2:02 p.m. EDT
MR PRICE: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Welcome back.
MR PRICE: It is good to be back. It is good to be back from travel, even better to be back in this room of course. (Laughter.) I don’t know why you laugh.
QUESTION: I find that very hard to believe.
MR PRICE: I don’t know why you laugh.
QUESTION: I’m sure that Palo Alto and Philadelphia were both much nicer and more hospitable.
MR PRICE: This room has its own set of perks. So with that, we’ll get started.
Two things at the top. First, over the next week, Sudan will observe two important anniversaries. Tomorrow, October 21st, is the anniversary of the beginning of the 1964 October Revolution against military rule that caused the fall of that regime; and Wednesday, October 25th, will mark one year since the 2021 military takeover. Both highlight the Sudanese people’s longstanding struggle to achieve democratic, civilian-led governance.
We remain committed to helping the Sudanese people achieve the goals of their revolution, as a country that is stable, prosperous, and at peace with itself and its neighbors, and urge all Sudanese actors to engage constructively in ongoing negotiations toward establishing a civilian-led transition. On these anniversaries we remember the countless Sudanese who have bravely and at great risk demanded freedom, peace, justice, and an end to military rule. We honor all of those who were injured, harmed, or gave their lives for freedom in Sudan and call on the government – including the military and security services – to fully respect freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly.
And finally, this week, on October 22nd, the United States will commemorate the one-year milestone release of the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality or the NGS. With the release of the United States’ first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, the administration reaffirmed that advancing the rights of women – excuse me – advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity is both a moral and a strategic imperative.
Secretary Blinken is committed to implementing the NGS as a core component of U.S. foreign policy and national security. When women and girls can meaningfully participate in social, political, and economic life, it results in more peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nations, to the benefit of all individuals.
With that, Matt.
QUESTION: Great. Thanks and welcome back, and I hope that this room is as hospitable for you as California —
MR PRICE: It always is.
QUESTION: — and Philadelphia were. I was going to begin with Iran, but since your colleague at the White House has already addressed it, and I’m not really interested in you repeating the same thing that she already said – but maybe my – some of my colleagues are – but I’m going to start with something different, and that is that you will have seen that the human – UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry released its first report to the General Assembly today on Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories. And I’m wondering if you have a response – a reaction to what the findings of that report are.
MR PRICE: We’ve – Matt, we’re – we’ll take a close look at that report. It has just been released so can’t offer a line-by-line analysis at this point. But what I can tell you is that we have made our concerns about this Commission of Inquiry clear from the start. Israel is consistently unfairly targeted in the UN system, including in the course of this Commission of Inquiry. Israel is the only country that’s subject to a standing country-specific agenda.
When we re-engaged with the Human Rights Council last year and later when we were elected as a representative to the Human Rights Council, we did so knowing that the council has tremendous potential. It’s precisely why we wanted to engage and ultimately why we did re-engage, but we also recognize that there are needed reforms. This is an effort that we continue to work towards to see to it that Israel is not unfairly singled out – and I use that term unfairly – put emphasis on that. No country – the record of no country should be immune from scrutiny, but no country should also be targeted unfairly, and that’s the principle that we seek to uphold.
QUESTION: Okay. So you – are you aware of the findings?
MR PRICE: Again, the team will go through it.
MR PRICE: I don’t have a specific reaction to offer at the time.
QUESTION: Well, let me give you a very brief outline of what some of them are. And let’s just set aside whether or not the commission in itself is unfairly targeting Israel or not. It very well may. I’m not going to make a – I’m not taking a – I’m not making an argument on either side of that. But what it accuses Israel of doing is occupation, de facto annexation, forcible displacement; in other words, things that are very similar, if not the exact same, as what you accuse Russia of doing in Ukraine.
Just last week, both the United States and Israel voted in support of a resolution condemning the Russians for these things. And so I’m wondering how you square the two: whether the commission itself – the creation of the commission – is unfair or not, the allegations that it’s making are very similar to allegations that you say are credible and true in the case of Russia and Ukraine. And so what’s the difference?
MR PRICE: First, Matt, when it comes to the report that was just released, again, we will go through it. We’ll go through it carefully and thoroughly, and we can offer more feedback on the specific assertions at that time. So I’m not going to go into the specific assertions.
But what I will note is that we categorically reject the blanket comparison between the actions of the Kremlin – Russia in this case – that has launched and waged a brutal war of aggression against another sovereign state, a sovereign state that posed and poses no threat whatsoever to the Kremlin, a military campaign that has – whose toll can be measured in thousands upon thousands of lives lost, a campaign that has been condemned, as you alluded to, by countries around the world – 141 countries in the case of the March vote in the UN General Assembly; 143 countries in the case of the annexation that Moscow recently announced and attempted with the four regions in sovereign Ukrainian territory.
Matt, when it comes to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, this administration believes deeply in a two-state solution. It is – it has been at the core of the approach that successive American administrations have taken to this conflict. We believe that only through a negotiated two-state solution can we arrive at a situation where we can have what really is our ultimate goal, and that is a reality in which Israelis and Palestinians alike enjoy equal level – excuse me – equal levels of security, of prosperity, of opportunity, of democracy, and crucially of dignity. And that’s something we’re working towards.
