2:12 p.m. EDT
MR PRICE: Thanks very much. Happy Friday, everyone. Apologies for the slight delay in the start. I have a few items at the top and then we’ll turn to your questions for a few minutes.
First, as you know, Secretary Blinken is wrapping up his visit to Montreal, Canada today after a successful day in Ottawa yesterday. As his visit showcases, the United States and Canada have a deep and abiding friendship, and this trip advanced our vital partnership in addressing global issues related to Ukraine, Haiti, the Indo-Pacific and Arctic regions, as well as migration in the Americas and across the world.
On Haiti, both Canada and the United States are seized with the urgency of the multiple crises in that country and their terrible impact on the Haitian people. We welcome Canada’s decision to send a high-level assessment team to Haiti – they are on the ground now – as well as our own teams’ multiple trips to Haiti over the past month. Building on that work we have already done together – including coordinating with international partners, creating a UN Security Basket Fund for Haiti, a multi-donor fund managed by the United Nations Development Program in coordination with the Haitian National Police, UN Integrated Office in Haiti, and other stakeholders, and delivery by U.S. and Canadian military planes of HNP-purchased armored vehicles.
Yesterday in Ottawa, Secretary Blinken met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly. Joined by Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and Foreign Minister Joly, he spoke with Ukrainian refugees and volunteers at a community center that provides assistance to displaced Ukrainians.
Today in Montreal, Secretary Blinken joined Foreign Minister Joly for a conversation with rising Canadian leaders to discuss our cooperation on combating the climate crisis, promoting clean energy, supporting an inclusive economic recovery, and addressing all forms of discrimination and exclusion. The Secretary also visited a facility with new technology to recycle lithium for use in recyclable electric car batteries. This showcases how supply chain cooperation with Canada advances North American competitiveness.
As President Biden said earlier this year, the United States has no closer friend than Canada. We have been friends, partners, and allies for over 150 years, working together to advance shared priorities. We thank Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Joly for hosting Secretary Blinken and look forward to working side-by-side to promote security and prosperity in our hemisphere and around the world.
As you may know, Reza Haghighatnejad died of cancer on October 17th in Germany. We offer our condolences to Reza’s loved ones. Reza was a brilliant journalist dedicated to freedom of speech and uncovering the truth.
Reza’s family wished to have him buried in his hometown of Shiraz, and repatriated his remains to Iran on October 25th. We are disgusted to learn that the IRGC seized Reza’s remains at the airport and are pressuring the family to agree to have his body buried elsewhere.
We call on Iranian authorities to immediately release Reza’s remains to his family and to cease this act of intimidation. His family should be allowed to mourn his passing in peace. The Iranian authorities’ behavior is something we strongly condemn. It is, once again, an abhorrent practice of intimidating and detaining journalists in general. And the treatment of Reza Haghighatnejad’s remains underscores just how much Iran’s leadership fears journalists, even after their death.
With that, we will turn to questions. Operator, if you wouldn’t mind repeating the instructions for questions.
OPERATOR: If not already done so, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad to get into the question queue.
MR PRICE: Great. Let’s start with the line of Matt Lee.
OPERATOR: Matt Lee, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi there. Hi, Ned. Happy Friday. Thank you.
MR PRICE: Happy Friday.
QUESTION: Just on Haiti, you guys say that you’re seized with the urgency of the situation. But it’s been two weeks now since the emergency request came from the Haitian Government. And I’m just wondering if there – if after the discussions in Ottawa and again today in Montreal, if you guys are any closer to figuring out exactly how you’re going to – if you’re going to respond to this request for security assistance, and who might be involved in it, and who would lead it. It sounds though nobody is really particularly interested in doing that even though everyone understands the seriousness of the situation. Thank you.
MR PRICE: Great. Thanks, Matt. So a couple things I’d say. First is that for weeks now, we have been responding to what is an urgent humanitarian situation that, at its core, has some elements of an emergent security situation as well. We have been working with the international community for weeks on a couple fronts. As you know, on October 21st the UN Security Council unanimously adopted the sanctions resolution that we put forth with our close partner and penholder, Mexico. By adopting this resolution, we took an important step to help stymie the activities of criminal actors in Haiti, and it was after robust and inclusive negotiations that did take some time in New York that this resolution was truly reflective of council consensus and was an important step both in the direction of accountability and to put pressure on those who are blocking the provision of much-needed supplies to the Haitian people, including food and fuel.
