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Department Press Briefing – July 11, 2023 – United States Department of State

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1:34 p.m. EDT

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. I have a few opening comments to start with.

As I’m sure you all are aware, NATO just in the last hour released the communique from the Vilnius Summit. I want to emphasize a few points that are contained in it.

First, the Alliance has made clear that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. Over the past several years, Ukraine has become increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with the Alliance and has made substantial progress on its reform path.

There are still conditions that Ukraine needs to fulfill, but it has made great progress, and Alliance members will continue to support Ukraine’s progress on remaining reforms. The Alliance will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO when the Alliance and Allies agree that conditions are met.

Second, the security of Ukraine continues to be of great importance to the Alliance, and member states have agreed to a substantial package of expanded political and practical support. We have established the NATO-Ukraine Council, a new joint body where NATO members and Ukraine sit as equal members to advance political dialogue, engagement, cooperation, and Ukraine’s aspirations for membership in NATO.

On the security side, you have already seen new announcements from member states, and we will continue to provide additional lethal assistance to Ukraine. But in addition to the short-term assistance that we have been providing, NATO members have agreed to further develop the Comprehensive Assistance Package into a multi-year program. That assistance will help rebuild the Ukrainian security and defense sector and transition Ukraine towards full interoperability with NATO.

This assistance will help meet not just Ukraine’s short-term needs as it fights to repel the Russian forces that have invaded its territory, but also its long-term security requirements.

Over the coming days, members of the Alliance, including, of course, President Biden, will have more to say about these agreements, but from the outset of the war in Ukraine, one of the United States’ top priorities has been to defend and strengthen the NATO Alliance, and we continue to take steps to do so.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s it?

MR MILLER: I could go on, I’m sure.

QUESTION: Sure, if you want to.

MR MILLER: No.

QUESTION: No?

MR MILLER: I’m —

QUESTION: Okay. All right. So just firstly, I’m curious, because I don’t understand what this declaration does that’s any different than what was done in Bucharest in 2008, where NATO members said the exact same thing – that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO once certain conditions are met.

MR MILLER: Let me —

QUESTION: And —

MR MILLER: Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What you said is exactly the same thing as what was said, what 17 – my math is bad – 16 – how many years ago was that?

MR MILLER: 2006? Seventeen.

QUESTION: 2008.

MR MILLER: 2008? Fifteen.

QUESTION: Yeah. It sounds exactly the same.

MR MILLER: I will note a number of differences. One, that we have removed the MAP as a step that Ukraine needs to fulfill because of the – well —

QUESTION: Yeah, so – but the MAP laid out conditions and requirements for Ukraine to get membership.

MR MILLER: But – and —

QUESTION: So that’s one thing. And now you’re saying, okay, well, there’s no more MAP, but they still have conditions that they have to meet.

MR MILLER: Right.

QUESTION: So what’s – I – what’s the difference?

MR MILLER: What I want to – what I was going to —

QUESTION: And then the other thing is – then the other thing is: what about Georgia?

MR MILLER: What I was going to say is, with respect to the removal of the MAP, it is a recognition of the strides that Ukraine has made in the last number of years, but particularly since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, in becoming increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with Ukraine. You’ve seen Ukrainians forces being trained by NATO states. You’ve seen the provision of —

QUESTION: Interoperable with NATO, you mean?

MR MILLER: Interoperable with NATO, yeah. You’ve seen NATO states providing military assistance.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then what specifically are these conditions that still need to be met?

MR MILLER: So there are a number of conditions around anticorruption, around strengthening democracy. I’m not in a position to —

QUESTION: But all those were in the MAP.

MR MILLER: Well, I want to say I’m not in a position to detail them specifically. But Ukraine itself has detailed them publicly, conditions it needs to meet. And what we are making clear is that NATO members stand ready to help them meet those conditions, as we have been helping them strengthen their military and —

QUESTION: You stood ready to help them in 2008 as well, and then Georgia was invaded and then Crimea was annexed and now we have this war going on.

MR MILLER: And I’m certainly not going to speak for what happened between 2008 and the beginning of the Biden administration. I will speak for the Biden administration and what our plans are and what our plans have been since the beginning of this conflict, which is to help NATO —

QUESTION: Okay. I —

MR MILLER: Well, let me just —

QUESTION: I don’t understand. If you simply just take away three letters, M-A-P, MAP – right? – and still say that there are conditions that have to be met, and you’re still not giving them a definite timeline or even an invitation, much less actual membership, I don’t understand how that changes anything since 2008, except that they have lost Crimea, they – and they’ve lost a semi-significant portion of territory in the east and south.