QUESTION: Right. But the Palestinians and their supporters would argue that what you accuse Russia of doing in Ukraine, in terms of war of aggression, is very similar to what is going on in the occupied West Bank. And so I guess the – I’m trying to find what you find is different. Because obviously Russia contests those allegations that you make against it, whether they’re right or not. Israel contests the allegations that are being made against it in this report, and by others, including human rights groups that you cite repeatedly when it comes to Ukraine, when it comes to Iran, when it comes to other places. Is the difference that Ukraine is a sovereign state, in your view, and that Palestine is not?
MR PRICE: That is a key difference. You point to some of what critics are saying. Look, no country is or should be immune from criticism. That, of course, includes Israel. Some of the criticism that we’ve heard – and we’ve, of course, offered our own over the course of recent months – is justified. Much of it is not. And so when you point to comparisons in criticisms, I think it is important to take a step back and to recognize the profound differences between those two situations. You mentioned one of them, and it is a paramount difference.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, listen, it’s not me that’s making – the chairwoman of the Commission of Inquiry – okay – is a respected person —
MR PRICE: There are many assertions around the world that are made that —
QUESTION: She is the one who pointed out that just last week 143 countries, including the United States and Israel, voted to condemn Russia for its actions, not me. So sorry if you —
MR PRICE: I know —
QUESTION: I guess I’m repeating the point that she has made and not —
MR PRICE: You’re asking the question and I’m making the points.
QUESTION: But let me just follow up on that point. So with the
‘ issue of the linkage. You said there is absolutely no linkage, no comparison whatsoever. Do you dispute that the Palestinians are militarily occupied, that Israel has annexed Palestinian land? Do you dispute that? Do you dispute that they have forcibly removed populations? Do you dispute that? Do you have any other different kind of information that can convince the world that you’re speaking to that this – these tactics you cited are, in fact, are not – that’s not what the Palestinians are experiencing?
MR PRICE: Said, we’ve spoken to the reality, to the plight that Palestinians face.
QUESTION: I don’t want – I’m sorry, Ned. I’m not talking about the plight and reality and so on. Do you dispute that they are militarily occupied?
MR PRICE: We don’t dispute that. And we’ve been clear about that this historical fact that —
QUESTION: Okay. Do you feel that this military occupation should also end?
MR PRICE: — the West Bank has been occupied since 1967.
MR PRICE: Our – that is why at the center of our policy is the recognition that only through a negotiated two-state solution can we achieve what Palestinians seek and what Israelis seek, and that is a reality in which Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal levels of these virtues, of these elements – security, prosperity, democracy, freedom, and dignity. That’s what a two-state solution can bring about. Just as we have acknowledged historical realities and realities on the ground, we’ve also acknowledged, as did – as have previous administrations, that we’re not there yet, clearly, in terms of a two-state solution or even in terms of creating a constructive atmosphere in which the two sides can sit down together and attempt to make progress towards that reality of a two-state solution.
That is why this administration from the earliest days has focused on practical measures that can provide some benefit to the Palestinian people, and you can measure those practical measures in the hundreds of millions of dollars – verging on a billion dollars over the course of this administration – in terms of humanitarian support to the Palestinian people. It’s why we have maintained our sacrosanct commitment to Israel’s security, knowing that if Palestinians feel opportunity and Israelis feel security, those are conditions that can help galvanize efforts to advance a two-state reality. We’re going to continue working on that. We’re going to continue to set the stage so that we can ultimately seek to make progress.
QUESTION: Okay. I tell you what, Palestinians appreciate all the help that the United States gives them, but they would appreciate more being free from occupation and controlling their own destiny.
I want to ask you – you began by citing anniversaries and so on. Well, on October 26th happens to be the first anniversary of the closure of six human rights organizations in Palestine, and you have not – I mean, your position remains mysterious. Nobody understands it, really. I mean, have you – you said that you received their answers or – to your queries and so on, but we don’t know. What is your position? Are you – a year after this happened, are you calling them to reopen those, or are you saying now they are guilty of what the Israelis are accusing them of?
MR PRICE: Said, we haven’t said either of those things. What we have said, and —
QUESTION: But why not? I mean, Ned, I’m sorry, but why not? It’s been a year.
MR PRICE: Said, we have spoken I think clearly about our position on this, and our position is that human rights and the importance of civil society is applicable in countries and places around the world. Israel is no different. Independent civil society organizations play an indispensable role in reporting back, in offering facts, in scrutinizing the records. And this goes to the point I mentioned at the top of this briefing that no country should be or is immune from scrutiny, and I think our Israeli partners would agree with that.
That’s why we have always contended there must be an extraordinarily high bar when it comes to taking action against independent civil society organizations. We want to see that bar protected. We want to see that bar preserved. The Israelis have told us that they had the requisite information to take the actions that they did. They have provided us in recent weeks with additional information. We are in the process of reviewing that.
