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Department Press Briefing – February 12, 2024 – United States Department of State

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12:44 p.m. EST

MR MILLER: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Happy Monday. Happy day after the Super Bowl to Chiefs fans. Condolences to —

QUESTION: Don’t start.

MR MILLER: Condolences to the – are you a 49ers fan?

QUESTION: Absolutely.


MR MILLER: So am I, Said. And we have an issue on which we agree. Vedant is —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: – lot of 49ers fans in this room.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) Well, it’s – condolences to all my fellow 49ers fans. The only thing I will say, if any of you thought that Patrick Mahomes wasn’t going to do that at some point, then you haven’t been watching Patrick Mahomes very long.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

Anyway, on to the topic at hand. I’m going to start with some opening remarks. We are pleased today to welcome Dr. Kurt Campbell as deputy secretary of state following his confirmation by the Senate on February 6th and swearing in this morning.

Deputy Secretary Campbell’s distinguished career includes service in the Navy, positions at the Treasury Department and Pentagon, his previous service as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and most recently as the – at the White House as the Indo-Pacific coordinator. He also brings extensive experience outside of government – including in academia, the think tank community, and the private sector.

We will share more about Deputy Secretary Campbell’s engagements as he begins his role in advancing President Biden’s and Secretary Blinken’s vision of a world that is more free, open, prosperous, and secure. But for today, I just wanted to welcome him to the building. On behalf of all of us here, we look forward to working with you.

And with that, Shaun, do you want to start us off?

QUESTION: All right. Rafah?


QUESTION: Sure. Very different —

MR MILLER: Sorry, Humeyra. You look – I was just trying to go in order from the usual way we go. Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a – could I ask you about the operation in Rafah that the Israelis had? First of all, if the United States has an opinion on this – I mean, there was – there were quite a few – over a hundred civilian casualties, apparently. The President has publicly called for Israel to have a plan for civilians there. Are you under the impression that this is part of a larger operation? Was this a specific thing to get hostages? To what extent are you okay with this going ahead right after the President’s conversation with the prime minister?

MR MILLER: So a few things about that. One, I will say with respect to this specific set of air strikes, I will let the Israeli Government speak to what they were, what they were intended to do, what they were intended to accomplish. That’s appropriate for them to speak to.

I will say that as the President made clear, as the Secretary made clear in his conversation with the prime minister and other members of the Israeli Government on the trip last week, we do not support any military campaign in Rafah going forward as long as they cannot properly account for the 1.1 million people, by some estimates, who are in Rafah today, some of whom have already been displaced, some of whom have been displaced multiple times. We think there needs to be a credible plan that they can actually execute before they undertake any military campaign in Rafah.

Now that said, they have conducted air strikes against Rafah really since going back to the original days of the campaign. It is not our assessment that this air strike is the launch of a full-scale offensive happening in Rafah. We just saw, obviously, the order from the prime minister last week to the Israeli military to develop a plan for dealing with Rafah. We look forward to reviewing that plan. We look forward to being briefed on it. And we will make clear, as we did last week and as the President did in his conversation over the weekend, that without such a plan that is credible and that they can execute, we do not support a full-scale military operation there going ahead.

QUESTION: And just could I just pursue that – the – when you say you would not support it, and this is of course the language of the White House as well, what does that actually mean? Does that mean you say no, don’t do it, it’s not a good idea, or does that mean there are actual repercussions or that the – to the relationship?

MR MILLER: Look, I don’t want to get ahead of the events as they currently stand today. They have said that they will implement – they will develop and they will implement a humanitarian plan. We have made clear that we think it is imperative that they do so, and we’re going to look and see what they develop.

QUESTION: On the – on Rafah, you said it’s not the U.S. assessment that the air strikes are the start of a full-scale offensive there. Is it your assessment that they will soon launch the full-scale offensive there?

MR MILLER: Again – so first of all, with regard to this air strike, as I said, they have conducted air strikes against military targets going – in Rafah, going back to the beginning of the campaign. But it is our assessment this is not part of a – the full – a full-scale military operation there, because we heard what the prime minister said over the weekend, which he has just tasked the military with developing that humanitarian plan. It has not been developed yet, let alone executed, and it is our expectation that a plan should be developed, it should be credible, it should be executed before they launch such a military offensive.

QUESTION: Right. But did you get any assurances from the Israelis that they’re not going to proceed with a Rafah offensive unless they get that plan in there? Because I mean, the humanitarian plans for everywhere else in Rafah was not very robust and sound either. It wouldn’t have led to this civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis that the enclave is facing right now.

MR MILLER: I am not going to speak for the Israeli Government. I will speak for the United States and make clear what our expectation is. And the expectation is as I have outlined it, and we have communicated that quite clearly with them.

QUESTION: Okay. To push a little bit more on Shaun’s question, like EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell, for example, said the U.S. should consider cutting aid to Israel. And we know that there is growing frustration with Netanyahu’s government. Is that at all a possibility that the administration is considering if it would not have any success in the coming days in terms of moving Israel?

