a lot of reporting over the weekend as well. I’m sure you’ve seen the drone attacks. How big of a role it is playing? What is U.S. assessment? And are you guys thinking  about taking action in terms of sanctions?

MR PATEL: So to take a little bit of a step back, we have been warning since July that Iran was planning to sell UAVs to Russia for use against Ukraine. We also exposed publicly that Russia has received drones from Iran; that this was part of Russia’s plan to import hundreds of  Iranian UAVs of various types; and that Russian operators continue to receive training in Iran on  how to use these systems. There’s extensive proof of their use by Russia against both military and civilian targets there. And you’ve all seen the reports, as you mentioned, this morning of  what appears to be Iranian drones striking downtown Kyiv.

Russia deepening an alliance with Iran is something the whole world should, especially those in  the region and across the world, frankly, should be seen as a profound threat and something that any country should pay very close attention to. This is something that we’re continuing to  monitor closely on our end, and we’re in close touch with our allies and partners, including those  in the United Nations, to address Iran’s dangerous proliferation of weapons to Russia. And  anyone doing business with Iran that could have any link to UAVs or ballistic missile  developments or the flow of arms from Iran to Russia should be very careful and do their due  diligence. The U.S. will not hesitate to use sanctions or take actions against perpetrators. I don’t  have specific actions to read out or preview, but this is something that we’re continuing to pay  very close attention to.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that.

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Vedant. Happy Monday. Two parts of this question. One is the Biden administration doing everything you can to help Iran – I’m sorry – to help Ukraine  stand up against Iranian drones? You mentioned also missiles. That is about – that – I’ve seen  some reports about Zolfaghar missiles, which come along with 700 kilometer range, which does  pose question that why is it that the U.S. is so reluctant about attack missiles that Ukraine has  been asking about for a long time. Does it pause you in – a bit when you make your next  decisions about your help – your military aid to Ukraine? And is it going to factor into your  decisions?

MR PATEL: Thanks, Alex. So over the course of this entire conflict, we have made our  assessments and offered our Ukrainian partners the type of security assistance that we think is  going to best position them on the battlefield. And you have seen that over the course of the  trajectory of this conflict, both in the beginning months in February but also now, where at every  turn the nature of the conflict and the nature of the battlefield has shifted a little bit.

We are going to, as I said, continue to work with our allies and partners to address not just Iran’s  actions here but continue to hold Russia accountable. And we’re going to continue to surge  unprecedented security assistance to Ukraine, including air defense and as well as working with  our allies to transfer of air defense systems and other important security assets for Ukraine to  use. I don’t have specific systems to read out or any immediate package to preview, but this is  something that we’re paying very close attention to and will take action as necessary.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the transfer of Zolfaghar – will that be a game changer for you?

MR PATEL: Again, I’m going to let our Ukrainian partners speak to the battlefield  specifically, but again, we will do everything we can to continue to surge our unprecedented  security assistance to our Ukrainian partners.

QUESTION: Thanks, and last —

QUESTION: One tiny thing when you were saying – does the U.S. have independent  assessments and confirmation that the drones in today’s attack on Kyiv were indeed Iranian  drones?

MR PATEL: I can’t speak to these specific reports, but again, as I said at the beginning of your  question, we’ve been warning about this since dating back to July, not just about their use, but of  Iran’s plan to sell UAVs to Russia in the first place.

QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up on that.

QUESTION: (Off-mic.)

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if, in addition to the hundreds of drones that you just referenced – if the U.S. believes that Iran is preparing to send additional weaponry, specifically short-range  ballistic missiles, from Iran to Russia?

MR PATEL: Again, I’ve seen those reports, but I don’t have anything to offer on that. What I  would say, though, is that this continued action of Iran and Russia closening their relationship is  a reminder of, candidly, how the Russian military is suffering from major supply shortages in  Ukraine in large part because of the sanctions and export controls that are being enforced by the  United States and its allies. As I think the Treasury Department noted last week, Russia has lost  over 6,000 pieces of equipment since the start of this war, and there is enormous pressure on its  defense industry to replace those losses. Russia is being – it’s being forced, frankly, to resort on  unreliable countries like Iran for supplies and equipment, and our information has noted that  some of these UAVs that had been noted in these transfers have been experiencing some  numerous failures. So again, this is going to be something that we play very close attention to  and we’ll take appropriate action as needed.