But this goes back to a point that we made in the days after this action was first announced a year ago. The United States does not have a relationship with these organizations. We’ve long considered the PFLP a terrorist organization. Our relationship with these organizations is not what other countries and groups of countries had or have today. So there is no question about us severing a relationship. We never had one to begin with. The principle that we think is important is that civil society plays an indispensable role, plays an indispensable role around the world. We want to see that role protected.
QUESTION: Lastly – I’m sorry. Lastly, why are you remaining silent on the increased violence that is being inflicted on the Palestinians as we speak? I mean, as we speak today, Nablus is besieged, Jenin is besieged, Tulkarm is besieged, and so on. Israeli settlers attack Palestinians day in and day out, they burn crops, they burn trees, they attack civilians, destroy cars, and so on. I have not seen a strong statement that you are condemning – for instance, condemning this – the settler violence against Palestinians.
MR PRICE: Said, I’m a bit confused by the question, because I know have offered our alarm and deep concern for the trends that we’re seeing in the West Bank and elsewhere. I believe Vedant has done the same in recent days. We’ve noted that the recent period has seen a sharp and, in fact, an alarming increase in both Palestinian and Israeli deaths and injuries, including among numerous children. Since mid last month, at least 23 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed. Those numbers may have, in fact, risen even in recent days. There’s one analysis out that suggests that this year is the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank in nearly two decades. That is something that is of great concern. That is —
QUESTION: Yet you remain reluctant to condemn Israeli settler violence against the Palestinians. You have not mentioned settler violence against the Palestinians, even in your last statement.
MR PRICE: Said, we always take issue, we always condemn violence against civilians, against innocent civilians. The fact of the matter is that we’ve seen an alarming increase in deaths on the part of Israelis and Palestinians. Some of this has been in the context, in the conduct of security operations, but there’s no question that civilians have been killed. That is always something that is deeply, deeply concerning to us.
QUESTION: Ned, I just want to follow up on a couple of things that Kirby said. So he said the U.S. has evidence that Iranian personnel were on the ground in Crimea. That’s a different level of military alliance between Russia and Iran. I’m just wondering where that leaves the nuclear talks that were stalling for some time. Is the United States – under these new circumstances, are you guys still pursuing to revive JCPOA with Iran?
MR PRICE: Let me offer a couple broad words on the trends that we’re seeing, and then I’ll come to your question. But the reports and the information that we are providing today that you’ve heard from Kirby, that you’ll hear from us as well, speak to really the evolution of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine that we’ve seen over the course – since February 24th of this year.
When President Putin first ordered his forces into Ukraine, Russia, I think it is fair to say, had grandiose objectives. Russia’s objective was to wipe out the Ukrainian state. It was to eliminate the Ukrainian Government, Ukrainian democracy, in many ways Ukrainian identity itself. It is wrapped up in this warped and perverse notion that Ukraine does not have the right to exist as a country.
And so we’ve seen those grandiose objectives really transform into I think what is better described as grotesque objectives. As Russia has recognized that it’s not in a position to realize those grandiose ambitions, it’s turned to the grotesque. It has gone from seeking to topple the state and to erase a people and a country to targeting and hitting power grids, electricity supplies, even more horrifically neighborhoods, residential buildings, shopping malls, train stations, schools.
In all of this, it’s true that Russia has grown more desperate in recent months, and we’ve seen any number of indications of this desperation – the mass mobilization, the repression within Russia that has followed this mass mobilization, the attempts to annex by force, the imposition of martial law in the regions that President Putin sought to annex. Just think about that for a second. President Putin annexed these regions claiming that there were individuals in these regions who so desperately sought refuge from the Ukrainian state that they wanted to join Mother Russia. Now, Putin is I think proving the lie by declaring martial law, martial law in regions that he claimed just a couple weeks ago so desperately sought to join Russia.
I think the fact is that even though Russia is desperate doesn’t make it any less dangerous in some ways, and we’ve seen that in Russia, perhaps out of desperation, turning to countries like Iran to provide the wares that it is unable to produce or to acquire through other means. Some of this is a reflection of the export controls, of the sanctions, of the economic measures that we’ve imposed on Russia. The fact is that they don’t have the ability to organically produce, to import, the key inputs that they need, and so they’re turning to Iran. They’re exploring arrangements with North Korea.
And so as you heard from my colleague from the White House today, we can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have been piloted – piloting, excuse me, Iranian UAVs and using them to conduct kinetic strikes across Ukraine, including in strikes against Kyiv in recent days. We assess that Iranian personnel, Iranian military personnel, were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations. Russia has received dozens of these UAVs so far and will likely continue to receive additional shipments in the future.
In spite of all of this, we’ve seen Russia and Iran continue to lie, continue to claim that there’s no there there. The Iranians continue to claim that they are not providing this material and for indisputable proof to continue to emerge, and some of that proof was put on display before the UN Security Council yesterday.
QUESTION: Okay, but are you guys still pursuing a deal with Iran, because that’s what I asked. And also Kirby said, like, we’re no longer – we’re not focused on an Iranian nuclear deal right now. What does that mean?