MR MILLER: So let me say a few things about that, the most important of which is that we have pursued the policy that we think gives us the maximum ability to be successful in influencing how Israel conducts its military campaign.


MR MILLER: And how —

QUESTION: Were you happy with the results of that?

MR MILLER: And – in many cases, no, absolutely we are not. We are happy with the fact that we have been able to get humanitarian assistance into Israel. That is the direct result of —


MR MILLER: I’m sorry, into Gaza. That is the direct result of U.S. intervention. But at the same time, there has not been enough humanitarian assistance that has gotten in. We are happy with some of the deconfliction measures that Israel has put in place at our urging, at our specific urging, at the request of the Secretary and others in the administration. Those deconfliction measures have not been as successful as we would like them to be. We are happy that over the past month we have seen civilian casualties come down from the incredibly high rates that they were. They are still alarmingly high; they are still way too high.

So in all of this, it’s a process where we engage with the Israeli Government, look to use every bit of expertise that we have to communicate to them the steps that we ought to take, and we use all of the levers at our disposal to influence them to the best of our ability, and that will continue to be an ongoing process.

QUESTION: So you’re still ruling out cutting of any aid?

MR MILLER: I am not ruling anything out. I am saying we have not made the assessment. That is a decision – or that is a step that would be more impactful than the steps that we have already taken. And at the same time you have to look at the fact that such a step – how such a step would be received by Israel’s opponents, both inside Gaza and outside of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: So that – just like what levers have you used?

MR MILLER: So we have used diplomatic levers. The Secretary has —

QUESTION: That means that – that means the Secretary and the President and you and Kirby and whoever else standing up and saying – wagging your finger and saying – that’s not really leverage.

MR MILLER: We have engaged with them on a – at a multitude of levels at this administration, and —

QUESTION: A multitude —

MR MILLER: – and, as I – kind of if you look at the list that we just went through with Humeyra, we have seen them take steps at our urging that have had real —


MR MILLER: Have had real tangible impact. But they have not been enough.

QUESTION: But what levers have you actually —

MR MILLER: I think the – that when the United States of America stands up and says something publicly, it matters.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you —

MR MILLER: That’s a lever – and we – and we —

QUESTION: But you haven’t – but you haven’t said —

MR MILLER: No – and we – but to my point —

QUESTION: — that there’d be any consequences —

MR MILLER: To my – to my point, we have seen —

QUESTION: — in terms of money or military assistance, right?

MR MILLER: We – but we have seen – because of the policies we have pursued, we have seen improvements along these specific areas.

QUESTION: Okay, fine.

MR MILLER: We have seen tangible improvements. Again, not —

QUESTION: Okay, but I’m just asking you what leverage have you used?

MR MILLER: I – but also I —

QUESTION: What leverage have you brought to bear?

MR MILLER: I – I just went through it. I —

QUESTION: What have you gone —

MR MILLER: I think the words of the President United States, the words of the Secretary of State, matter. And we have seen —

QUESTION: To say —

MR MILLER: Hold on – we have —

QUESTION: Over the top, that’s leverage?

MR MILLER: And we have seen – and seen the Government of Israel respond to it, not always in the way that we want, not always to the degree that we want or to the level that we want, but the – our interventions, we believe, have had an impact, and we will continue to pursue them because we – we believe they do.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, look, I – I’m not – I’m not trying to take a position on what you have done so far is adequate or inadequate, but you seem to be taking the position that what you have done so far is inadequate. Because while you say you have seen some results from the quote/unquote “pressure” that you have applied, they’re not enough, and that the situation is still not good and not acceptable to you. Is that – is that a fair assessment of what you said?

MR MILLER: I will say I think that sometimes people pretend that the United States of America has a magic wand that it can wave to make any situation in the world roll out in exactly the way that we would want it to, and that is never the case. We use – we use —

QUESTION: Okay, well I would just – let me just say —

MR MILLER: We use the tools that are available —

QUESTION: — that there are other people – there were other —

MR MILLER: We use the tools that are available to try to influence policy. They are imperfect, and there are ways in which we have been able to show tangible results and more that we want to do. And that is why we continue to stay engaged.

QUESTION: Okay, but there are others who would say that you have a multitude of billions of things that you could use to —

MR MILLER: I’m aware.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. So – and you haven’t used those. That correct?

MR MILLER: As always, when we look at all of the tools in our – at our disposal, we have to look at the up sides of using them and we have to look at the down sides in making those determinations.


QUESTION: So – but the answer is no, correct?

MR MILLER: It is not a determination we have made at this point. But we —

QUESTION: No, no, no, no, but have you gone to the Israelis and said, look, if you don’t do what we think you should do or at least take our position into account, there will be some kind of tangible consequence other than the finger-wagging and the President saying this is over the top? Is there any – is there any real oomph?

MR MILLER: I am not going to get into the private conversations that we have with the Government of Israel, but they are quite clear about our positions on these matters.