MR MILLER: I think it’s important that we are noting that they have made significant progress and that we are ready to extend an invitation when conditions are met. But I do want to take a step back and say but I also shouldn’t – think we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they are in a war with Russia right now. There is —

QUESTION: Right. I’m not losing sight of that at all.

MR MILLER: As the – as – no, I’ll just say as the President made clear, there is an important reason why they are not becoming a member of NATO right now, because it would instantly – it would instantly —

QUESTION: But – I get that, but the idea that —

MR MILLER: — put the United States in a shooting war with Russia.

QUESTION: But the idea that – and you’ve seen President Zelenskyy, who is not happy about this this morning. You’ve seen his comments. But the idea that all – that NATO is giving some gift to Ukraine here, I don’t get. Because it seems, to me, the same gift that was given in 2008, which then ended up with Georgia losing Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Ukraine losing Crimea and parts of the Donbas. So I don’t understand that.

And then the other thing I just wanted to ask you was, well, what about Georgia in all this? Are they just the forgotten?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any updates with respect to Georgia. But I do want to say one more thing about Ukraine, which is I certainly wouldn’t describe this as a gift at all. We are making these commitments to Ukraine because Ukraine itself has shown that it has made important reforms. And I would add, though, there it’s made important democracy reforms, it has made important reforms to its military, and the way —

QUESTION: Okay. But you just said that they needed to do more.

MR MILLER: And that – both of those things can be true. They’ve made important reforms, and there are still steps – just one second, Said – that they need to take.

But I think the other point that I don’t want to be lost is that the question around NATO membership itself is not the only important thing coming out of this summit. Can never lose sight – this is what I started to say a minute ago – that they are in a war with Russia and we continue to provide them the security assistance they need to help them win that war. That is job number one, more important than anything else.

Job number two is to provide them with the long-term security assistance so they can rebuild their defense sector to provide a long-term deterrent effect. And then as part of that, we are going to continue discussions with them about meeting the reforms that we believe they need to accept – not just we, the United States, but all NATO members – believe they need to make to become a full member.

QUESTION: And just one quick clarification. The President said that as long as there is war, there is – Ukraine is not going to become a member as long as the war is going on. What if the war goes on for another 10 years or 12 years? And wars – recent wars have gone on for a very long time.

MR MILLER: I do not want to get into hypotheticals about how long this war may or may not take. Our goal continues to be – as it has been from the beginning – to supply Ukraine with the security assistance it needs to win this war as quickly as possible, as well as to continue to hold Russia accountable for its actions.

QUESTION: Could I actually follow up on – could I have a follow-up on that?

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. A couple of points, Matt. Just to go back to your exchange with Matt, you said that the point – whole point about war with Russia, we’re talking about invitation. Invitation is not Article 5, is it?

MR MILLER: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: We’re talking about lack of invitation in —

MR MILLER: My point is it is – it would not be appropriate to admit Ukraine at this time to NATO while it’s in a war. That would then mean the United States would be in a war with Russia, something President Biden has made clear from the outset would not happen under his leadership.

QUESTION: I get that. Fair point. But there’s a difference between admitting and putting together a timetable. Ukrainians are unhappy – and I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that they are very happy to make it out loud that they are unhappy – because this lack of invitation will encourage Putin to continue doing what he has been doing since 2008, what Matt (inaudible).

MR MILLER: So, a few things to that. One thing I would say is that we have always understood why President Zelenskyy and other members of the Ukrainian Government and other members of the Ukrainian public make the request to the United States and to NATO and to other countries that they do. Their country has been invaded. They’ve seen their – they’ve seen civilian infrastructure attacked; they’ve seen thousands of their fellow citizens die. We certainly understand where they’re coming from. And if we were in their shoes, you can expect that we would be making the exact same requests.

We still, as the United States and as a member of NATO, have the responsibility to conduct – to make appropriate decisions on behalf of the United States. And, of course, NATO as an Alliance – 31, soon to be 32 members – have the responsibility to make appropriate decisions on behalf of the Alliance. So with respect to whatever calculation Vladimir Putin might make, he only has to look at the security assistance we have already provided to Ukraine to help deter Russian attacks, security assistance that they have put into great use on the battlefield.

And then I will make one final comment, which is one of the things Russia said before this war began is that they were firmly opposed to Ukraine joining NATO, and they wanted an ironclad commitment that Ukraine would never join NATO, and we made clear that was not on the table, that we maintained NATO’s “Open Door” policy. We reiterate that commitment today, and we made clear today that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.

QUESTION: Two more points on that, Matt. One more – one of the things you’ve said repeatedly since the war began that you would never discuss Ukraine without Ukraine. I understand you understand Zelenskyy, but Zelenskyy or (inaudible) leaders were in the room when this decision was made. Why on Earth would all these points be spelled out without Ukraine in the room?