QUESTION: Just one —

QUESTION: My last —

QUESTION: One quick follow-up on that.

MR PATEL: Yeah.

QUESTION: As we talk about other countries selling or giving weaponry to Russia, do you  guys have any updates as to where the North Korea-Russia relationship stands on that point, on  that aspect? I think it was last month —

MR PATEL: Yeah.

QUESTION: — U.S. officials said that —

MR PATEL: I believe Janne asked about this about a week and a half ago, and I don’t think we  have anything additional to offer on that.

QUESTION: No update as to —

MR PATEL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Last one on the drones?

MR PATEL: Hold on. We’ll —

QUESTION: Following on drones.

MR PATEL: Shaun. I’m going to go with Shaun.

QUESTION: Sure. Can I just ask something else on Iran?

MR PATEL: Ok.

QUESTION: On Evin prison?

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: The situation there – first, do you have information about the Americans who are  there, including Siamak Namazi? And do you have any – does the United States have any  information about what actually happened in Iran? It says again a fire, but obviously there’s  some suggestions, I mean —

MR PATEL: So I don’t have any updates to offer on what transpired, but what I can say is that  the detained U.S. citizens in Iran are accounted for and they are safe. We are closely monitoring  their situation. For privacy and security and their safety, I’m not going to discuss the situation  further. But we’re going to continue to work with other countries, many of whom also have  detained citizens at Evin, to remind Iran of its responsibility for the safety of our detained  citizens. And we reiterate our call for the immediate release of all wrongfully detained U.S.  citizens.

Said.

QUESTION: When you say they’re safe, they’re still in Iranian custody, right?

MR PATEL: Correct. They are —

QUESTION: Well, that’s —

MR PATEL: — safe from the fire —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR PATEL: — and the events taking place at Evin prison. But yes, they are still wrongfully  detained and they are still in Iranian custody.

Said.

QUESTION: Changing topics.

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s been reported that this administration is quite furious with Palestinian  President Mahmoud Abbas for saying what he said to President Putin about not trusting the United States or not trusting the Biden administration. I wonder if you have seen the reports,  first. And second, what is your comment on that?

MR PATEL: I have seen those reports, and I think you’ve seen some of my colleagues from the  White House speak to this as well. But Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is a clear violation of international law and it serves as a threat to global peace and security. And President Putin is a far cry from the type of international partner or international leader needed to constructively  address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And so I would reiterate that we are deeply disappointed  to hear President Abbas’s remarks to President Putin.

Russia does not stand for justice and international law, as was evidenced by the UN General  Assembly vote last week. And President Biden and Secretary Blinken, in contrast, have  demonstrated a U.S. commitment for decades to seeking creative solutions and working towards  a lasting peace in the region that’s required to advance stability and prosperity throughout the  region.

QUESTION: Now, will this disappointment be translated into action, like holding back maybe  on the reopening of the consulate in Jerusalem or the reopening of the PLO office here in  Washington in terms of tangible punishment of the Palestinians?

MR PATEL: I don’t have any —

QUESTION: You don’t have —

MR PATEL: I don’t have any actions to preview or link it to. But I would just again reiterate  our disappointment to hear those remarks in reference to —

QUESTION: Just a couple – one more.

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: There has been an increase in settler aggression against the Palestinians, and  sometimes aided by Israeli soldiers, especially now that they have the olive harvest, and it’s the  only crop that Palestinians depend on annually. And obviously, the settlers are attacking  farmers, uprooting trees, burning them and so on, sometimes while the Israeli soldiers look on  and sometimes even joining them and so on. I wonder if you have any – first, if you have seen  reports about increased settler violence, and second, if you have a comment on that.

MR PATEL: Well, Said, I spoke a little bit about this last week. The recent period has seen a  sharp and alarming increase in Palestinian and Israeli deaths, including impacting a number of  children. Since mid-September, at least 23 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed, and it  is vital that these parties themselves take urgent action to prevent greater loss of life. And we  continue to emphasize the point that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to have equal measures of  security, stability, of justice and dignity and democracy.