We’ve taken other steps as well. It was a couple weeks ago now that together with our Canadian partners, our militaries delivered supplies that had been purchased by the Haitian National Police. Ultimately, this is a challenge that the Haitian National Police will need to be in a position to address, and the provision of these materials will help them do that, will help them confront the underlying security challenge that has exacerbated the attendant humanitarian crisis as well.
We are, as we’ve said for some time now, continuing to work on a resolution to authorize a non-UN international security assistance mission to improve that security situation and, again, to enable the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid. This came at the request and has come at the request of the Government of Haiti, but it’s also one of the options that the secretary-general recommended to the Security Council; it’s something that we heard echoed by the secretary general of the OAS as well.
The resolution that’s being discussed needs to be limited, carefully scoped. We’ve made clear it would be a non-UN mission led by a partner country, with deep and necessary experience required for any such effort to be effective. And we’ll consider – continue to consider the most effective means to directly support, enable, and resource this effort. A number of countries around the world are working with us on this. As the Secretary and Foreign Minister Joly said yesterday, this is a work in progress, but we are absolutely working on it. We know that the status quo is not sustainable. We are going to continue to discuss with partners what they – what role they may be able to be – they may be able to provide when it comes to helping to address the security challenge that has in many ways exacerbated the humanitarian challenge.
With that, why don’t we go to the line of Guita Aryan.
OPERATOR: And Guita, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Ned. Thank you for taking my question. Thirteen congressmen have written a letter to six technology companies asking them to expedite more help to the Iranian protesters. I was wondering if these companies that are taking advantage of the general license, the latest one to do this, report back to the State Department or the Treasury Department about what they’ve been doing and if the – and who from this side, whether it’s State Department or Treasury again, follows up with them to see how much help or what kind of help they’ve provided. Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Guita. So I’m familiar with the letter that you referenced. Of course, we’ve been working closely with technology companies. Our Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held a roundtable discussion just a couple weeks ago to discuss what the United States and specifically what the private sector can do to enable the people of Iran to have their voices heard both inside of Iran and by the outside world. We believe it’s vitally important that their – that their messages be heard and that they be in a position to convey them to the rest of the world.
When it comes to the general license, as we said when we announced it, the general license itself is self-executing. That enables it to be especially effective and swift when it comes to enabling private sector companies in the United States to provide their wares – hardware and software – to the people of Iran. And that’s the case because by its self-executing nature, companies don’t need to go to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, to determine if their technology is permissible under the – under what the general license spells out. Instead, it is incumbent on them to determine whether their technology is applicable under the general license, and if so, they’re in a position to provide that to the people of Iran.
So to your specific question, companies are not required to go to the Treasury Department or to the State Department, but we have continued to have a conversation with the private sector, helping, working with them, answering questions about the general license, answering questions about the needs of the Iranian people, and helping to clarify what they may be in a position to do. Ultimately, private companies are going to make their own decisions, but as we know, there are a number of private companies that have technology, software, hardware that, in the hands of the Iranian people or when made accessible to the Iranian people, would enable them to achieve that important, indispensable goal of having their voices heard by the rest of the world. And that’s something we want to continue to be in a position to support.
We’ll go to Shaun Tandon.
OPERATOR: Shaun, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. Good afternoon. Two things, if you don’t mind. Brazil, of course, is heading into a second round of elections this weekend. I know you made some comments before the first round, but I wanted to see if the United States had any message on the conduct of the elections. Do you have any guidelines that you could share with us about when you’d recognize the winner, and do you have any message to the candidates in terms of potentially conceding defeat?
And also, if you don’t mind, there are security alerts in recent days both in South Africa and Nigeria. In both countries, particularly in South Africa, the authorities – some of the government leaders voiced concern about what they said was a lack of communication from the U.S. side. To what extent has the United States been in touch with these two countries about the security situation? To what extent do you believe that they have the situation under control?
MR PRICE: Thanks, Shaun. So first on Brazil, we spoke after the conclusion of the first round. We congratulated the people of Brazil and their institutions on what was a successful first round election. It was conducted with credibility; it was conducted with transparency. And the people of Brazil, the United States, countries around the world have every confidence that Brazil will be able to hold the second round and final round in the same manner.