QUESTION: Can I get a follow-up on this point? Can I follow on —

MR MILLER: Humeyra, were you done? Yeah, go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. If – with the indulgence of my colleagues. Now, to Matt’s point, the President of the United States of America went out and told the entire world Israel’s conduct is over the top. Israel’s conduct is over the top. So if it’s over the top, what are you willing to do to make it go under the top?

MR MILLER: We are going to engage with them to – on specific areas where we expect to see improvement.

QUESTION: What kind of improvement? I mean, we saw yesterday —

MR MILLER: We want —

QUESTION: — that they bombed – they killed 120 people, maybe a lot more; we don’t know how many injuries and so on or how many among the injured will die – will end up dying, and all these things. And you’re saying that this is – you – just what you said. You said that we have seen them bomb Rafah all throughout. Does that make it okay? Does that make it okay when everybody, including the Secretary of State, including the President of the United States of America, including many leaders in this country have said, you should not attack Rafah, period, or you can attack it by air. Is that it?

MR MILLER: We have – we have always said that they can attack legitimate military targets. And we want to see them take every step that they can to minimize civilian casualties. As I just said, we have seen civilian casualties come down, but as you and I have – as you and I have discussed many times in this room, Said, they face a very difficult situation in that Hamas continues to hide itself among the civilian population. If this was a war being fought on a battlefield where Hamas would come out and fight, it would be a much different scenario.

QUESTION: Right. Right.

MR MILLER: Unfortunately, it is not, so Israel faces a very difficult situation. That doesn’t lessen their need to do more. And that’s why we continue to engage with them on this question.

QUESTION: But the fact is that you do have a magic wand. You have a huge, big magic wand.


QUESTION: And that magic wand —

MR MILLER: I’m glad you think it’s a magic wand, Said. I don’t —

QUESTION: It is a magic wand. It is a magic wand, but it —

MR MILLER: I don’t think people share that assessment.

QUESTION: It’s real, it’s substantive.

QUESTION: But it is a wand.

QUESTION: It’s a wand. I mean, we’re talking about billions of dollars that are approved to make this war keep on going while, in fact, we have seen reports from the United Nations that – telling you: you are a shake away, Matt, from starvation in Gaza. Nothing is going in into Rafah, no aid. None of this is going on.


QUESTION: I mean, there are so many things that are going on at the same time that the United States can in fact use its magic wand.

MR MILLER: So Said, we have used a number of levers at our disposal, and that is why humanitarian assistance is going into Rafah. In fact, your contention is not true. There were nearly 200 trucks that – or I’m sorry – that are going into Gaza. There are nearly 200 trucks of humanitarian assistance that went into Gaza yesterday. If we want to go back to the beginning, it is because of the intervention of the United States that humanitarian assistance is going in. We continue to call for more. When the Secretary was there last week, he raised with – directly with the prime minister that we want to see Erez crossing open so that we can continue to do more. And it is that repeated, sustained engagement that we have shown over time has delivered results, and it’s why we’ll continue to stay engaged.

QUESTION: Do you expect – lastly, do you expect that Director Burns’ meeting tomorrow and – or scheduled meeting tomorrow in Cairo will produce anything? What is your – the feeling in this building on the ongoing discussions?

MR MILLER: So first of all, I’m going to look around and remind everyone that I’m the spokesperson for the State Department —

QUESTION: Yes, absolutely. I understand —

MR MILLER: — not any other agency. So I’m not going to – I’m not going to speak to the travel of members of —

QUESTION: Well, you’re the highest government spokesman in this room.

MR MILLER: Members of other – hold on – members of other agencies in the government. I will say that generally as it relates to engagement – engagement over the release of hostages, you heard the Secretary speak to this and say that we think progress can be made. There were a number of really untenable items in the proposal that came back from Hamas, but we do believe that a deal is possible. And we are going to continue to pursue it from this building as well as from others because we think the benefits of a pause and a deal for hostages are tremendous, not just obviously for the hostages who would be released but also for the humanitarian effort in Gaza and for our ability to begin to pursue a real and lasting sustainable resolution to this conflict.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up —


QUESTION: — just briefly on that point? The – I mean, is there any – is there any contradiction in that – I mean, the Israelis taking military actions to free hostages? Do you think that that affects at all the deal that’s on the table or the deal that’s been negotiated for —

MR MILLER: I don’t think it should, and I think the Israelis are well within their rights to do everything in their power to try to get back the hostages that were taken from Israel and continue to be held – have been held for far too long now – and it should in no way impact the negotiations.

Olivia, go ahead. Oh, sorry, Jen – Olivia, go ahead and we’ll come to Jen.

QUESTION: Just one point of clarification, because our understanding is that there’s not yet a clear commitment from the Israeli Government to have representation at these talks in Cairo. Understanding you’re not their spokesperson, are you relaying to the Israelis the importance of participating in these talks in order to achieve any outcome?

MR MILLER: I am not going to – obviously not speak for them, but I’m also not going to speak to our private negotiations. But obviously we do believe that these discussions are important. We believe that it’s important that we continue to engage around the need to secure these hostages and obtain a humanitarian pause, and we will continue to pursue that with the Government of Israel as well as with the Governments of Egypt and Qatar.