Janne, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions, one on North Korea, one China. North Korea  says series of provocations last week and North Korea violated the September 19 military  agreement that South Korea and North Korea has agreed to five years ago. South Korea is  considering whether to abolish the 9/19 military agreement first or keep it as it is. How does the United States view North Korea’s violation of military agreement? Thank you.

MR PATEL: Well, Janne, you saw me speak to this quite clearly last week, that the recent  ballistic missile launches, the other kinds of aggravation and provocation that we’re seeing are  condemnable, and the specific ballistic missile launches are in clear violation of multiple UN  Security Council resolutions. And beyond the violation of resolutions, these kinds of activities,  they pose a very serious threat to the region and to the world more broadly.

And so what the United States is going to continue to do is we’re going to continue to stay  engaged with our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan. We’re going to continue to have  diplomatic engagements with them and take appropriate actions as necessary.

QUESTION: One more, China.

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would unify Taiwan by force within a few  years, and also Xi Jinping sent a letter to Kim Jong-un for strategic unity between China and  North Korea. Do you think this could cause Kim Jong-un to make a misjudgment?

MR PATEL: It’s not for me to speak what’s in Kim Jong-un’s head or not. But what I can say  to the first part of your question is we have been quite clear both publicly and privately with the  PRC that our policy towards Taiwan has remained consistent for decades and across  administrations. And we remain committed to our “one China” policy, which is guided by the  Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, and we’re going to  continue to take steps to promote cross-strait peace.

And look, as it relates to the DPRK, I think you saw last week, when there was a UN Security  Council hearing on this, you saw the PRC and Russia and other countries parrot this false claim  that U.S. provocations were the origination of these ballistic missile launches or anything like  that. That’s baloney and absolutely not the case.

QUESTION: Follow-up —

QUESTION: On Iran —

QUESTION: Sorry, follow-up on China.

MR PATEL: Okay, yeah. Can we stay in the region and then I’ll work the room a little bit?  Sorry about that. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. President Xi said China will never promise to renounce the use of  force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary. And also, the U.S. military  officials have said that China wants to have the capability to invade Taiwan by 2027. So considering these circumstances, does the State Department feel a need to speed up on delivery  of weapons to Taiwan? And if so, what could be the options for United States Government to  speed up weapons production and also delivery of – delivery of those weapons to Taiwan?

MR PATEL: I’m not going to speculate or preview any kind of arms transfer. But what I  would say is that we would find any unilateral change to the status quo from either side deeply  troubling. As we have said previously, our “one China” policy has not changed. It is guided by  the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. We expect that  cross-strait differences to be resolved peacefully, but I’m not going to preview or hypothesize  anything beyond that.

Anything else on the region before we move away?

QUESTION: For the – a second follow-up.

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: So the U.S. Government already promised to sell some – the weapons to Taiwan,  but some of the delivery is not made yet. So just – I would like to ask that – so how U.S. can  speed up weapon productions and also to – the delivery of the weapons already promised to  Taiwan.

MR PATEL: Right, and I just don’t have anything to offer on the delivery or the sequencing in  how that happens, but we can see if we have anything more.

Anything else on the region before we move away? Let me go to – and then I’ll come back to  you, Shaun, I promise.

QUESTION: That’s okay.

QUESTION: So —

MR PATEL: In the back.

QUESTION: Two quick questions on Iran and then one on Syria. I’m sorry, but on Iran, you  said the U.S. citizens are accounted for in Evin prison incident. Does that include any – do you  have – on U.S. permanent residents? That’s one.

And then second, Iran has reportedly amassed troops on the border towns, on Iraqi Kurdistan’s  border towns, threatening a ground offensive into Iraqi Kurdistan. Do you have anything on  that?

MR PATEL: So on the first question, I don’t have anything to offer beyond that. The Iranian – the American citizens that were at Evin prison are accounted for and not in further harm’s way,  as Matt said.

And on your next question, I will have to check and see if we have anything for you on that. I  don’t have anything to offer from here.

QUESTION: And then on Syria, I’m sorry, but a few years ago, Turkey took Afrin out of the  hand of the SDF, your partners, and just past week, Tahrir al-Sham – an offshoot of al-Qaida or  closely linked to al-Qaida – took over Afrin. Do you have anything on that?