MR PRICE: Well, right now the eyes of the world are where they should be. They are on the bravery —
QUESTION: No, but I mean, like when he says we, like I don’t – I’m not sure he’s talking about the eyes of the entire world but mostly the eyes of United States. So like, are you guys still pursuing a deal with Iran or not, and what does the “not focused” mean?
MR PRICE: Well, so Humeyra, at this point, of course, it’s no secret that a deal does not appear imminent. A deal does not appear in the offing, at least not at the moment, because Iran’s demands have consistently gone beyond the four corners of the JCPOA. We’ve heard nothing in recent weeks to suggest that Iran is prepared or preparing to change its approach, and so right now the eyes of the world are where they should be.
QUESTION: Right. But under these new circumstances, is the draft that was put forward, from your perspective, is that still on the table? If Iran were to take it tomorrow, are you guys still offering that?
MR PRICE: That is a hypothetical that I don’t think anyone expects to come to pass. The fact is that we continue – the President – let me back up. The President made a commitment that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon. We remain determined to uphold that commitment, to see to it that Iran never does acquire a nuclear weapon. Another proposition is that we continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective, the most sustainable means by which to realize that commitment on a basis that is both permanent and verifiable.
But the fact is that the JCPOA, the question is largely academic at the moment. And so right now we’re focused, as is the rest of the world, on what is happening not in a foreign capital with negotiations, but right now in the absence we are focused where the rest of the world is, on the bravery and the courage of the Iranian people.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. On what is happening inside Iran, there is growing calls for Iran to be expelled from the UN Commission on the Status of Women. And an NGO in Switzerland that advises ECOSOC has drawn up a draft resolution, and they say that they have also presented it to Secretary Blinken to present it to the council. Any thoughts on that? Any –
MR PRICE: We’ve made our position on this very clear. Iran’s membership on the UN Commission on Women is contemptible. It is beyond inappropriate. It is outrageous. We’ve always been clear that some of the worst human rights abusers sit on certain UN commissions. I think this is, unfortunately, a good example of that. We have worked in the UN system beyond what we’ve done using our own authorities and with our own voice to condemn the violence that Iran is perpetrating against, in many cases, the brave women and girls who are doing nothing more but exercising rights that are as universal to them as they are to anyone else.
We were one of 54 countries that issued a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for Iran to cease the disproportionate use of force against what are undeniably peaceful protesters. We don’t believe Iran should sit on this commission. We’re going to look at proposals to effect that outcome. We’re going to take a close look at ideas, and we’ll lend our support where it’s appropriate for us to do so.
QUESTION: One – another question, please?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Iran announced that it has arrested several foreigners, including one American. And do you have any information, any update on that? Can you —
MR PRICE: I don’t, and I am not in a position to confirm that. We have been in contact with the Swiss, who are our protecting power, and we have seen no reason to – we’ve not been in a position to independently corroborate or confirm those reports.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just on –
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR PRICE: A follow-up?
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that.
MR PRICE: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Actually, getting back to – to what you were saying earlier that it’s a lie. I mean, in your statement yesterday saying it’s a lie that what Russia and Iran is – are saying. Could you just give a bit more to that? I know that it’s intelligence, you’re probably not going to get into massive detail, but can you explain why the United States is so certain that the drones were Iranian? Is there proof on the ground from the pictures you’ve seen? What’s (inaudible)?
MR PRICE: Well, the reason we’re able to offer the detail that we have – not only this week, but actually going back to July – is because we do have credible information that pointed to this plan, and more recently credible information that points to the presence of Iranian drones inside Ukraine, the presence of Iranian trainers inside Ukraine operating in Crimea in this case. We do have credible information that Russian officials, prior to the presence of Iranian trainers in Crimea, received training in Iran.
I of course can’t detail all of this, but there is a reason why we started talking about our concerns long before the world began to see indications that our concerns were justified, because we had information that was available to us, and now the rest of the world has information available to it, not only because of what we have made public and issued, but for example the session that was held at the UN Security Council yesterday where a UN expert presented to the Security Council some of the ample evidence that the UN itself has in its possession of the operation of Iranian drones in Ukraine.
QUESTION: That was a closed meeting, though, right?
MR PRICE: It was, correct.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. So it’s not like the entire world got to watch.
MR PRICE: No, but I think it is also fair to say that photographic evidence has emerged. There are any number of indications —
QUESTION: No, I’m not saying that —
MR PRICE: — that are available to people without security clearances.
QUESTION: Pointing to a closed Security Council meeting as the world having seen this evidence is not —
MR PRICE: The world – the world has seen evidence beyond that as well.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Based on the chronology that you just laid out, you knew about this coming in July. You telegraphed. You were very consistent about the Iranians’ intentions. You also mentioned that you have now abundant evidence that they have been using these. You are not convinced by Iranians’ lies – Russia’s lies as well, and you will not hesitate to use the sanctions you said last time, which begs the question: Why waiting this long? I mean what have we done to prevent this from happening? Iranian drones have been claiming Ukrainian lives for weeks now. I’m asking it also because your boss, the Secretary, he also mentioned that Russians have turned to other countries. So can you give us any reason or two to indicate that you have been discouraging China or CSTO or other countries from doing exactly same thing that Iran is doing?