MR MILLER: So, a few things about that. Number one, we have extensive, ongoing conversations with President Zelenskyy and other members of the Ukrainian Government. Secretary Blinken has talked to Foreign Minister Kuleba several times in just the past few weeks. The – President Biden is going to meet with President Zelenskyy tomorrow. Other members of NATO countries have met with President Zelenskyy, both in Kyiv and in their own capitals. We will continue to have conversations. We are well aware of the requests that Ukraine has, both bilaterally to the United States – and I won’t speak on behalf of other members, but I’m quite certain that they’re clear of the request Ukraine has for them and that the request that is has for NATO. But of course, when NATO meets to make decisions that are NATO decisions, those are member – those are decisions that can only be made by the existing Alliance members.

QUESTION: Okay, and my final question on Georgia. I have one last question on Georgia. Was Georgia sidelined because of its pro-Russian government, and is the country off the radar?

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any updates with respect to Georgia.

QUESTION: On Israel?

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on —

MR MILLER: Go ahead, Kylie.

QUESTION: So if you guys are saying that the 2008 MAP is no longer necessary essentially, then I’m just trying to understand why you’re not laying out a new MAP for Ukraine at this time and saying generically and in a nondescript way that conditions need to be met but not actually saying what those conditions explicitly are.

MR MILLER: I will say that I’m not in a position to get into those explicit conditions from this podium. But these are conditions – democracy reforms, anti-corruption reforms – that we have been in dialogue with Ukraine about for some time and that Ukraine itself has publicly identified as reforms it needs to make. So they are conditions – these are not conditions that are a mystery to anyone. They’re conditions where Ukraine has made great progress already and where they acknowledge that there’s more work to do and where NATO members have said we stand ready to help them take those steps.

QUESTION: And obviously, President Zelenskyy had been very clear leading up to this that he wanted the actual invitation to join NATO. He’s not getting that. So what is your response going to be when Ukrainians are frustrated by what they’ve gotten?

MR MILLER: I will say again, as I said in response to Alex’s question, we certainly understand where the members of the Ukrainian Government and members of Ukrainian society are coming from. And as I said, it’s impossible to imagine the conditions that they are living through, but we can certainly understand, having lived through those conditions, why they would make the requests that they do, and I think we would make the same if they were in their shoes.

What I would say is I would just point to the significant security assistance, the significant intelligence assistance, the significant economic assistance that we continue to provide Ukraine to help it win this war, as well as the steps that we have already taken and that we will continue to take to hold Russia accountable and to degrade Russia’s ability to conduct this war. And I know it sometimes gets tiresome; it seems like we come up here and repeat them all the time, but we just in the last week rolled our new forms of security assistance that we can provide – that we are providing to Ukraine. France just announced a new weapons capability today that it will provide to Ukraine. And you will continue to see NATO Alliance members as well as other countries around the world who stand with Ukraine to continue to provide that assistance so they can accomplish what is the most important objective, which is to achieve success on the battlefield now.

QUESTION: And just one more question. President Biden compared last week the support that the U.S. will be giving to Ukraine to the military support that the U.S. gives to Israel. So should we expect over the course of the next day or so that there’s going to be long-term assistance laid out for Ukraine in a way that the Israelis have 10-year-long commitments from the U.S. when it comes to military support?

MR MILLER: There will be additional announcements made over the next several days, but I don’t want to preview what those might be or what they might look like.

QUESTION: Russia?

MR MILLER: Anything else on Russia?

QUESTION: Russia.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, okay. Well, first I want to – the Israel question. I know that most of you —

MR MILLER: That’s not Russia.

QUESTION: No. First of all, you’ve —

MR MILLER: I will definitely come to you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, this is about Russia. But many of you probably know about Russia has a diplomatic relationship with Israel, but the backdrop to the issues. I want to ask about the Israel question brought up about Jenin, that city, yesterday about terrorists in Jenin attacking Israelis and Israelis’ right to defend itself. Do you agree that the Palestinian Authority has full or shared blame for letting Jenin become a terrorist haven or industrial complex for weapons, and will you agree to discontinue aid to the Palestinian Authority as well as to the UN agencies UNRWA and UNESCO if they don’t abolish their anti-Israel policies?

And the next question is regarding the Russia and Vilnius trip.

MR MILLER: First of all, let me just say I at least somewhat respect your ability to describe that as a Russia question because Israel – Israel has diplomatic relations with Russia. (Laughter.) That was artfully done.

QUESTION: So do you.

MR MILLER: So do we. Exactly.

Second, I will say I don’t have anything to add to my comments yesterday, which is we obviously support Israel’s right to defend itself. What’s the —

QUESTION: Okay, about the Vilnius trip. President Biden was in Vilnius. I was wanting to know about – Russia in the past actually desecrated the Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania. Did President Biden address that issue, the desecration of the Jewish cemetery there, and did he make a statement about fully supporting the restoration of that Jewish cemetery, as laid out and described in the website savevilna.org?

