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Department Press Briefing – February 21, 2024 – United States Department of State

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1:24 p.m. EST

MR MILLER: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR MILLER: I do not have any opening comments, so Matt —

QUESTION: Oh, really?

MR MILLER: — take it away.

QUESTION: Nothing? You don’t have anything exciting and new to tell us today?

MR MILLER: It depends on what your questions are. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, yeah, obviously. Hold on, let me start my recorder here. So I know a lot of people want to talk about Gaza, but I have something else that I just need to get off at the top. The Russia sanctions package that the White House, the President, Kirby, you, everyone has said is coming on Friday – what can you tell us about what that is? Is it related to the two-year anniversary? Is it related to Navalny’s death? What is it? What is it?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to speak in detail about announcements that will be coming two days from now, but the – excuse me, I’ve got a bit of a lingering cough from this cold I’ve had – the sanctions that we’ll be announcing on Friday will be in connection both to the two-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and to Navalny’s death.

QUESTION: Okay. And Russia is one of – along with Iran and North Korea, is already one of the most heavily sanctioned countries by the United States and others on the planet. Where would you expect these sanctions to target?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview too much of what we’re going to do on Friday, but it will be a robust sanctions package. We are always looking at additional ways that we can choke off the Russian war machine, that we can deny the Russian military industrial complex components that it needs to use to fund its war effort, as well as to hold accountable those involved in it. So without getting into too much detail, like – as I said, two days before the announcement, you should expect them to follow the general direction of our past sanctions as well as some sanctions specifically related to the death of Alexei Navalny.

QUESTION: Right. But when you say that they’re going to – it’s going to be robust, I go back to a line from Spinal Tap, right: How much more robust can they be?


QUESTION: Aren’t they already pretty robust?


QUESTION: Didn’t you guys exact super-big sanctions on Russia after the Ukraine invasion?

MR MILLER: They are incredibly robust and they’ve had an impact on Russia’s economy and Russia’s military industrial complex, but —

QUESTION: Yeah, so the question is: How much more robust can they be?

MR MILLER: Well, you will see on Friday, but I can guarantee you it’s – it is, as I said, a strong, robust package, partly because we are always – look, this is a dynamic situation, right. Russia watches the sanctions, sees the sanctions and tries to respond to the sanctions that we impose, and so we watch the actions that they take and we look to impose new sanctions either on individuals or new areas that they explore, and also to focus on sanctions evasion. When we see them or entities that deal with Russia trying to evade the sanctions that we previously put into place, we have ways to tighten those sanctions.

QUESTION: Okay, last one. Does that suggest, then, that a bunch of the stuff in this package might be secondary sanctions?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to make any comments about what they’ll look like, again, two days before we roll them out.

QUESTION: Can I have a question on that?

MR MILLER: So I’ll come – I’ll come to – oh, okay. Go ahead. She graciously yielded the floor.

QUESTION: Yeah, apparently there’s a new intelligence assessment from Western governments suggesting that Putin thinks he eventually can win the war in Ukraine for three reasons: one, a possible return of Donald Trump to the White House; two, increased conscription; and three, a rejuvenated military manufacturing sector. Does State believe, on the record, that Putin does believe that these factors can help him win the war? Does this increase the need to provide funding for Ukraine if, in fact, there’s a belief that Putin may now have some leverage in this situation?

MR MILLER: So I never want to discuss intelligence matters from here, real or imagined, but I think it should be obvious to everyone that Vladimir Putin is watching what happens in Washington closely. You have to assume that he is watching what happens in Congress. I think he has always assumed from the beginning of this conflict that he can wait out the West – that the West’s attention would flag, that the West’s interest would flag, that the West would be unwilling to maintain sanctions. And so far the West has proved them – proved him wrong, and I don’t just mean the United States but Europe as well, which took dramatic action early on to wean itself from Russian energy, something I think Putin never thought would happen.

But I have to think that the entire world, including those in Moscow, are watching whether the United States Congress is willing to step up and continue to fund Ukraine to help it defend itself from Russia’s aggression. We have been very clear in the Biden administration what we think ought to happen. We have been very clear what is in the United States’ national security interests, and we will continue to make that case, and we hope that Congress will respond because, as I said, the entire world is watching.