We support the Brazilian people’s democratic right to choose their next leader and, again, we share their confidence that authorities will conduct this upcoming round with the same professionalism and the same spirit of peace and civic duty. That would be our message to the candidates. That would be our message to those in Brazil – in Brazil’s institutions. These – Brazil’s democracy is time-tested. Its democratic institutions serve as a model for nations in the hemisphere and the world. And again, we have every expectation and confidence that the same will be true when Brazil concludes it’s second round in the coming days.
When it comes to the question you raised about Nigeria and South Africa, of course we have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens around the world. That, of course, includes individuals, Americans, who are working in our embassies, in missions around the world. We also have a responsibility to the American citizen community around the world that we provide them with timely notification when we have information available to us regarding a potential threat. We take the – our obligation to the so-called “no double standard” extraordinarily seriously. So in that vein, when we are in possession of information regarding a potential threat, we do provide it to American personnel. We take steps – prudent steps to mitigate the threat, but also to inform the public.
And with that in mind, effective October 27th, our embassy in Abuja went on ordered departure status for eligible family members. The authorized departure status remains in place as of now for non-emergency U.S. direct hires in Abuja. We made that decision to recommend ordered departure for EFMs in Abuja out of an abundance of caution – as we said before – related to an elevated risk of terrorist – of terror attacks in Nigeria. And we’ve put out attendant messaging to the American citizen community.
We do cooperate closely with countries around the world – certainly close partners like South Africa, like Nigeria – on shared security concerns. And any potential threat in either country could well pose a shared threat to our interests as well. We’ve been in close contact with Nigerian authorities. We appreciate the effort of our Nigerian partners to address security threats in Abuja and across the country. The same is true of our relationship with South Africa. We have a close relationship with our South African partners, and we deeply appreciate efforts that they make to protect their interests, and in turn, our interests in the country as well.
Let’s go to the line of Janne Pak.
OPERATOR: Janne, your line is now open.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks, Ned. Thanks for taking my question. Happy Friday.
MR PRICE: Happy Friday.
QUESTION: I have a quick question. I have two questions, issues related to Korea and Russia. And first question: In the review of the nuclear posture of the U.S. National Defense Strategy report, it was stated that if North Korea launches a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies, then North Korea and Kim Jong-un regime will come to an end. Do you think this strategy is effective even if dialogue and diplomacy with the North Korea do not work?
Second question: Russian President Putin warned that Russia and South Korean relations would break if South Korea provided arms to Ukraine. How can the U.S. see Russia’s warning that South Korea is supporting Ukraine along with its allies? Thank you very much.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Janne. So I will – I won’t comment on the Nuclear Posture Review. I know DOD has spoken to that along with the Missile Defense Review and the broader strategy document that they released yesterday. As you know, they addressed a number of regions and challenges in the context of those three rollouts, and so I would refer you to the statements they made and the documents they released yesterday.
But your question, your first question, gets at something that is vitally important to us, and that’s the role of extended deterrence and the role of extended deterrence in our alliance with our South Korean allies. As you know, there was a meeting of the U.S.-ROK Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group. We believe it’s a substantive and sustainable forum where we can discuss all aspects of our cooperation and coordination – diplomatic, economic, informational, and military – and how they contribute to deterring threats to the alliance.
In the context of that meeting last month, we discussed the threat from the DPRK and expanding coordination against all avenues of potential aggression, and we’ll also discuss how the United States and the ROK can – and we also discussed how the United States and the ROK can cooperate with other regional partners to address our many shared security challenges.
When it comes to your question regarding South Korea and Ukraine and Russia, the point we’ll make is that countries around the world will determine the level and form of assistance that they wish to provide to Ukraine. Our message has been to underline the importance of sending a very clear signal to the people of Ukraine, to the Government of Ukraine, of strong international support, and at the same time, concurrently, a strong message to the Russian Federation that the world will not stand with President Putin’s attempts to subvert the rules-based order and to essentially erase the identity of the Ukrainian people, to erase Ukraine from the map. A hundred and forty-three countries did so most recently in the UN General Assembly. We have worked with dozens of countries, some 50 countries around the world, to provide security assistance to Ukraine but also to hold Russia accountable through sanctions, export controls, and other economic and financial measures.
We are not going to speak to what other countries are providing or should provide, but again, our message has been to underline the importance of this support both for the signal it sends, the practical impact it has both on Ukraine’s ability to resist Russian aggression and to inhibit Russia’s own ability to wage this aggression.
Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.
OPERATOR: And Kylie, your line is open.
QUESTION: Great, thanks for doing this. Quick question following up on something that the Secretary said yesterday where he said the United States is looking at everything that they can do to disrupt Iranian weaponry from going to Russia, and that doesn’t just include sanctions. So I’m just wondering if the U.S. is actually hopeful that these efforts are going to be able to stop further shipments of Iranian weaponry from going to Russia, and if the U.S. would consider or would work with allies to potentially intercept these shipments or if that would be considered directly pulling the United States into the war. Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Kylie. So to – you alluded to the Secretary’s comments yesterday, but he made clear that we are focused and have been focused on the threat presented by Iran’s UAV technology, technology that actors in the region and beyond have used to dangerous effect in the region, in places like Iraq, in places like Syria, against our partners in the region and, in some cases, well beyond the region, and now to include inside of Ukraine on the part of Russia. We are going to use every tool at our disposal. You know that just a couple of weeks ago now we issued another round of sanctions against those that are responsible for the proliferation of some of this technology.
Our focus on this is not – has not emerged only in the context of the new information we released about Iran’s support to Russia’s war in Ukraine. In fact, it was late last year that we announced a round of sanctions against Iranian UAV proliferators. We will continue to have a – we will continue to focus on those who are responsible for the provision of this technology. We’re going to continue to look at our sanctions authorities and what more we can do to wield those authorities against those responsible for this threat. I would say stay tuned on that. We are supporting the efforts of the United Nations Security Council to investigate Iran’s – the threat posed by Iran’s UAV program.
The – over the past seven years, the secretary-general has submitted to the Security Council 13 reports summarizing its investigations and findings on noncompliance. We are providing information directly to the council and to its experts, one of whom the members of the UN Security Council heard from last week. We have tools, as you alluded to, that go beyond sanctions and other economic measures. We are going to do what is ultimately in our interest, what is ultimately in our interest in countering and disrupting the flow of this technology from Iran to countries and to entities around the world.
Of course, we’re not going to broadcast that or preview it, but as we’ve demonstrated, when it comes to countering Iran’s malign activity across the board – its support for terrorist organizations, its support for proxies, its ballistic missile programs, its nuclear program, we are going to use every tool. We’re not going to leave anything off the table. And ultimately, we are going to do what we can to disrupt the threat that these malign activities pose.
We’ll go to Simon Lewis.
OPERATOR: And Simon, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks, Ned. I wonder if we could ask for an update on the peace talks happening between parties in Ethiopia. It’s going on in South Africa at the moment. Is there any update from the U.S. side on how it’s going? Is there any sort of tangible progress? And do you see a hope of something coming out of that? And I wonder if sort of additionally to that there’s been reports of airstrikes against – by the Ethiopian Government against other groups, not the Tigrayans, but the fact that they’re doing airstrikes while engaging in peace talks. Does that potentially undermine these talks? Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Simon. So a couple of things on this. First, we are going to refer to the African Union on details related to the talks. These are AU-led talks. They will be in a position to offer any relevant updates or details. We are of course supportive of this process. Our Special Envoy Mike Hammer remains in South Africa. He is both an observer and a participant to these talks. The second point is that these talks began on October 25th, just two or three days ago now, so this is still in the earliest stages of a process bringing together parties that of course are separated by quite a bit of distance at this point.
We of course have hope for these talks. We believe these AU-led talks present the best opportunity for the parties to come together to discuss their differences, and ultimately to bridge their differences. We call on the Government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan authorities to continue to engage seriously in these AU-led talks to achieve a few things: one, an immediate cessation of hostilities; two is the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all Ethiopians in need; three is additional measures to protect civilians in the face of atrocities and human rights abuses that have been reported; and four is Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia.
There is no solution that involves fighting; there is no military solution. And this mediation effort provides a chance to resolve political issues and to achieve a lasting peace for all Ethiopians. It’s why we’re so invested in it, and it’s why we will remain closely – a close observer and participant as these go forward.
We’ll take a final question or two. Let’s see. Jiha Ham.