MR PRICE: Well, much of this we’ve discussed, including at length in this room. When it comes to China, we spoke openly of our concerns in the earliest days of Russia’s war against Ukraine that China might seek to provide security assistance, military assistance, or otherwise to systematically help Russia evade sanctions. We were clear about the costs that would – that the PRC would incur if they chose that course. We were clear about that publicly. We were also clear about that privately. So we have not sought to hide the ball there in any sense.
Neither have we waited or sought to downplay our concerns about this. And this goes back to what I said just a moment ago. We have been warning very publicly, including from this podium – Jake Sullivan from the White House podium – since July, over the course of several months now, our concerns that Iran would provide this type of support to Russia. Today we’re making very clear as well that, in light of Russia’s ongoing shortages – some of which are owed to the export controls and the other measures we put in place – we’re concerned that Russia may also seek to acquire advanced conventional weapons from Iran that includes potentially surface-to-air missiles. That will almost certainly be used to support Russia’s war against Ukraine.
So as you’ve seen well before Russia’s war against Ukraine started, when we have information that is relevant to the threat that Russia poses to Ukraine, we have not hesitated to make that public. Secretary Blinken, you may recall, gave a very public set of remarks in the UN Security Council, just a few days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where he laid out in exacting detail what we expected to happen, which, in fact, transpired. That was the only case. It was probably the most prominent. But at every step of the way, we have sought to go out of our way to make clear our concerns, to warn the world so that we can be attuned to the lies that we’re going to hear from Russia, the lies that we’re going to hear from Iran, and perhaps even more importantly to galvanize global action against these threats.
We mentioned already yesterday that we began the process together with Ukraine, the UK, and France yesterday to hold Iran accountable for its provisions of UAVs to Russia. In the UN context, it was the closed-door meeting of the Security Council to kick off a process under UNSCR 2231 led by a panel of experts. Today, the EU and the UK either took or announced important steps joining us and slapping new sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities, supporting Iran’s support for Russia’s war, and we’ll continue to vigorously and impose and enforce sanctions on those who aid Iran’s support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The final point I’ll make about this is that of course Iran’s UAV program has been a concern of ours since the outset of this administration. Much of course has been made – and appropriately so – about the sanctions that we imposed on an Iranian actor (inaudible) as a result of Iran’s support for Russia’s – for Russia’s war effort, provision of UAV technology to Russia. But last October, we announced a series of sanctions – we designated members of a network of companies and individuals that provided critical support to Iran’s UAV program and to the IRGC and to the Quds Force as well.
And the other, I think, notable element here is that, yes, these drones pose a risk to Ukraine, they pose a deadly threat to Ukraine, but Iran’s proliferation of UAV technology – the threat that it poses – goes well beyond Ukraine. In announcing the sanctions last October, we made the point publicly that the Quds Force has used and proliferated UAVs for use by Iran supported groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, Kita’ib Hizballah, the Houthis, and to Ethiopia, where our concerns of course are prevalent. So whether it’s through U.S. sanctions, whether it is through international sanctions, whether it’s through interdiction, or through other means, we are going to use every appropriate tool we have to counter the threat by Iranian UAVs.
One final point. This is all what we’re doing to take action against Iran’s technology. There’s also a lot that we’re doing to support Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against the threat from not only Iranian UAVs, but the UAV threat more broadly. We provided 1,400 Stinger missiles, surface-to-air system, that our Ukrainian partners have used effectively. We have enabled countries to provide their own sophisticated air defense systems to Ukraine. One example we pointed to was Slovakia’s provision of the S-300 in the early days of this conflict, something Slovakia was able to do because of backfilling support from the United States. Germany has recently provided to Ukraine important air defense capabilities, and the NASAMS systems that are on their way are another key component as well.
QUESTION: What was the authority that the sanctions that you imposed last October – what was that under?
MR PRICE: It was pursuant to Executive Order 1338 – excuse me, pursuant to Executive Order 13382.
QUESTION: Which is?
MR PRICE: Which is —
QUESTION: What does that give you the authority to —
MR PRICE: Which is a counterterrorism authority.
QUESTION: And at the UN?
MR PRICE: It was UN Security Council 22 – Resolution 2231.
QUESTION: Can I ask on that —
QUESTION: You want to tell – I’ll let you come back and you could ask for us then.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. 2231, you – just on this topic as well, you guys are doing a lot of this in partnership with your allies and partners to counter UAV proliferation, especially from Iran. Multiple times this week, 2231 was mentioned from this podium, and last night, there was a statement on the abundance of evidence that Iranian UAVs are killing civilians in Ukraine. But you also – despite not permanently killing the JCPOA talks right now, these – this – there’s an executive order from here and then there’s the UN 2231, which expires in less than a year now, in 11 months. Are you guys working with partners at the UN Security Council to extend that? Because as you mentioned, it’s further than just Ukraine, the proliferation of UAVs, so what’s – where’s – what’s the administration’s point of view on 2231 and looking to extend that?