MR MILLER: Obviously we would oppose the desecration of any cemetery. I don’t have any specific readout of the President’s meetings to make.

Is it – I’m happy to move to another topic.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m moving on to —

MR MILLER: What’s that?

QUESTION: I’m moving to another region so —

MR MILLER: Let me just check the room before we do. I’m —

QUESTION: Can we not move to another region? Can we stay in the same region?

QUESTION: You want to stay on Ukraine? Go ahead.

MR MILLER: Yes, and then we’ll – I’ll definitely come back to you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. What’s the latest U.S. assessment as to Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons and if they’ve been moved to Belarus or not?

MR MILLER: I will say that we continue to actively monitor reports of the Russia-Belarus arrangement to ensure that Russia maintains control of its weapons in the event of any deployment to Belarus and upholds its obligations under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. We will be paying close attention to any deviation by Russia. But I will add that we have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor any indication of Russia preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: And President Putin said a few weeks ago that the facilities in Belarus where they were planning to move those tactical nukes would be completed by July 7th or July 8th. We talked to U.S. officials who said that construction hadn’t been completed. Is the latest assessment that those spots are still not ready for the tactical nukes, or what can you say on that?

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak with any level of specificity to those reports or to the question of deployment of nuclear weapons other than to say that we continue to actively monitor the reports and believe it’s – it is imperative that Russia ensure it maintains full control of its weapons.

QUESTION: Are you more concerned now that they might actually be moving those weapons than you were, say, a month ago?

MR MILLER: I would just answer that question by noting that we have not changed our nuclear posture.

QUESTION: Right. But U.S. officials have said that moving the nukes to Belarus wouldn’t necessarily trigger a change in the nuclear posture, so that doesn’t answer the question as to if you’re more concerned now that they would be moving them.

MR MILLER: Yeah, I don’t – I don’t want to speak to whether we are more concerned or less concerned or equally concerned other than to say that we continue to monitor the situation. I will say that, as we’ve said before, we do believe that it is another example of Lukashenka making irresponsible and provocative choices to cede even more control over Belarus to the Kremlin than he already has.

QUESTION: Change region?

MR MILLER: Any Russia, Russia – we’ll come to you. We’ll —

QUESTION: No, I’m —

MR MILLER: Russia? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I do today. President Zelenskyy want lethal weapons from South Korea. Does the U.S. want South Korea to provide these lethal weapons?

MR MILLER: I will say that we would welcome any country that decides to provide support, whether that is security support, economic support, or other support to Ukraine in this conflict, but we recognize always that these are sovereign decisions for each country.

Russia?

QUESTION: I have one thing on Russia.

QUESTION: So if North Korea decided to give weapons to Ukraine, you’d be okay with that?

MR MILLER: That is such a —

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. You said —

MR MILLER: That is – that is so —

QUESTION: You said you would welcome any country.

MR MILLER: That is such a —

QUESTION: What about Iran?

MR MILLER: That is such a hypothetical.

QUESTION: What if Iran decided to start providing —

MR MILLER: We would certainly welcome Iran stopping to provide Russia with weapons. I think that’s a hypothetical that’s hard – either one of those are hypotheticals that are hard to envision.

QUESTION: You said any country. You said any —

MR MILLER: And I would be happy to deal with that question if it happens.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Russia? I will come to everything else, I promise. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. So I have two on Africa and one in Russia. So but let me start in —

MR MILLER: All right. Leon is next because Leon – Leon withheld —

QUESTION: It’s okay. It’s okay.

MR MILLER: No.

QUESTION: Yeah, let me just start on Russia. So the very reason why this war between Russia and Ukraine started is because Russia felt threatened because if Ukraine joined NATO —

MR MILLER: That’s why Russia claimed it started this war.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is what —

MR MILLER: I’m not sure I agree that’s why Russia started this war.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But the fact that now there is an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, don’t you think it’s a way to continue to motivate Vladimir Putin to continue the war?

MR MILLER: I would say I reject the characterization that this war ever began because of NATO in the first place. We have always made clear that NATO is a defensive alliance, and we made clear in the months leading up to this war that if Russia wanted to discuss legitimate security concerns in Europe, we would be – we would welcome a discussion about those concerns, while maintaining, of course, that we would always maintain NATO’s “Open Door” policy.

It was clear to us from the outset. We released a number of pieces of information leading up to the war, and it has – that I believe back this up. And it continues to be clear to us that Russia launched this war for one reason, and that’s territorial acquisition and to erase the Ukrainian state from the map. So we have never believed that this war was about NATO.