QUESTION: Does the U.S., though, actually believe that Putin now has the advantage given —

MR MILLER: No, we do not believe that at all. If you look at the shape of this conflict over the past not just two years, but even the most recent history, yes, you have seen Russia make gains on the battlefield; we saw gains just over this week – this last weekend because Ukraine was not able to properly resupply its troops, in large part because Congress has not taken the action that we think it should to continue to support Ukraine as it fights to defend its territory. But you have also seen Ukraine make dramatic improvements on the battlefield, most significantly, I think, in the Black Sea where they have pushed the Russian fleet back, they have opened up a new shipping corridor that has allowed them to export not just wheat and grain, but also other manufactured goods through the Black Sea, something that was not possible in the early days of the war when Russia had blockaded Ukrainian ports. So we think they’ll continue to make progress there, and we’ll continue to support them to the best of our ability, but we need a partner in Congress to help us.

QUESTION: Can I – can I follow up the there on North Korea and Ukraine?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. There are —

MR MILLER: Humeyra’s just adding to the list of questions she gets to ask. (Laughter.) Go ahead; sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are reports that North Korean missiles that Russia recently used – excuse me – recently used against Ukraine contained U.S. and European components. How many times has Russia used North Koreans’ missiles against Ukraine?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to that in detail. We will continue to use all of our relevant tools – export controls, sanctions, interdiction and law enforcement actions – to prevent the DPRK from acquiring sensitive items and technology that it can use in its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and that includes preventing Russia from acquiring weapons and other sensitive items, including components from North Korea or from anywhere else.

QUESTION: One more quick question. North Korea Kim Jong-un and Putin’s relative with the luxury cars. Russian President Putin gave Kim Jong-un a luxury car as a gift. Is this a violation of UN sanctions?

MR MILLER: So I did see that report. I actually, frankly, didn’t know there was such a thing as a Russian luxury car. I hope Kim got the extended warranty. I would note that the —

QUESTION: (Laughter.) He —

MR MILLER: I just – look, when it comes to —

QUESTION: Even if he didn’t, I bet he can still expect his cell phone – the spam cell phone calls —


QUESTION: — from the warranty department for the —

MR MILLER: I bet that’s right. I’m not sure, if I were buying a luxury car, Russia would be the place I would look, even if it was – even if it wasn’t with respect to sanctions.

But UN Security Council resolutions do require all UN member states to prohibit both the supply of transportation vehicles and the supply of luxury automobiles to the DPRK. And if this is true, it would appear to be once again Russia violating UN Security Council resolutions that it itself supported.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I just want to ask you —

MR MILLER: Excuse me.

QUESTION: — a couple of comments that Benny Gantz just made about an hour ago. He basically – he said there were promising early signs of progress on a new deal for the hostages. I’m just wondering what’s the latest that you guys are hearing, and whether you’re picking up the same promising early signs of progress as well.

MR MILLER: I don’t want to discuss those discussions, those negotiations in detail. And I don’t want to offer any assessments beyond what we have said previously, which is we do think that there is space to reach an agreement here. We are going to continue to stay engaged in this matter with everything that we can bring to bear on behalf of the United States to work with Israel, to work with Egypt, to work with Qatar, because we want to see the hostages released, we want to see a pause in the fighting. And so that’s what we’ll continue to pursue.

QUESTION: Okay. He is also saying that if no new deal were struck, the Israeli military would keep fighting in Gaza even into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I’m just wondering if that would be something the United States would be supportive.

MR MILLER: So I think I got a version of this question yesterday, and I don’t have anything new to add. We want to see a deal struck. So I’m not going to get into what might happen if we don’t get an agreement, but we want to see an agreement reached, and we want to see it reached as soon as possible. That would include, of course, before Ramadan. It could include – it could be even earlier than that. So that’s what we’re going to continue to pursue.

QUESTION: Right. But I think you guys have made it a bit of a red line – I mean, if I guess one can call it that – the need for a humanitarian plan on top of, obviously, a military strategy before Israel goes into Rafah. So I think what I’m trying to get at is whether fighting continuing in Ramadan is really offensive – starting or continuing into Ramadan – whether that’s a similar red line or not.

MR MILLER: I just don’t want to speak to where we’ll be in two weeks, because I think it’s impossible to say. We want to see a hostage agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance in. Ultimately, we want to see a durable resolution to this conflict, and we want to see it as soon as possible. With respect to where we’ll be in two weeks, I just don’t want to speak beyond —


MR MILLER: I don’t want to speak to that in detail.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a few quick ones on UNRWA; I’ll be quick.