MR PRICE: Our point of view is that we are going to take every action we can to thwart Iran’s ability to use and to export this deadly technology. We’ve done so under U.S. authorities. There are UN Security Council resolutions, there’s a UN – there are UN panel of experts. And we saw last night the UN chair this meeting to share information on the part of a UN official to assembled members of the Security Council. So we’re going to use every authority and tool we have because we know the destruction of this technology. We know the harm, the death, the toll that it can inflict, not only in Ukraine but in the region as well.
QUESTION: But is that – is that going to – I mean, if there’s a – you could say it’s hypothetical, but I mean, if there’s a deal, is that going to be – is that embargo going to be lifted immediately under a JCPOA, as well as are you guys gonna revoke, what is it, Executive Order 13949, which —
MR PRICE: You are – you’re getting well ahead of where we are. As we’ve said, no deal appears imminent. We are going to, in the absence of a deal or if there one day is a diplomatic deal to permanently and verifiably limit Iran’s nuclear program —
QUESTION: The reason I’m asking is because – yeah —
MR PRICE: We are going to use every appropriate tool that we can.
QUESTION: Ned, if I can, one more question.
MR PRICE: I need to move around just so we can make sure everyone gets a question.
MR PRICE: Go ahead.
MR PRICE: Following that closed door meeting, the Russian deputy ambassador to the UN came out and he threatened to cut off cooperation with the UN secretary general if they sent inspectors to look at those drones. Are you concerned about the implications for that for, like, the Black Sea Grain Initiative or other cooperation with the UN involving Russia?
MR PRICE: Certainly noted the defensiveness of that posture and can’t help but keep in mind the denials that we’ve heard from Moscow, that we’ve heard from Tehran as we see these apparent pressure tactics. We think it’s important that the UN and every responsible UN member state stand by the various Security Council resolutions, the General Assembly resolutions, really the heart of the UN system, the principles that animate the UN Charter and the UN system. That is really – beyond the stakes of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, that is ultimately what is at stake.
This is about Russian aggression against its peaceful neighbor, but it’s also about Russia’s attempt to subvert the international system that has served the world effectively for the past eight decades. It’s why 143 countries came together in recent days to make the point that a big country should not be in a position to bully a small country, that a country should not be able to redraw borders by force, that we don’t seek to live in a world where might equals right. We think it’s important in the face of intimidation, in the face of attempted coercion, that countries around the world come to the defense of the UN Charter, the way in which 141 countries did in March and 143 countries did earlier this month.
MR PRICE: We deeply regret the loss of life. We urge an investigation into these deaths. The perpetrators of this violence should be held to account. We recognize the security situation remains fragile, and intercommunal violence remains a threat to long-term stability. We and our partners on the UN Security Council are monitoring the situation closely. We’ll continue to work with the government to advance the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement and to promote peaceful coexistence among communities.
MR PRICE: Well, Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization. It is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group that operates a global network to raise funds to support its military wing. The group continues to threaten Israel’s security from Gaza; it continues to propagate the deprivation and the squalor that so many Palestinians live in in Gaza. Meanwhile, the Assad regime’s outreach to this terrorist organization only reinforces for us its isolation. It harms the interest of the Palestinian people and it undercuts global efforts to counter terrorism in the region and beyond.
We’ll continue rejecting any support to rehabilitate the Assad regime, particularly from designated terrorist organizations like Hamas. And this is yet another example of the Assad regime’s reckless, continued rejection of the international community’s efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
QUESTION: And my last question, on Lebanon, the parliament there failed for the third time to elect a new president. Meanwhile, President Aoun’s term ends on October 31st. Are you concerned about any power vacuum there?
MR PRICE: We’ve been concerned about the economic and political conditions in Lebanon for some time now, for months, longer. We had been urging Lebanese officials to put aside their own personal interests, to act constructively in the interest of the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people, after all, have been suffering for far too long as a result of the mismanagement, as a result of the corruption, as a result of the insecurity, as the result of the power vacuum that you referred to. We want to see the emergence of a Lebanese government that puts the interest of the Lebanese people first, that will put Lebanon on stable political footing, on sound economic footing, and that will address the urgent needs of the Lebanese people.
QUESTION: And you would say the same thing about Britain too, right? (Laughter.) Yeah?
MR PRICE: Go ahead.
QUESTION: No? No? Not —
MR PRICE: I’m not going to take the bait.
MR PRICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday the U.S. unsealed indictments of Russian and Venezuelan nationals in connection with an oil for microchips sanctions evasion scheme and indicated that Rusal and Oleg Deripaska are involved, or that Rusal is involved in the scheme and that he, Deripaska, controls the company. So how does the U.S. avoid sanctioning Rusal in light of these developments? I know there have been concerns about market impacts, but at this stage, with a DOJ indictment, where do you go?
MR PRICE: Well, we have authorities that we can level against entities as well as against individuals. And in this case, we took action against Russian procurement agent Yury Orekhov and knowing that his companies are responsible for procuring U.S.-origin technologies for Russian end users. It is important that both the United States, using our own authorities, and that the coalition of countries – dozens of countries, some 50 countries that have come together to hold Russia to account – continue to go after those who are helping the Kremlin propagate this war, those who are seeking to subvert U.S. and international sanctions that have been imposed on Russia as a result, and that’s what we did in this case.