QUESTION: And you believe these activities in Rafah – your view is not that it is not the unspooling of a campaign, but do you believe they’re counterproductive to hostage talks?

MR MILLER: I just can’t speak to what the intent of these particular strikes last night were. But look, Israel has had an ongoing military campaign, so I don’t know why a new set of strikes would change the nature of these negotiations. They have been conducting a military campaign since – shortly after the immediate hours after October 7th, so there’s nothing really there that should have an impact on these talks.

QUESTION: But this happens to target a city center where 1.2 million Palestinian civilians are concentrated in a way that —

MR MILLER: Correct, but I am not sure why that would have an impact on the hostage talks. If Hamas – I mean, if Hamas was going to pull out of these talks, maybe Hamas should stop hiding – but – it’s Hamas that continues to hide behind those civilians.

QUESTION: Well, with respect, I mean, it’s – to the Secretary’s line that not forgetting a common humanity here is what I thought was top of mind for the administration.

MR MILLER: Of course it is top of mind for the administration. Israel does still have the need – or have the ability and the need and the right to carry out legitimate military campaigns that target members of Hamas, Hamas leadership, Hamas battalions. We support their right to do so, but we want to see them conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law, and we want to see them minimize civilian casualties. And when we see reports of civilian casualties, we raise those directly with the Government of Israel and seek more information about them.

QUESTION: And the U.S. does concur that there’s a legitimate military reason in order to conduct these strikes in Rafah. I understand you can’t get into the details —

MR MILLER: There are Hamas battalions in Rafah; that is an undisputed fact.

QUESTION: Well, I just have two other separate questions. One is on whether you can tell us anything about the Americans who have been detained by the IDF in both the West Bank and Gaza. Do you have clarity on the circumstances of their detention? Have you been requesting and gotten offered consular access to them?

MR MILLER: We don’t have clarity on the situation. I can say that with respect to both of these situations, I think, as you know, because of privacy considerations, that lots of times in these cases we’re not allowed – we’re not able to speak to the details. But in both cases, we are aware of the matter and are seeking – are engaged with the families and seeking more information from the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: Is there a preliminary level of concern involved in any of these cases?

MR MILLER: Until we have been able to acquire more information, I don’t think I should offer a preliminary assessment.

QUESTION: Okay, last one, sorry. I’m sure you’ve seen the reports of Hamas having a command center underneath UNRWA’s headquarters. Does that alter the U.S.’s thinking in terms of the potential resumption of funding down the line? Is it being linked at all to the issue of the 12 employees who are alleged to have involvement in October 7th?

MR MILLER: So we believe that’s a matter that needs to be investigated, and we have sought further information from both the Government of Israel and from UNRWA itself. We’ll continue to engage with them to seek out more information. With respect to the investigation that the UN is conducting, clearly this is the type of thing that they ought to look at. Their investigation ought to look at both the circumstances of the 12 individuals who are reported to have participated in the October 7th attacks as well as any other Hamas infiltration or involvement with UNRWA.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead. Then we’ll go to Jenny. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, Matt. Have you gotten any information from the IDF on these three American citizens that they acknowledge that they are detaining them?

MR MILLER: Again, as I said, I have to speak with some generality here because of the privacy considerations. As you know, we’re just restricted by law from what we can say due to privacy law. I’m just not able to say any more other than that we’re seeking more information from the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: Sorry. How about a follow-on on the UNRWA headquarters? Are you saying that you accept – that you believe, you have no reason to doubt the Israeli claims that there were?

MR MILLER: No, I said we’re seeking more information from both the Government of Israel and UNRWA about the matter.

QUESTION: So you’re not entirely sure yet?

MR MILLER: The point of seeking information is to get that information and make an assessment.

QUESTION: Well I — fair enough. But I just wanted to make sure I understood your —


QUESTION: — response. Thank you.

QUESTION: And then on the Rafah situation.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: The Egyptians have reportedly threatened to pull out of the Camp David Accords if Israel is to move forward with this full-scale operation in Rafah. Is this something that’s been conveyed to the U.S.? How concerned are you about the collapse of this kind of a deal?

MR MILLER: Look, I just think that gets several steps beyond where we are today. I think where we are today is that we have said we want to see a credible humanitarian plan developed, one that’s – that can be executed before any operation proceeds. The prime minister has asked the Israeli military to develop such a plan. We are a long – we are a long ways – we are a long way ahead of being able to talk to what potential ramifications are, and I don’t think I – it’s appropriate for me to speculate on those today.

QUESTION: And then I have one on a non-Middle East topic, if you want to come back.

MR MILLER: Okay. I’ll come back to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There are some reportings that the plan that Israelis are working on for Rafah is to build a tent city by Egypt and funded by the United States and some of your GCC allies. Are you aware of this reporting? And is this something – is this something that you can support?