MR MILLER: Take your time; you got interrupted a few times, so go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. (Inaudible.)

MR MILLER: Said attempting to interrupt you again. And now I interrupted you; sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead, Humeyra.

QUESTION: Have you asked other UN agencies – like, your funding is stopped for now. And there is legislation that has not yet passed within supplemental that might bar you completely from resuming that funding. But that legislation is not on the House floor yet. So I guess I’m wondering what you guys are doing in the meantime. Have you asked other UN agencies to pick up the slack? And exactly what did you ask them to do? Like, are there UNRWA workers on the ground right now working for – actually working for other UN agencies who are doing the distribution of aid?

MR MILLER: We have been in conversations both with the United Nations and with other countries around the world about how to make sure that the important work that UNRWA does is not interrupted. We want to ensure that humanitarian assistance continues to flow to the Palestinian people. Right now, UNRWA is the key facilitator of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, and we don’t want to see that humanitarian assistance disrupted in any way.

At the same time, we are obviously cognizant of the draft legislation and the provision that it contains. It’s not law, as you said, but we have to plan for all possibilities, including the possibility that it becomes law. So we’re looking at all the options that may be available to us. But I don’t want to discuss that in detail; it’s internal planning that continues to go on inside the government.

QUESTION: All right. The final thing is there is the reporting in Devex which says that you have actually asked other UN relief agencies to pick up slack. But Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have urged the heads of those agencies to basically rebuff your plea. I mean, is this something you can confirm or —

MR MILLER: I’m just not – I’m not going to confirm that report at all. Sorry.

QUESTION: Can I just very briefly follow-up on (inaudible) —


QUESTION: I’m guessing you may not have a lot to say about this, but following up with Humeyra’s question, Brett McGurk, of course, is in the region. I know he works in a different building. But do you have any –

MR MILLER: Correct. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But do you have anything you could say more generally about what he’s – about the tone of what he’s doing or what —

MR MILLER: No. I will leave it to the White House to speak in detail to Brett’s work and what he’s trying to accomplish on the trip. But I think, look, you know – you have seen from the administration broadly what our goals are with respect to the conflict right now. Our immediate goal is to try to achieve a deal that brings about a ceasefire in the fighting. A temporary ceasefire in the fighting allows us get hostages out and allows us to get humanitarian assistance in and kind of would help with some of the bottlenecks that have begun to pop up inside Gaza, to preventing humanitarian assistance actually getting out to the people that need it because there’s fighting on the ground and looting and other obstacles.

So we are trying to achieve all those things, and that, of course, is Brett McGurk. It’s the Secretary. It’s the President himself. They’re focused on that issue.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: And I thank you. To follow up on Humeyra’s fair point and –

MR MILLER: Thank you for being sort of patient.


MR MILLER: Thank you for being somewhat patient.

QUESTION: Oh, no, no. I did not mean to interrupt her.

MR MILLER: That’s fine. It’s fine.

QUESTION: So apologies if that was perceived as such —

MR MILLER: I feel like a schoolmarm up here, scolding – I feel like a schoolmarm, scolding people unnecessarily.

QUESTION: That’s right. Anyway, just to follow up on Humeyra’s —

QUESTION: A schoolmarm?

MR MILLER: Yeah, I don’t know. Is that the – that’s —

QUESTION: Yeah, wow. Texas coming out (inaudible).

MR MILLER: A little bit of an archaic – a little bit of an archaic term, yeah.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. So just to follow up on her point, you’ve said that you’re hoping that a deal will be struck. What if it doesn’t get struck? I mean, we have been there before. They were – these artificial deadlines and calendars and a week here, and the end of October, then the end of November, then December, the end of the year, and all these things – I mean, to be honest, the Palestinians and Israelis fought in Ramadan many, many times, and they were struck. So what if a deal is not struck? What is your vision on how this thing will end?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical, as I think you know. I will tell you, though, I think it’s a fair question about where we want to see this conflict go. In the short term, we want to see, as I said in response to several other questions, a temporary ceasefire that allows us to get the hostages out, bring more – bring more humanitarian assistance in.

But we have also been very clear, and if you’ve looked at the Secretary’s many public comments on this, he’s been not just clear but quite detailed in what we want to see in the long term. And what we want to see in the long term is a durable agreement that allows – that brings about peace and security for both Israel and Palestinians through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with real security guarantees for Israel, Israel further integrated into the region. That is our long-term vision, and that is what the Secretary has been focused on through his diplomatic engagements in the region, and what it – it is what we will continue to pursue.