In every case, when we enact sanctions against an individual or entity, we seek to minimize the broader harm: the broader harm to people in a particular country; the broader harm to the global economic system. This case is no different. We always take a look at a complete set of factors before taking such action, and we believe that we can continue to pursue those Russian individuals and entities that are responsible and that are aiding and abetting Russia’s aggression in Ukraine while still protecting core interests. And a core interest is – of ours – is stable energy supply. You’ve seen us speak to a number of measures, including the price cap that we’re worked on with our G7 and European counterparts that will seek to do just that; that will see to it a diminution – see to a diminution in Russian revenue from oil sales while securing and seeking to ensure that there remains a stable supply of global energy. So we’ll continue to take measures that hold Russia to account while also making sure that our interests are not harmed.
QUESTION: Yes. My question is on Mexico. During the past weeks, Mexico has been facing a massive hacking incident targeting defense ministry servers. Among the trove of documents that have been released by the hackers are communications between the U.S. Embassy and Mexican authorities, information on joint law enforcement operations between DOJ and Mexico, assessments by USNORTHCOM of Mexican military capabilities. And the questions I have for you are two: Did the U.S. Government address this incident during last week’s security talks with Mexico? And second, did the U.S. Government transmit any kind of concern about the hacking incident?
MR PRICE: So there is not much I can say on this, because of course we wouldn’t speak to reports of allegedly leaked or in this case hacked documents. I think what I can say is that these reports underscore for us the notion that no country, no institution, is immune from the threats that we collectively face in cyberspace. I’m not going to comment on any reference to this in last week’s High-Level Security Dialogue, but I can tell you that we work with countries around the world, including of course our Mexican partners, to see to it that we can share best practices, we can share lessons learned, to ensure or to best protect our equities and our shared interests.
So I think I would leave it there.
QUESTION: So just to be clear, the – you’re not – you are not saying that these issues weren’t discussed last week, right?
MR PRICE: I’m just not commenting on the specifics of last week’s discussion in that regard.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: I have a question on Peru. President Castillo is being investigated for several cases of corruption and he has announced that coup against him. Is the United States concerned about the stability of Peru?
MR PRICE: We’re closely monitoring the political situation in Peru. As you know, Secretary Blinken had an opportunity to travel to Peru earlier this month to meet with our Peruvian counterparts. We’re in – we continue to closely monitor the political situation. We believe that accountability remains vital to any open, democratic political system. And as Peru engages in the hard work of democracy, the OAS may potentially serve as a partner in this process.
Under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we share a hemispheric commitment to upholding democratic values, human rights, the rule of law. That was a message that Secretary Blinken imparted in his high-level meetings with his Peruvian counterparts last week.
QUESTION: Thank you. On Secretary Sherman’s trip to Japan. So in the background briefing this morning, a senior State Department official said Taiwan will be one of the major topics. So my question is: What kind of contribution or cooperation the Secretary will seek from Japan to counter China’s increasing pressure on Taiwan?
MR PRICE: So to your question, we did announce today that Deputy Secretary Sherman will travel to Tokyo and later Seattle later this month, October 24 through 27th. This will be her fourth trip to the Indo-Pacific region since May, and it demonstrates our continued commitment to the region and to our allies, the ROK and Japan in this case.
She’ll have bilateral meetings. She’ll engage in trilateral meeting with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, understanding the importance of trilateral cooperation on a range of issues, but of course perhaps most notably the DPRK’s WMD and ballistic missile program. They’ll have an opportunity in that trilateral format and in the various bilateral meetings as well to discuss a broader set of issues. As you heard from my colleague this morning, we expect that Taiwan will come up in that context.
I suspect we’ll have more to say after her visit, but I will just say briefly that our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, we share an interest in seeing stability in the Taiwan Strait. We share an interest in seeing the preservation of the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. These are issues that we consistently discuss. The Taiwan Strait is – holds profound geopolitical importance, but it also holds profound economic importance. And any instability, any change in that status quo that has served the region so well since 1979 over the course of more than 40 years, would have implications not only for the people on Taiwan, it would have implications not only for the United States, but of course also for our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
And so it’s a shared interest of ours, and we often engage with them and take part in shared conversations.
QUESTION: I have a question on Turkey. Deputy Assistant Secretary Erik Woodhouse, along with Elizabeth Rosenberg from the Treasury Department were in Turkey for three days. Will the trip meet the expectations on discussion sanctions and export controls imposed on Russia, especially calming the message to the Turkish business leaders? And the second question: Is there any update on Turkey’s F-16 purchase and modernization request? I am hearing that technical talks and negotiations might be finalized within three months. Thank you.
MR PRICE: So to your question, this week a delegation led by Elizabeth Rosenberg, who is a senior official at Treasury, they did meet with Turkish officials in Ankara and in Istanbul. I’d need to refer you to the Treasury Department for additional details.