MR MILLER: I’m not aware of that reporting. I would say that the – again, we’re – it’s not quite – maybe not quite far down the road as Jenny’s question, but a little further down the road than where we are today. The prime minister has just asked for this humanitarian plan to be developed yet; our understanding is it’s not yet been developed. We certainly haven’t seen it. So we will look to see what the Government of Israel develops and be prepared to react to that, but I don’t think I’m ready to react to any reports.

QUESTION: But what plan – in your assessment, what this plan will look like?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what the plan is going to look like, because I am not the one —


MR MILLER: We are not the ones developing.

QUESTION: Something will be acceptable to you?

MR MILLER: I will say what we would expect for any plan is that it have a credible means for dealing with the hundreds of thousands, probably over a million people, who are currently in Rafah, something that puts civilian protections first and decides – or ensures that civilians are protected, that they have a chance to get out of harm’s way, that they have access to food and water and medicine. All of those are the elements of any type of plan that we would find credible, but importantly it has to be a plan – I keep using this word because I make – want to make sure everyone hears me – not just a credible plan but one that can actually be executed.

QUESTION: So just to make a fine point on this, so are you saying that you are not opposed or would not be opposed to paying for whatever Israel’s plan is to – that whenever it comes in?

MR MILLER: I was —

QUESTION: And do they have to pay for anything? I mean, they’re the ones who are doing this. Do they – are you and the —

MR MILLER: So we are giving —

QUESTION: You and the GCC are going to pick up the tab for all of this?

MR MILLER: I am not aware of any proposal for the United States to —

QUESTION: No, I know, but are you opposed to – are you opposed to paying for —

MR MILLER: Matt, I don’t even know what the report he’s referring to is. I have heard —

QUESTION: Forget about a report he’s referring to.

MR MILLER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I know, but you can —

QUESTION: Is the United States prepared to pay for the plan that Israel may or may not come up with —

MR MILLER: So that is —

QUESTION: — for the evacuation of civilians in Rafah?

MR MILLER: That has not been the role of the United States in this conflict. I do not foresee it being the role of the United States.


MR MILLER: That said, the reason why it’s hard to answer any kind of thing definitively, we provide money to humanitarian partners in the region.


MR MILLER: And they do things like provide food and water —


MR MILLER: — to people who are in Gaza, so that you could see how that kind of funding could be used in that regard, but not specifically to the way you proposed it.

QUESTION: Can I just —

QUESTION: Can I ask a quick one —

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: — before we close the loop on the hostages? What is your understanding or, like, do you have a – do you have a timeline on when you’re expecting a response from Israel on the Hamas counterproposal?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to – I don’t want to put any kind of timeline on it. No.

QUESTION: Right. But you are expecting them to come back with a response to the Hamas counterproposal, so that this would —

MR MILLER: We want to —

QUESTION: So that you can proceed in Rafah?

MR MILLER: We want to see these discussions proceed. We believe that progress can be made, and I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay, one more: If the Israeli side somehow doesn’t show up tomorrow, will that meeting go ahead? Will those conversations still go ahead?

MR MILLER: You know I don’t answer “if” questions, Humeyra.

QUESTION: Well, you know I try. We all try.

MR MILLER: I do, I do.

Michel, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any updates on U.S. efforts to push forward the two-state solutions – solution and the normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any updates beyond what the Secretary said, but if you tuned in to his remarks in the region last week, he made very clear that this was the subject of conversation between him and his Arab counterparts when we traveled to Saudi Arabia and to Qatar and to Egypt, and it was also the subject of our conversations with the Government of Israel. He has been engaging with partners in the region to talk about plans for Gaza, for the reconstruction and the rebuilding and governance of Gaza after this conflict, and one of the things that we have heard from partners in the region, including most notably from Saudi Arabia, is that a path to two states has to be a part of that. And I say “most notably” because the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has made clear that in order to pursue normalization, they expect to see a time-bound, irrevocable path to two states. And so we had those conversations last week and we had them with the Government of Israel, and we will continue to have them in the weeks ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. One quick question.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the decision of Qatar to release eight former Indian navy personnel to India. Have you seen that reports and what’s your part in that?

MR MILLER: I’ll have to take that back and get you an answer.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Two questions, one on Gaza and one on Türkiye, if I may. On the killing of six-year-old Hind Rajab after an Israeli tank targeted their family car in Gaza, the Geneva-based nonprofit Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor determined that the IDF is responsible for the bombing of the ambulance that attempted to rescue Hind, and it also reported that American-made weapons was found at the bombed ambulance. Have you seen that report, and do you have any response?

MR MILLER: Yeah, we – we are devastated about the reports of the death of Hind Rajab. I will tell you that I have a little girl that’s about to turn six myself, and so it is just a devastating account, a heartbreaking account for this child. And, of course, there have been thousands of other children who have died as a result of this conflict, and every one of them is a tragedy that I know I can tell you everyone in the United States Government feels quite deeply.