MR PATEL: I don’t, but I can see if we have anything for you on that.

Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: Could I ask – changing topics – about Ethiopia?

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: The Government of Ethiopia said it’s going to continue its offensive in the Tigray  region. UN Secretary-General Guterres a few hours ago was saying that Ethiopia is now  spiraling out of control. Does the U.S. have an assessment? Is Special Envoy Hammer involved  in any efforts now? What – how do you see things —

MR PATEL: Yeah, sure, so a couple things: First, Special Envoy Hammer continues to be in  the region. He is in Addis. He met with members of the government over the weekend and over  the past couple of days. We also throughout this have welcomed the AU calls for a ceasefire,  and we continue to be deeply concerned over the reports of increasing violence, the loss of life,  the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and the destruction in the conflict in northern Ethiopia.  And we, again, reiterate our calls – and you saw the Secretary speak to this a little – we call on  the Ethiopia National Defense Forces and the Eritrean Defense Forces to immediately halt their  joint military offensive and for Eritrea to withdraw its forces from northern Ethiopia. And we  further call on the Tigrayan Defense Forces to cease any additional provocations at this time.  It’s incumbent on all of those involved to respect and protect civilians, and we call on them to  allow unhindered humanitarian access to all Ethiopians in need.

QUESTION: In the interest of time, can I go into something else?

MR PATEL: Sure. Of course.

QUESTION: Pakistan.

MR PATEL: Yes.

QUESTION: The – Pakistan said that it summoned the U.S. ambassador. This was, of course,  after the remarks by President Biden talking about dangers from the nuclear program. I know  you probably don’t want to speak for the President from this podium, but could you say what he  said to Pakistan in response to its concerns that it voiced?

MR PATEL: Sure, Shaun. So, look, the U.S. has always viewed a secure and prosperous  Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests. And more broadly, the U.S. values our longstanding  cooperation with Pakistan. We enjoy a strong partnership. The – as you know, the foreign  minister was in town and had a bilateral meeting with the Secretary not too long ago. Counselor  Derek Chollet had the opportunity to visit Karachi and Islamabad not too long ago, I think, on  the tail end of the summer, as did USAID Administrator Sam Power. So this is a relationship we view as important, and it’s something that we’re going to continue to remain deeply engaged on.  And as it relates to the ambassador, we regularly meet with officials at the foreign ministry, but I  don’t have anything specific to read out.

QUESTION: And was there any message specifically on the nuclear issue, if the U.S. does  consider it dangerous, as the President said?

MR PATEL: Again, I don’t have any specific conversation to read out, but the United States is  confident of Pakistan’s commitment and its ability to secure its nuclear assets.

So I’m going to work the room a little bit. I’ve called on you a bunch. In the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, kind of a two-part question on the situation with the Saudis and OPEC.

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: First, there were reports last week, obviously, that the administration asked them  to delay that cut by a month. Ned said last week that he couldn’t confirm that report, but the  Saudis came out and confirmed it themselves in an official statement. So I guess first question is  can you guys still not confirm or deny that report? Are we to take the Saudis’ word for it since  they said that the one-month cut was asked for? And then secondly, is there any update on how  you guys are reassessing or changing the relationship with the Saudis today? Because they’re  seemingly already reacting – they disinvited a Biden official to an event today. They’re  seemingly already moving to adjust the relationship themselves. Have you guys made any  progress on that front you can share?

MR PATEL: Sure. So as it relates to the – a specific meeting, I don’t have anything – or sorry  – the – a specific request for any kind of delay, I don’t have anything to offer on that. But I think  what’s important here is that over the course of this administration as it relates to the  conversation around energy, we have been quite clear at every corner that supply should meet  demand. As this country, as our economy, and as economies around the world continue to come  out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts that the pandemic had on our economy and  economies around the world, that the demand for energy should be met by appropriate supply.