But they went because Turkey is an important and valued NATO Ally that has expressed strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence in the face of Russians – Russia’s aggression. And we’ve urged Turkey through any number of channels and any number of meetings not to become a safe haven for illicit Russian assets or transactions. We’ll continue to do so. It’s a shared interest of ours that our sanctions – collective sanctions – are vigorously enforced against Russia to impose the severe costs and consequences that we promised well before this aggression began. And I don’t have an update for you on the F-16.
Simon – or Shaun.
QUESTION: It’s okay. Ethiopia. The – there was an announcement today of peace talks in South Africa between the TPLF and the Ethiopian Government. How positive a sign do you think this is? Are you somewhat hopeful that things could be getting back to normal, that peace could be restored? What’s the role, if any, in that? Will Mike Hammer be there or somebody else?
MR PRICE: So in terms of Special Envoy Hammer, he has been in the region for some time now. He remains in Addis, where he’s been supporting the African Union’s efforts to launch talks on the northern Ethiopian conflict, where we are urging – which we are urging should begin as soon as possible. We’ll let the AU speak to the details of this, but he’s been in constant touch with the parties, including those who are preparing to participate in the mediation effort, specifically Kenya, South Africa, as well as other key regional and international partners.
In addition to the special envoy, Secretary Blinken, Deputy Secretary Sherman, Under Secretary Nuland, Assistant Secretary Phee, our Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and others across the interagency have been pushing for a cessation of hostilities, protections for civilians and the delivery of economic assistance, Eritrea’s withdrawal from Ethiopia, and serious engagement in these talks, which will be AU-led. Pursuant to those efforts, the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council are both scheduled to discuss the situation in northern Ethiopia this coming Friday, tomorrow. These meetings demonstrate the international community’s great concern about the situation in northern Ethiopia and the immediate need for a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, AU-led talks, and Eritrea’s withdrawal from Ethiopia.
QUESTION: Sure. Just a little bit more specifically on the talks themselves, I mean, is it – is it – I guess it’s not – maybe not for the U.S. to say, but do you expect something concrete to come out of these?
MR PRICE: These are talks that are being led by the AU. We are going to support in every way that is helpful and that we can, but we would leave it to the AU to speak to these.
I can take one final question, and then I unfortunately need to go. Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you. On the recent change in the U.S. border policy, is there any ongoing diplomatic negotiation with Mexico in order to improve the situation on the border? A UN agency, International Organization for Migration, just flagged the concern over the shelters on the Mexican side. According to them, those shelters are overwhelmed.
And on Colombia, during Secretary Blinken’s recent travel to Bogotá, State Department said that Colombia is a regional model for promoting sustainable integration for refugees and other immigrants. So this being said, how Colombia can act as an active partner of United States in order to improve the situation on the border? Can Petro be a partner or a link, a bridge, as he is close to Maduro?
MR PRICE: When it comes to our discussions with Mexico, we did have the High-Level Security Dialogue last week. It was an opportunity, not only for the State Department and the Department of Justice but also for our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, to discuss a wide range of issues, including the challenge of irregular migration that has had such an impact on border communities, including those in Mexico. And these are conversations that are ongoing. DHS oftentimes is leading these conversations, so I’d refer you to the Department of Homeland Security for details of their engagement, but the department, this administration recognizes that there needs to be a hemispheric approach to migration.
It’s precisely why we brought together countries of the hemisphere in June in Los Angeles to put forward the L.A. Declaration on Migration and Protection that for the first time is a document that spells out principles and commitments that now 21 countries in the region have committed to take.
You’re right, we did have an opportunity to discuss the challenge of irregular migration and the challenge of the exodus of refugees and migrants from the dire political and economic situation in Venezuela with President Petro and his government earlier this month. Colombia has demonstrated extraordinary generosity and support for the hundreds of thousands, for the some more than a million Venezuelan migrants and refugees who have sought refuge in Colombia.
Just ahead of the High-Level Security Dialogue last week, our colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security announced that we would be implementing a new parole program, a program that would seek to disincentivize this type of irregular migration that you’re referring to, the flow of irregular migrants from places like Venezuela, like Nicaragua, like Cuba, like countries in Central America, to Mexico and ultimately to the United States, because it is one that is profoundly dangerous. It is one that poses great and grave risk to those who face the horrifying decision of uprooting their lives, of sacrificing their livelihoods to make this dangerous journey to safety, to opportunity.
And so the Department of Homeland Security launched this program to seek to stem this irregular migration, to reinforce the message that this is not a journey that individuals in the region should take. It does pose profound risks to them and their families, and there are alternatives – in this case, the parole program that would see qualified Venezuelans in this case able to travel to the United States in a legal, orderly, safe, and humane manner.
QUESTION: Just one quickie – just one quickie at the end. Well, Russia’s ambassador to Washington just made some comments saying that there are no communication channels between Washington and Moscow to reduce escalation, like those that prevented a nuclear war between the two countries 60 years ago. Is that true?
MR PRICE: That is not true. That is not a characterization that we would agree with. Of course, it is not business as usual with the Russian Federation, but we certainly have ways to convey messages, messages of the highest importance, to the Russian Federation when we need to.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:03 p.m.)
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