QUESTION: So can I move to Africa?

MR MILLER: Let me come to Leon first because I skipped over him to —

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I’m changing regions.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR MILLER: Yes, I understand.

QUESTION: A question on Cuba, if I may. The Cuban Government said today that they – the U.S. nuclear-powered submarine was in their waters. I believe it was July 5th to July 8th, and they reject that, calling it a provocative – provocative. Sorry. I wondered what reaction you have on that. I mean, I understand it’s – it could be a Pentagon question also, but from State you must have your point of view.

And then if I may, just to refresh my memory, which is failing me, could you explain to us why Cuba is still on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism alongside Iran, North Korea, and all that —

MR MILLER: So —

QUESTION: — especially in the context that it was rescinded and then it came back? And the Biden administration has been back to the multilateral scene opening up but except for Cuba. So ‑-

MR MILLER: So I will say with respect to that statement by the foreign minister, we do not – at least from this podium – discuss the movement of U.S. military assets. I would refer that to the Pentagon. But I would note that the Pentagon spokesman yesterday said that we will continue to fly and sail and otherwise move military assets wherever it is appropriate to do so under international law.

And with respect to the second question, I will just note that Cuba remains on that list because, in our judgement, it has not yet met the requirements to be removed from it.

QUESTION: And what are those requirements, then? Can you refresh my memory?

MR MILLER: I’m happy to – I’m happy to – I think I would need to refresh my own memory about the exact list of requirements, but I’m happy to take that back. There’s a – it’s a – detailed in statute and regulation.

All right. Go ahead.

QUESTION: To come back to NATO – well, the various countries involved in Sweden now seemingly getting membership. I wonder if you could talk us through – we’ve heard about – well, the Secretary was in talks with the Turkish prime minister in recent days, and we’ve heard some signs from Congress that they F-16 sale to Türkiye might be moving ahead. So what is the current understanding? I think Jake Sullivan said the U.S. will move forward on this, but – I guess that’s the administration’s point of view. But do you understand that Congress is ready to approve the F-16 sale?

MR MILLER: So I think I will decline to speak for members of Congress. You’re right, we did note the comments from Senator Menendez yesterday. I will say a few things on behalf of the administration. One, as the National Security Advisor made clear – as the President has made clear – we do support the sale of F-16s to Türkiye. And as the National Security Advisor said today, we will move forward with that sale, which we do understand needs to be approved by key members of Congress.

Secretary Blinken, in addition to being – to having a number of conversations with the Turkish foreign minister over the past week and really over the past month; there were three conversations in the past six days, but I think he’s spoken to him five times in the past month, including one meeting in person in London. The Secretary has had conversations with members of Congress, including Senator Menendez, about this very issue in the past few weeks. I’m not going to characterize those conversations other than to say we have always made clear that we have supported the sale of F-16s to Türkiye, and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: A follow-up on this?

QUESTION: Follow-up on –

MR MILLER: Yes?

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.

MR MILLER: Do you have a –

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. But does that also connect with the conversation that he had with the Greek prime minister the other day? I – from this podium, you’ve sort of declined to recognize that there’s a quid pro quo going on here, but the President basically has said it. So, yeah, how does Greece and the F-35s also come into this?

MR MILLER: Let me just answer it this way. You were right, Secretary Blinken talked with the – did have a discussion with the prime minister of Greece last week. I will just note three things. Number one, the United States has been clear in its support for Sweden joining NATO. Number two, the United States has been clear in its support for selling F-16s to Türkiye. Number three, the United States has been clear in its support for providing F-35s to Greece. We have continued to make clear that all three of those, we believe, are important steps to take for the security of the region, and I think I’ll decline any further comment on the texture of those conversations.

QUESTION: Sure. But —

QUESTION: Follow-up? Follow-up?

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Let me just put it this way because, like – and some of the questions that I was going to ask have already been answered. But can you – are you in a position, as the State Department spokesperson to confirm that the F-16 fighter jet sale is going to go through with no strings attached just the way it was from the beginning?

MR MILLER: I cannot do that because I can’t – I cannot speak for members of Congress. I can say that we support the sale of F-16s to Türkiye and that we intend to move forward with those sales. But there is an important congressional component to the – that sale that still needs to be met. We’ve noted the comments from Senator Menendez yesterday, but I will let all of those members continue to speak for themselves. They have an important role to play in the process.

QUESTION: But you can confirm this point, right, that the – when you sent the report from the State Department to Congress for the informal notification, you said that it’s in the national interests of the United States that it didn’t include any strings attached to the sale. Right?

MR MILLER: And that stands. Correct, yes.

QUESTION: That’s from your point of view?

MR MILLER: That stands, yes.

QUESTION: On Türkiye –

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: On Türkiye —

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Alex, you’ve already – I’ve already come to you.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up?