We have asked the Israeli authorities to investigate this incident on an urgent basis. We understand that they are doing so. We expect to see those results on a timely fashion, and they should include accountability measures as appropriate.

QUESTION: And do you have anything to say on that American-made weapons were found at the site?

MR MILLER: I just don’t – I’m not able to verify that.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. assessing whether or not Israel is using that weapons in accordance with the laws of war?

MR MILLER: We always expect that they use all weapons, whether they be provided by the United States or —

QUESTION: But are you making an assessment of that?

MR MILLER: No, hold on, let me just say – but – I think this is an important distinction, because we get asked this question. Whether weapons are provided by the United States or that they have acquired through some other method or that they manufacture them theirselves, it is our expectation that they use them in full compliance with the laws of war, and we engage with them on that matter. But I don’t think I – but I don’t think I can offer you an assessment on this particular one because, as I have said, we’ve asked them to investigate and they have said that they would do so. We want to see them do it as quickly as possible. And I don’t think I should speak to it before that investigation is completed.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on Türkiye. The F-16 sale has been approved over the weekend, as there was no objections from Congress. Do you have any comments on that?

MR MILLER: I don’t. I’ll have to – I’ll have to check that and get back with you. Obviously we have made quite clear our position that this sale should move forward, but —

QUESTION: On its investigations, have you heard back from the Israelis yet about the demolition of the university in Gaza?

MR MILLER: Let me check and get back – and get you an answer to that.

QUESTION: Or any of the other investigations?

MR MILLER: We have heard back from them on a number of different things that we raise with them, but with respect to this —

QUESTION: Well, have you gotten anything definitive or —

MR MILLER: With respect to this specific one, let me find out and get you an answer.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On the —

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. So what is your oral analysis on Pakistani election? Despite all efforts of rigging, Imran Khan came out as the winner. What is your oral analysis on the elections?

MR MILLER: I guess you didn’t read my statement that I – we put out on Friday, where I spoke to our analysis —

QUESTION: Yeah, but it – yeah.

MR MILLER: — analysis of this.

QUESTION: But now there’s also a – yeah.

MR MILLER: Sure. Let me say that we congratulate the Pakistani people, first of all, for participating in the election on Thursday. That includes poll workers, civil society members, journalists, and election observers who have protected Pakistan’s democratic and electoral institutions. We did express concerns publicly – we also expressed those concerns privately and joined the EU, the UK, and other countries in doing so – with some irregularities that we saw in the process. We’ve conveyed the need for the Pakistani Government to respect the will of the election.

We emphasize – you heard us from – you heard me from this podium, certainly, repeatedly but also across the government emphasize that we want to see the rule of law, respect for constitution, free press, vibrant civil society respected in the run-up to the election. We continue to believe that’s the case. We condemn political and election-related violence and restrictions on internet and cell phone service. Those negatively impacted the electoral service. The claims of interference and fraud that we have seen raised we want to ensure are fully investigated by Pakistan’s legal system, and we will be continuing to monitor that in the days ahead.

QUESTION: Sir, you said that you are ready to work with the new Pakistani Government, but this new Pakistani Government came in with the allegations of fraud and irregularities. What is your opinion?

MR MILLER: Well, I don’t think there is a new Pakistani Government yet. I believe there are still discussions going on about formation of a government. But one of the things that we have said leading up to the election and we’ll continue to make clear is that whoever the Pakistani people choose to represent them, we will work with that government. And as to the claims of fraud, we want to see those fully investigated.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the – I know you said there isn’t a Pakistani Government yet, but certainly former Prime Minister Khan’s faction of – some of them are – independents came in ahead. Is there any concern about the legitimacy of whoever actually becomes the leader of Pakistan sooner or later?

MR MILLER: I will say that – let me just reiterate that we do think that the claims of fraud need to be fully investigated. That said, it was clearly a competitive election in which people were able to exercise their choice. Now, that said, there were irregularities; we want to see them investigated. But ultimately, we respect the democratic process and we’re ready to work with the government once it’s formed.

QUESTION: And just one more on Pakistan. The authorities have had a ban on assembly. Some of Imran Khan’s supporters have called for protests on this. Is there any concern about freedom of assembly right now in Pakistan?

MR MILLER: Certainly, we want to see the freedom of assembly respected anywhere in the world.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. A couple of questions. Europe. EU chancellor today approved a regulation allowing profits from frozen Russian assets to be used in Ukraine. Do you endorse that decision or support it, don’t like it? What is your feeling about that?

MR MILLER: So we are encouraged by any action the EU may take to use Russian assets for the benefit of Ukrainians. We continue to be in active conversations with our allies and partners, including the G7, on what additional steps may be possible within respective legal systems and under international law to make Russia cease its aggression against Ukraine and to ensure Russia pays for the damage it has caused.

QUESTION: Is the United States considering to follow suit?

MR MILLER: So we are supportive of having domestic legislative authorities. We made that clear in the past that it will give us flexibility as we continue these discussions with our allies and our partners. Ultimately, we want to see Russia pay for the damage it’s caused, and we continue to pursue all appropriate vehicles to do so.