Now, the first step in that is getting an agreement to get the hostages out while we work on this longer-term plan for the region.

QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry (inaudible) point. But in the meantime, people can’t get food. I mean, kids, children, 5-year-olds, my grandson’s age, and so on. So, I mean, they’re not getting – they’re asking for bread, for crying out loud. They’re standing in line asking for bread, and bread is not getting in. So what are you – I mean, you keep saying about things that – the need for things to go in. But it’s not going in, Matt.

MR MILLER: So the humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to be extremely difficult, dire for many people, which is why we continue to focus all the efforts of the United States to improve that situation. When it comes to bread, the United States has funded flour that would feed 1.5 Palestinians for five months.

QUESTION: No, no, no. A lot more than 1.5.

MR MILLER: One point five million Palestinians for five months. Thank you – thank —

QUESTION: If it was only 1.5 Palestinians, that would – that would be —

MR MILLER: Right. Fair. Obviously a misspeak. One point five million Palestinians for five months. We have worked to not just fund humanitarian assistance but get it into Gaza, and continue to stay engaged on that every day, not just on the big picture issues but on very minor logistical issues that have a big impact, things that seem minor but that have a big impact in getting – in getting in. Is enough food and water and other humanitarian assistance getting in? Absolutely not, which is why we continue to stay engaged, to improve the situation every day.

QUESTION: You talk about the Palestinian state, although we’ve heard statements that are really emphatic by the prime minister of Israel saying, no – under no circumstances whatsoever, and so on. I just want to read you what a member of his cabinet – from the Likud, as a matter of fact – May Golan of the group during a Knesset hearing about the motion to expel MK Ofer Cassif. She said, quote, “I am personally proud of the ruins of Gaza and that every baby, even 80 years from now, will tell their grandchildren what the Jews did,” unquote.

I mean, this is the kind – I mean, this is not someone extremist. It’s not Smotrich. It’s not Ben-Gvir. This is in the prime minister’s – Benjamin Netanyahu’s party.

MR MILLER: Said, I would encourage you to take a close look at the comments the Secretary made in Tel Aviv at a press conference two weeks ago where he talked specifically about the effects of dehumanizing language and why it’s important that no one on either side of this conflict dehumanize anyone else. That will continue to be our position. It will continue to be what we pursue because as the Secretary has spoken, we care about the lives not just of Israelis but of Palestinians – Palestinian men and women and children – and we grieve for all of those who have been killed, all of those who have been injured, and it’s what animates our work to try to bring a durable end to this conflict.

QUESTION: Does that go for Congressman Ogles as well?

MR MILLER: I’m sorry. What?

QUESTION: Does that go for Congressman Ogles as well?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what your comment you’re referring to.

QUESTION: He made – he made a comment in response to a protestor up on the Hill about the deaths of Palestinian children, and I’m slightly paraphrasing, but “[they] should kill all of them.”

MR MILLER: So I haven’t seen his comments. It’s the first I’ve heard of them. And with a slight paraphrase, I’m reluctant to – without seeing the comment, reluctant to react. And we typically don’t respond to comments made on the Hill, but obviously we would urge anyone – whether in the United States or abroad – to avoid dehumanizing language and dehumanizing sentiments.

QUESTION: Matthew, the majority of the Israeli Knesset has voted today against the unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood. How do you feel this step?

MR MILLER: So I again will only continue to speak for the United States and what we are trying to pursue, and we are trying to pursue the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. We are focusing our diplomatic efforts on that, not just because we think – and again, you’ve heard the Secretary speak to this a number of times – not just because we think it’s in the interests of the Palestinian people but because we think it is in Israel’s short, medium, and long-term security interest as well.

QUESTION: But if the government and the Knesset in Israel don’t want the establishment of a Palestinian state —

MR MILLER: You – so, again, you have heard the Secretary speak to this, that what we will do is continue to lay out what we think the best choice for the Government of Israel to make and the best choice for the Israeli people to make. Ultimately, Israel will have to make its own decisions, as every sovereign country does. We will present to them the ideas and plans that we are developing with our partners in the region, the commitments that other countries are willing to make to Israel’s security. And every country will have to make its decisions about its – how it’s going to proceed.