And so in recent weeks, the Saudi – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conveyed to us privately and  publicly that they had an intention to reduce oil production, which not only would impact supply,  but it would also increase Russian revenues and blunt the effectiveness of sanctions that this  country and our allies and partners have been placing on Russia. That would be the wrong  decision to make. And so we presented that analysis, and we presented that there was no market  basis to cut production targets and that they could easily wait and see how the energy market  developed over the coming months before taking this step, and then – so their decision to cut  production was shortsighted for another – a number of reasons.

But specifically on the relationship, this is not something new. The President has talked about  re-evaluating the relationship with Saudi Arabia since the early days of this administration,  talked about it as a candidate, and this is a relationship that is – it’s a bilateral one that has been  built over decades – on a bipartisan basis – that has transcended multiple administrations of  multiple presidents of multiple parties. So what this administration is going to do is we’re going

to act methodically, we’re going to act strategically, and we’re going to take time to consult with  members of Congress, with our allies and partners. Because as I have said, and as Ned and the  Secretary have said previously, we have a multiplicity of interests with the Kingdom of Saudi  Arabia – a security interest, an energy interest, a trade interest, a number of these factors.

Matt.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran just for a second —

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: — and the drones and reports of missile sales?

MR PATEL: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it the administration’s opinions that either Russia or Iran is in violation of any  kind of international law or international restriction?

MR PATEL: We do, Matt.

QUESTION: Oh – you do?

MR PATEL: We do. So as you – I think you probably saw earlier today, our French and  British allies publicly offered the assessment that Iran’s supply of these UAVs to Russia is a  violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and this is something that we agree with.

QUESTION: Wait – one second. The arms embargo on Iran expired.

MR PATEL: So not all of it expired. And under the UN Security Council Resolution 2231,  restrictions on the certain transfer of certain weapons remain in force, and these restrictions are  in addition to those weapons that were restricted under the conventional arms embargo. And it is  our belief that these UAVs that were transferred from Iran to Russia and used by Russia in  Ukraine are among the weapons that would remain embargoed under 2231.

QUESTION: Okay, that’s interesting because you just said that – now you’re confirming that  these were Iranian drones. Because in a response to a question earlier, you said that you saw  reports.

MR PATEL: I just didn’t want to speak —

QUESTION: But now you’re saying that they had definitely been – now you’re saying that  these are – that you guys know that these are definitely Iranian —

MR PATEL: I didn’t want to speak to specific reports —

QUESTION: And —

MR PATEL: — but the – yes, to answer your question, these – the UAVs that were part of the  transfer are in violation of 2231.

QUESTION: So – but they are conventional weapons, are they not?

MR PATEL: Our belief and our understanding is that these types of UAVs would also be  restricted under —

QUESTION: What – but what – what kind of type is that?

MR PATEL: I’m not going to —

QUESTION: So they could – so in other words, are you saying that the Iranians can sell the  Russians AK-47s, or the Iranian version of an AK-47, if they want to? And that would be okay  under – but for some reason —

MR PATEL: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking for a hypothetical. I just want to know why you think that  these drones are covered by a – by an arms embargo that expired and that, when the previous  administration tried to snap back – snap back the sanctions so that it wouldn’t expire, you guys  removed that in February of last year. And so that – that embargo remains expired. And so I just  want to know: what is it about these drones that makes you think that they are still covered by  arms sales restrictions?

MR PATEL: I can see if we can get you a technical analysis or an explanation, but our  assessment is that they are covered by the remaining pieces of 2231. But I will see if we can get  a specific explainer —

QUESTION: All right, thanks.

MR PATEL: — on why this specific technology is —

QUESTION: Vedant – Vedant, on this point, on the drones —

MR PATEL: Said.

QUESTION: Is it your assessment that Iran, a third-world country, has such advanced drones  that they can give Russia – that’s had a whole history, a hundred-year history of rocketry and so  on and all these things – to impact the battle on the ground, to actually change a game – to be a  gamechanger in this war?

MR PATEL: Well, I think we would have concerns with the kind of – with a country like Iran  closening their alliance with Russia over the course of this conflict, a country that is known to  partake in destabilizing actions, not just in its region but also around the world. So we certainly  would deeply be troubled by that, and as I spoke to that at the top of this briefing.

Everybody, I’m going to wrap here so you all have time to catch the Secretary for his  engagement with Secretary Rice. So thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)

U.S. Department of State

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