OPERATOR: Jiha, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Ned. Thank you for taking my question. I have a question on North Korea. Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins yesterday at an event said that arms control can always be an option. Even with North Korea, the U.S. can have conversation with Kim Jong-un about arms control. So I’m wondering if you can tell us what’s your position on this. I mean, is arms control now an option? That’s something that you can consider? When you say you have no preconditions to talk, I mean, does that mean that you can also have arms control negotiations with North Korea? Thanks.
MR PRICE: Thanks, Jiha. I want to be very clear about this. There has been no change to U.S. policy. The U.S. DPRK policy remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we continue to be open to diplomacy with the DPRK. We continue to reach out to the DPRK. We’re committed to pursuing a diplomatic approach. We’re prepared to meet without preconditions, and we call on the DPRK to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy. In the face of the DPRK’s continued threats and provocations, we’ve taken steps together with our allies and partners to reinforce defense, to reinforce deterrence, and we’re continuing to consult closely with the ROK, with Japan, and with our other allies and partners about how best to engage the DPRK.
We’ll take a final question from Alex Raufoglu.
OPERATOR: Alex, your line is open. My apologies. Once more, Alex, your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Hi, Ned. Thank you so much for doing this. Happy Friday. I want to ask you about Armenia-Azerbaijan, but just before that very quickly I want to clarify what you told Kylie on Iran and Russia. As you know, the numbers are coming in. Ukraine claims that it’s succeeded in downing Iranian drones. Do you still believe that? Is it your assessment that the transfer of drones is still ongoing as we speak despite international pressure?
And now on Armenia-Azerbaijan, I just was wondering if you could please provide us with some details of Assistant Secretary Donfried’s call to Baku this morning, and whether the U.S. is currently preparing the next round of talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There’s some confusion about the peace process right now ahead of Black Sea summit, which was hosted by Putin on Monday. And he yesterday laid out his viewpoints, and he touches on a sort of competing Washington plan, which simply goes against what we have discussed a couple weeks ago. I just want to give you a chance to clear out the air on this. Is there indeed any Washington plan on Armenia-Azerbaijan? And if so, how does it differ from Putin’s version of peacemaking? And given that, what are your expectations from the upcoming Sochi meeting? Thanks so much.
MR PRICE: Thanks very much, Alex. First, there continues to be misinformation and, probably more accurately, disinformation emanating from certain corners, including from Moscow, when it comes to our intentions vis-à-vis Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United States is a partner to both of these countries. We have been a partner to both of these countries over the course of decades.
There is no greater supporter than the United States for the sovereignty and the independence of the countries of the South Caucasus, including Armenia and Azerbaijan. The restoration of Armenia, Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union – it was a seminal event that guaranteed each of these countries the right to pursue their own foreign policy interests, to pursue their own interests independent of Moscow or any other country around the world.
So when we engage with Armenia and Azerbaijan, we are doing so with one purpose in mind and one purpose only, and that is to put an end to the violence and to put these countries on the path to a lasting and comprehensive peace. We have encouraged and been clear with these countries – Armenia and Azerbaijan – that they should meet in whatever format is most useful to them. We do believe in the utility of direct dialogue to resolving issues and to reaching that lasting peace.
I’m not going to comment specifically on the efforts of the Russian Federation except to say that, again, it is up to these two countries to decide the approach they will take to these upcoming talks. We – I think the world knows of Russia’s history when it comes to its neighbors and its neighborhood. Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and it’s ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine show that Moscow has little respect for its neighbors’ sovereignty, and it’s hardly a reliable, long-term partner. We think that is in stark contrast to the United States. And again, our only intent is to help these countries achieve for themselves an end to the violence and a lasting and a comprehensive peace that the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan so desperately want.
When it comes to your first question regarding Iran’s provision of UAVs to Russia, I’m not in a position to go beyond what we’ve already said, and that is namely we began warning in July of Iran’s intent to provide this UAV technology to Russia. We know that dozens of these drones have been delivered to Russia. We know that Iranians have been present on Crimea – in Crimea working hand in hand with the Russians as Russians have used this technology with brutal effect against the people of Ukraine.
We’re going to continue to keep a focus on this relationship between Iran and Russia. It’s a relationship that is of concern to us. It’s a relationship that should be of concern to countries around the world. And the world will increasingly see what these two countries – the objectives they harbor and the damage they’re able to inflict, not only on Ukraine, but potentially against shared interests and shared values in the region and well beyond.
With that, we’ll call it a day. Thank you everyone for tuning in, and we will see you on Monday.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:48 p.m.)
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