QUESTION: Speaking of allies and partners in Europe, any reaction to shockwaves we have seen over the weekend among allies in reaction to suggestions coming out of this town – and also there’s a presidential election going on, but in general pushback against suggestions that United States might not support its allies in case of Russian attack?

MR MILLER: So you heard the President speak to this over the weekend and make clear that any suggestion that encouraging Russia to invade our allies and partners are dangerous, and I would obviously echo that from here. And I would just say, as we often say, that the NATO Alliance provides actual security to the American people. This isn’t just a benefit – this isn’t just an Alliance that the United States puts into; we also get a lot out of this Alliance. And the only time that NATO has ever come to the defense of one of its member countries, it was coming to the defense of the United States after 9/11. And so we have been heartened by the broad support for NATO from the American people. We have been supported – been heartened by the broad support for NATO from Congress. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: How much has the former president’s statement damaged your relationship?

MR MILLER: I don’t think I should comment on remarks made in the political context.

QUESTION: Move to Central Asia if possible. Kyrgyzstan today responded harshly to the Secretary’s criticism of a Russia-backed NGO law that they’re trying to pass through the parliament, and they are referring to the U.S. FARA law. Any reaction? Any response?

MR MILLER: Let me take that back and —

QUESTION: And final —

MR MILLER: — and get you a comment.

QUESTION: And finally, if I may, on South Caucasus – Azerbaijan and Armenia. Looks like they are trying to move along through negotiation process without any mediator. Where do you stand on this?

MR MILLER: I don’t – I don’t want to comment on that specifically, but I’ll say that we do obviously support continued dialogue around that issue. We believe it’s the best way to reach a sustainable end to the conflict, and we will continue to pursue it.

QUESTION: And Azerbaijan has —

QUESTION: You say – you said several times that you want Russia to pay for the damage that it’s caused. Is that because you – they were – they are the – you see them as the aggressor here, or they are the aggressor?

MR MILLER: They very much are the aggressor, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so what about in other cases? Like after World War II, the Japanese attacked us but then the Germans declared war on us, so we were – went in and we – the Marshall Plan paid for huge amounts of reconstruction in Europe, and the United States also paid for the reconstruction of Japan after the war. So does that same – and recognizing that the situations are not exactly similar, but does Israel bear any responsibility for paying for the reconstruction of Gaza?

MR MILLER: So the —

QUESTION: Or do they get to foist it off on others?

MR MILLER: So the situations are not at all – are not at all —

QUESTION: Well, but they’re all conflicts and —

MR MILLER: But let – but —

QUESTION: And I realize that World War II is over and the Ukraine war is not over.


QUESTION: But neither is the Gaza war. And you’re saying that Russia right now has to pay for the damage that it caused in Ukraine. So I’m just wondering: Would you say the same, that Israel should pay for at least some of the damage that it has caused in Gaza, even though it’s fighting what you say is a completely justifiable – or what is a completely justifiable war?

MR MILLER: So I would say on that matter is that one of the things that we have heard as – through the Secretary’s diplomacy in the region is that there are countries who are ready to step up and help pay for the reconstruction of Gaza. I don’t mean Israel. Other countries who are willing to step up and help with the reconstruction of Gaza and put real money into the game as well as real political credibility, but that’s another matter on another track. But just with respect to reconstruction, there are other countries who are willing to recontribute or contribute to the —

QUESTION: No, no, recontribute is right because they’ve already rebuilt Gaza like three times, right?

MR MILLER: Who are – fair point.

QUESTION: And so but —

MR MILLER: Let me just finish.

QUESTION: But Israel is not one of those countries.

MR MILLER: Let me – Matt, let me just finish. Our discussions have been about other countries who are willing to contribute to the rebuilding of Gaza, but they expect something from Israel in return, and that’s – we’ve talked about this path to two states.

QUESTION: But what about money? What about actual reconstruction?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into the hypothetical because we think the policy that we ought to pursue —

QUESTION: All right.

MR MILLER: — is this path that the Secretary has laid out that would lead to the rebuilding of Gaza and would avoid the question that you are putting on the table.

QUESTION: Well, no, it – that wouldn’t avoid the question.

MR MILLER: I’m saying —

QUESTION: Someone’s got to pay for it.

MR MILLER: No, no, I’m saying it avoids the question of Israel having to pay for it. The path that we think forward is the one that we’ve put on the table.

QUESTION: So you think that path would —

MR MILLER: Well, I should —

QUESTION: — relieve Israel of any obligation for paying for —

MR MILLER: It would certainly – I do not want to say any – we are – we are fully well down the path that we have not – hardly even started walking at this point. But certainly —

QUESTION: Fine. But the same – the same thing – you could say the same thing about Ukraine. That war is not over yet either.

MR MILLER: It would bring other – it would bring other countries to the table.

QUESTION: Yeah, but – okay. But how about Israel? Do they —

MR MILLER: Again, I said we are not at that point yet in these conversations.