MR MILLER: I know, I know, but you’ll be here a while.

QUESTION: Please come back to me on this.

MR MILLER: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Northwest Syria has always been a hot spot issue between you and Türkiye. Then have you discussed any concern about the increase of Turkish attacks on northwest Syria and also the new position in supporting the Kurdish fighters, the SDF, in northwest Syria? And then were there any demand or request from Türkiye to you and to your NATO partners about your support to your local partners, in order to show, to back, the Sweden’s NATO bid in Turkish parliament?

MR MILLER: So I will just answer – I’m not going to speak to private diplomatic conversations. But I will say that we believe the SDF have been a critical counterterrorism partner, and they remain a critical counterterrorism partner, and essential in preventing ISIS from realizing its aspirations for a reconstitution. They fought bravely to liberate vast stretches of Syria from ISIS control, and as I said, they will continue to be a partner of ours.

QUESTION: Has Türkiye pushed any demands regarding —

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak for Türkiye.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR MILLER: That’s a request for them.

QUESTION: And then today the Turkish warplanes heavily bombarded the mountains in the heart of Iraqi Kurdistan. And then this incited panic and fright in the residence area by this bombardment. What’s your comment on this bombardment by the Turkish warplanes in the Kurdistan region of Iraq? And then do you have any sort of engagement between Ankara and Baghdad about this long-term issue?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back.

QUESTION: And then one last question. Do you have any questions about Elizabeth Tsurkov the PhD candidate and also the Russian and Israeli researcher who disappeared in Iraq months ago and now the Senate Foreign Relations accusing Iran that kidnap this —

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MR MILLER: I’m going to come to somebody else.

QUESTION: A question on commitments.

MR MILLER: Yeah. One –

QUESTION: Sorry. Are there any specific commitments that Türkiye could make regarding its activity in the region that you believe could assuage Senator Menendez’s concerns about what Türkiye has historically been doing there?

MR MILLER: I will say it has been 17 years since I was a spokesman for Senator Menendez, and I don’t think I am qualified to take on that responsibility now.

Said.

QUESTION: Since you are in the region —

MR MILLER: I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: I want to move to the Palestinian —

QUESTION: Seventeen years?

MR MILLER: Yeah, I know. I don’t like to admit that either. (Laughter.) It makes me sound as old as I —

QUESTION: That was longer ago than the Bucharest Summit.

MR MILLER: It makes me sound as old as I actually am.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. We’ll move to the Palestinian issue, although I can’t resist the temptation to wonder out loud how Sweden, that has had 200 years of peace and prosperity as a result of neutrality, is better off joining a military alliance – just to note.

So I want to ask you on the Palestinian issue, today the Israeli occupation forces removed a Palestinian family from their home in which they have lived for decades, probably as long as the state has been there. I wonder if you have – first of all, are you aware of their story, the Sub Laban family in East Jerusalem?

MR MILLER: I have seen that story. I don’t have a specific comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay. Would you care to look into it and maybe have a comment on it?

MR MILLER: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. The other thing is the destruction of the Masafer Yatta area that is – that the Israeli occupation forces is turning into a free fire zone. Have any comment on that? They are depopulating the villages, as a matter of fact, to create a free fire zone or a practice fire zone, whatever they call it.

MR MILLER: I think I will say, as I’ve said before, it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. That includes the demolitions and eviction – demolitions of homes and evictions of families from where they have lived for generations in the West Bank.

QUESTION: So – but you know the Palestinian Authority, I mean, has no say-so in this matter, only Israel. Why can’t you address yourself to Israel?

MR MILLER: I think I just did.

All right. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. I want to follow up on my question yesterday regarding Special Envoy Rob Malley. Has the State Department or will the State Department meet the deadline set by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman to turn over information on the special envoy’s situation?

MR MILLER: We will be responding to the committee today.

QUESTION: So you have not delivered – the information has not been delivered yet?

MR MILLER: I mean, when I walked up here to the podium, we had not responded, but it’s our expectation that we will respond today.

QUESTION: Okay. One question: The day that the news broke about his situation and you also yourself noted here that he was on leave, he told the media that he expects the situation to be resolved favorably and soon. Is that the general expectation and feeling, sense, here at the State Department?

MR MILLER: I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to speak to that at all. I will just note, as we’ve said before, that Rob Malley is on leave and Abram Paley is leading the department’s work in this area, and I’m really limited in what more I can say about the matter.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that, a follow-up.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Tehran Times is an official newspaper related to Islamic Republic, affiliated to Islamic Republic. Yesterday they reported on Rob Malley with exclusive details. I want to see if you can confirm any of – some of these details. One is that the date that Mr. Malley was asked to go on leave is April 21st. Can you confirm that?