QUESTION: All right.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, question on a separate topic, and I don’t want to overlap with (inaudible).

MR MILLER: Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t see you.

QUESTION: Mine is on this flurry of mixed reports that an American being held hostage by the Taliban, Ryan Corbett, may be released in the coming days. Have you looked into those reports? Is there any merit to them? And —

MR MILLER: None that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: There’s no – there’s no —

MR MILLER: No, there are no plans that we’re aware of for him to be released. It is obviously a matter we continue to engage on. We continue to seek his release. I’ve seen some reports incorrectly linking his release or potential release to the release of two former Guantanamo detainees in Oman. Those reports are completely meritless. There is no linkage at all between the two. My understanding is that the release of those two former detainees in Oman had – was the result of the expiration of security conditions or security restrictions that were a condition of their transfer, and there – is no way linked to Ryan Corbett’s case.

That said, we continue to engage on this. It continues to be a top priority for us to see the release of Ryan Corbett, and we will continue to work on it. But the reports that I’ve seen are just not based on anything.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you mind (inaudible)?


QUESTION: The – leaving aside whether they’re connected indeed to the release of the two former Guantanamo prisoners or the transfer from Oman to Afghanistan, is that the cause of any concern, or is that sort of not the U.S.’s problem anymore? Does the U.S. have any take on that?

MR MILLER: I will have to take it and get back with you. I’m not – I just – I’m not aware of the conditions under which they were transferred in the first place, which would impact on how – it would bear on the answer to that question.


MR MILLER: So go ahead, Jenny.

QUESTION: On the – another detained American, Putin seemed to indicate that he would be open to a prisoner swap for Evan Gershkovich. Does the U.S. see any significance in him publicly making these comments, and what’s the latest on talks for him and Paul Whelan?

MR MILLER: So we have always made clear that not only do we want to see the release of Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, but that we have put a significant offer on the table. In fact, more than once we have put offers on the table to secure their release. And we will continue to engage to try to pursue or try to obtain their release, and I just don’t want to comment on President Putin’s comments.

QUESTION: Is the most recent significant proposal the one that you raised from the podium a couple months ago?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to comment on any further developments in that case. From time to time we make the decision to make things public, but ultimately we declined – we decided to do most of that quietly behind the scenes.

QUESTION: And did that proposal include Krasikov, who Putin seems to want?

MR MILLER: I think you know I’m never going to comment on what those – what those –

QUESTION: I think you know we’re going to –

MR MILLER: — proposals might include.

Go ahead, Willy.

QUESTION: I just wanted to circle back to the two Americans taken by the IDF in Gaza. Family members say the only communication they’ve had with the U.S. Government is a confirmation of receipt. Is that normal, for five days into this to not have had kind of more communication with State Department or anyone in this government?

MR MILLER: I really wish there was more that I could say. There are privacy rules that can only be waived by the individuals themselves, not by family members. This is not true – I’m not speaking with respect to this case. I’m speaking with respect to cases in general that prohibit us from talking about the cases. So unfortunately, I can’t say any more other than that we are aware of the matter and we are engaged with the Government of Israel to try and learn more information.

And Ryan, go ahead, and then we’ll wrap for the day.

QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to pick up – pick up real quickly on your Pakistan comment. And correct me if I’m wrong; I think you said that you were – the State Department hopes that the Pakistan – Pakistani courts will take a close look at this matter. You’ve also heard from a lot of members of Congress who have said there should be an independent investigation of the fraud before the U.S. recognizes any new government. The high – and I’m not sure if you saw this. The high court in Pakistan just tossed out most of the challenges despite the fact that the media there has seen 100 percent of the returns and the challenges are entirely legitimate. It’s like not even a he-said/she-said. So the court process seems to already have played out. Does the State Department want to see an independent investigation, as members of Congress are calling for?

MR MILLER: So I don’t know which – what – what – venue is not the right word, but what body they are proposing to conduct an independent investigation would be. I’m happy to look at that, if there’s a specific proposal. Right now we think as a matter of first course, it’s that the legal system play itself out in Pakistan. That’s a – that’s the appropriate first step to take, and we think that’s the step that should be taken. If there are additional steps that ought to be entertained, we’re happy to look at them at that time.

QUESTION: Same question on Hind Rajab, though, to follow up on I think what – the point Matt was trying to make. You’ve said you’ve urged Israel to investigate her killing, respond very quickly, and take accountability if they find something’s wrong. I think Matt’s point, though, is that you’ve urged a lot of accountability, a lot of investigations, and we don’t have evidence of them coming back with accountability. Should there be a second-level investigation into her killing —

MR MILLER: Again, it’s hard to —

QUESTION: — if you’re not satisfied with what they come back with?

MR MILLER: Again, it’s hard to comment on a second level before you’ve concluded the first level. We want to see the Government of Israel investigate this matter. If they find that somebody behaved inappropriately or in violation of law, we want to see accountability. And I wouldn’t want to speculate on what further measures might be appropriate before that first step has been completed.

With that, we’ll wrap for the day. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)

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