MR MILLER: I will just say, as I said, I am very limited in what I can say about this matter. It’s a personnel matter. There are rules imposed on us by the Privacy Act that make it – limit what we can say. I can say that on June 29th, Rob stopped performing the duties of the special envoy for Iran. He went on leave several weeks before that, but I can’t say it with any more degree of specificity.

QUESTION: Okay. And then there was another piece of information there that – it says that not only Secretary Blinken but also Abram Paley have not met with Mr. Malley since. Can you confirm that, that there was no meeting?

MR MILLER: No, I cannot.

QUESTION: You cannot confirm?

MR MILLER: I cannot.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask one question about ACPD, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy? On Monday, Joe Biden announced that he has the intention to nominate Elliott Abrams for the job. Is Mr. Abrams in any sense going to be involved in any policy making related to Iran or not?

MR MILLER: I think, as is always the case when it comes to nominations that have not yet been approved, I will wait until someone actually joins the administration before I comment further about what they may or may not be doing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Go ahead, Janne. Not – yeah, go ahead. Yeah, go ahead, Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. China said it would discuss objecting to the IAEA report on the discharge of contaminated water in Fukushima at ARF foreign ministers multilateral security conference to be held in Indonesia this weekend. What stance will the U.S. take on this?

MR MILLER: So I would say that, from our perspective, we believe that Japan has been open and transparent in its management of the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Japan has coordinated proactively with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its plans. It’s conducted a science-based and transparent process. We appreciate the IAEA’s task force of international experts for its continued efforts to impartially and factually review and report on Japan’s plans for the release of the treated water.

I will note that the final report from the IAEA task force concluded Japan’s plans to release the treated water is in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards. We understand that Japan has also consulted scientists and partners from across the Indo-Pacific region on those plans.

QUESTION: So you trust the IAEA’s report today?

MR MILLER: I would again note that the IAEA are the relevant experts in this area, and they have issued a report that concluded that Japan’s plans were in accordance with global safety standards.

QUESTION: Good. On North Korea, North Korea continues to threaten to shoot down U.S. reconnaissance activities following yesterday. How are you preparing for North Korea’s accidental actions?

MR MILLER: I would just say that we continue to urge the DPRK to refrain from escalatory actions. We remain committed to diplomacy and reiterate our interest in dialogue with Pyongyang without preconditions, something that they have so far not taken us up on. As a matter of international law, the DPRK’s recent statements that U.S. flights above its claimed exclusive economic zone are unlawful are unfounded, as high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in such areas. And for additional comment, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV, Pakistan. According to some media reports, the United States played a key role in helping Pakistan to secure $3 billion package with the IMF. Just wanted to confirm if these reports are credible that U.S. is helping Pakistan (inaudible).

MR MILLER: What I would say is that we stand by the Pakistani people during these difficult times. We welcome the progress that has been made between the IMF and Pakistan in having reached a staff-level agreement. Our support for the country’s economic success is unwavering. And we will continue to engage with Pakistan through technical engagements and continue to strengthen our trade and investment ties, all of which are priorities for our bilateral relationship. We believe Pakistan has a lot of hard work ahead to be on a long-term sustainable path to economic recovery and prosperity, but we will continue to stand by them through that process.

QUESTION: And in an interview with the Politico, Pakistan’s minister for state foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, said that Islamabad had no appetite to pick a fight in the growing global rivalry between Washington and Beijing. So does Pakistan’s relations with China concern the U.S.?

MR MILLER: No, the United States does not ask Pakistan or any other country to choose between the United States and the PRC or to choose between the United States and any other country. Our relations with Pakistan build on our close people-to-people ties, and we will continue to seek ways to expand our partnership and economic ties. Our economic cooperation with Pakistan reflects our vision for the region as one of – comprised of nations that are independent, strong, and prosperous. And our relationships are based on a spirit of respect and partnership.

QUESTION: Just on Syria, the UN obviously failed to extend the cross-border aid. Reaction to that?

MR MILLER: Yeah, I would say that the United States is deeply disappointed by Russia’s inhumane veto of cross-border humanitarian assistance for Syria. We have repeatedly said that the United Nations Security Council should authorize a 12-month extension of cross-border access into Syria in order to secure this vital lifeline for the Syrian people. Russia blocked this resolution despite overwhelming council support and the calls of the UN secretary-general, UN humanitarian agencies, and NGOs working on the ground. For our part, the United States will continue to support the Syrian people, and we remain committed to reauthorizing the cross-border mechanism. It’s a moral and humanitarian imperative, and the Syrian people are counting on us to get this done, so we will stay at it to try to accomplish that.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Syria —

MR MILLER: No – let me – I just called on him. I’ll come to you next, Michel.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks. So you talked – going back to the first topic, you talked about the multi-year program to increase interoperability of Ukraine’s forces with NATO. Does that also mean we’re looking at the multi-year path towards membership? And also, related to that, you said that Ukraine can’t join before the war is over. But this kind of raises the question of what it means for it to be over because – I mean, does it require a peace agreement or – because we might end up with a frozen conflict, right? So —

MR MILLER: With respect to the second one, I certainly understand the question. I think it’s a very difficult one to answer without engaging in a lot of hypotheticals about what is inherently a very unpredictable situation. I will just reiterate our belief that it’s important that Ukraine wins this war, that it reclaims the territory that Russia has occupied. But I wouldn’t want to make any predictions about how or under what conditions the war might end.

On the first question, I would just note that we are not putting any timetable on it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to do so. As the Alliance noted in the communique today, when Alliance members agree that the conditions that have been outlined are met, they will be ready to extend Ukraine an invitation.

Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you. DOD officials have said yesterday that they worked with other nations to help them destroy chemical weapons, including Russia, Syria, Albania, and Libya. Do you have any details how and when the U.S. helped Syria destroy its chemical weapons?

MR MILLER: I don’t. I would refer you to the Pentagon for an answer to that.

QUESTION: Go to Africa?

MR MILLER: Yeah, and we’re gonna wrap up here.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yeah. So last week, President Lourenco invited two African presidents, basically the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the president of Zambia, to come to Angola and witness the transfer of the concession of the Lobito Atlantic railway corridor. This is a project that will facilitate business between African nations, and President Biden announced that he pretty much support the project and he mentioned that he will support with $250 million. So what is the view of the United States since this project is basically starting already?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any comments to add to what the President said on this matter.

QUESTION: Okay. Last week – okay. Last week also, the Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrate its independence, and we saw a lot – a group of Congolese people in front of the White House protesting, basically demanding the – Biden’s administration to impose sanctions on Rwanda because of the conflict. They mentioned to me that the United – they feel that the United States is not doing enough to solve the conflict between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What is the U.S. position on that conflict?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any specific comment on that. I’ll have to take it back.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR MILLER: Alex, you can close us out.

QUESTION: Couple of follow-ups. Please bear with me, and apologies in advance for jumping from topic to topic. On my colleague’s question about Tehran Times, if I understood you correctly, you have read the article, you are aware of the claims? And do you find it —

MR MILLER: I did not say that. I did not say that. I was responding to the question she asked me.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you find it problematic that Iranian Government media knows more about Rob Malley’s case than we do?

MR MILLER: I would not agree with that characterization.

QUESTION: All right. Moving to Sweden, Sweden’s accession – there’s one more domino that has yet to be – fall, which is Hungary, which we don’t talk about it. Can you please enlighten us: What exactly are they demanding and where are you at with this?

MR MILLER: I think the – that Hungarian Government – a number of Hungarian Government officials in the past 24 hours have said they intend to move forward with supporting Sweden’s accession.

QUESTION: And – yeah, fair enough. And finally, on Kremlin’s renewal threats since last night, do you have any response to that?

MR MILLER: On what? On —

QUESTION: Kremlin has been threatening again given the decision around Sweden. Do you have any response to that?

MR MILLER: I think that Russia has made inappropriate threats, and not just threats, but has made – has obviously launched a war against its neighbors, and we would not be surprised if they continued to make inappropriate threats against their neighbors and against others in the region. We will continue to do what we need to do to strengthen NATO, to reinforce NATO, and to make clear that those threats are inappropriate.

Thanks.

QUESTION: Really quickly, Matt, back on the Mideast.

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just want to know if you guys have – if the administration has any thoughts about the ongoing protests in Israel against the government’s proposed legislation.

MR MILLER: I don’t have anything other than to reiterate what we’ve said before, which is that we believe both United States and Israel, (inaudible) democracy are built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, and an independent judiciary. The President has been clear on this and he – we – he continues to believe, we continue to believe that – we think Prime Minister Netanyahu should work to find a genuine compromise.

QUESTION: Do you think that he has?

MR MILLER: I will say there are a number of well-attended protests in the streets, and we believe that he should pursue a consensus-based approach towards judicial reform.

QUESTION: Do you believe that he is? Do you believe that he is pursuing a consensus-based judicial reform?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to that specifically other than to say that we believe a consensus-based approach is what is required here.

QUESTION: Well, let me put it this way, then: Do you think these protests in the streets would be happening if he was pursuing a consensus-based judicial reform?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment on that other than to say that the question answers itself.

QUESTION: The question answers itself? So in other words, the answer is no, you don’t believe that he has pursued a consensus-based —

MR MILLER: I don’t think I have any further comment than what I just said.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)

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