MR MILLER: I don’t have any further readout of the meeting other than what we already offered publicly.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. And a few questions here; please bear with me. Going back to your line of questioning with Matt on the sanctions, the EU today came up with its – agreed on its 13th packet of sanctions with some 2,000 listings in total. Could it be a template for you on Friday?

MR MILLER: I would want to just say: Everyone, just wait for two days and you’ll see all the sanctions that we’re going to impose. Obviously, we work closely with the EU and countries around the world on the – on various sanctions packages, and we’re glad to see the EU take its – the steps that it did. But you should just watch and look at our sanctions when we roll them out on Friday.

QUESTION: And my colleague made a point about North Korea. Early in January, you guys announced the provision of ballistic missiles from North Korea to Russia. Several weeks passed; neither Russia nor North Korea have faced any consequences. Why? Is it going to be addressed during this next package?

MR MILLER: Again, I have said everything I’m going to say about a sanctions rollout that is not happening for another two days. I would encourage you to check back on Friday to see —

QUESTION: That would be nothing.


MR MILLER: I said a little bit. I gave a little more than nothing, but we’ve got two days to go.

QUESTION: Fair enough. Fair enough. Any update for us on the latest U.S. citizen arrested in Russia and access to her?

MR MILLER: No, I have no further updates. We continue to seek consular access; it’s not yet been granted.

QUESTION: I want to go back – if I may, going back to Munich last week, the Secretary met with Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders. Does he still believe that the peace is within reach? I’m just borrowing the vocabulary he used last year at this time.

MR MILLER: He still does believe that peace is within reach, and he discussed that with the leader of both – directly with the leaders of both of those countries, and encouraged them to work together to bridge the – what ultimately are just a remaining few issues. And we will continue to encourage those countries to reach a peace agreement. I know that the two leaders met bilaterally in Munich, and so we will continue to offer the assistance and the support of the United States in reaching agreement.

QUESTION: He also reminded – my last one, I promise – he also reminded Aliyev of his obligations on human rights, according to your readout. Just day before that meeting occurred, the Secretary was addressed on the Hill – so 21 congressmembers called him out, telling him that – to – asked him to prioritize the cares of Gubad Ibadoghlu and his well-being. Did the Secretary have a chance to go through the cases, including Mr. Ibadoghlu?

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt.


QUESTION: Two questions on Iran. The country’s national virtual space center has banned the use of VPNs, and it has been also endorsed by the supreme leader. I was wondering if the Iranian people should be worried about having access to information to the outside world or as, in the past, during the demonstrations the U.S. was going to – is going to step in?

QUESTION: Could I ask a few different issues around the world?

MR MILLER: So this decision is just the latest reminder of how much the Iranian regime fears its people and what they are capable of when they are giving – given unfettered access to the internet and unfettered access to information. The internet disruptions that the Iranian regime has put in place in the past have cost the economy billions of dollars. It caused pain to businesses as well as, of course, choking off information that people need to make decisions about their lives and decisions about their futures. Support for internet freedom in Iran will continue to be a central pillar of our efforts to support human rights in the country. As you’ve said, in the past in the height of the protests in 2022 and 2023, as many as one in three Iranians used U.S.-supported anti-censorship and digital security tools such as VPNs. There are millions of Iranians that have continued to use those tools to this day, so I’m not going to speak to what actions we will take in the future, but as I said, upholding internet freedom and ensuring Iranians – Iranians – citizens’ access to the internet will continue to be a central pillar of our engagement in that country.

QUESTION: Thank you. Also, Abram Paley, special envoy for Iran, is or was in Vienna. He met with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about the nature of this visit given that Grossi has spoken out a lot recently about his concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

MR MILLER: Sure. So Deputy Special Envoy Paley was in Vienna to meet with Director Grossi. He reiterated the United States appreciation for the IAEA’s extensive efforts to engage Iran on longstanding questions related to Iran’s safeguards obligations. Iran’s cooperation remains severely lacking. We remain seriously considered about Iran’s continued expansion of its nuclear program in ways that have no credible civilian purpose, including its continued production of highly enriched uranium, and that was the focus of the discussions today.

QUESTION: Any discussions, any solution to gaining access to Iran’s nuclear program by the IAEA?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to give any further comments about that meeting other than to say that they did discuss how Iran should fully uphold its safeguards obligations and provide full cooperation to the IAEA without further delay.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Senegal – I know the Secretary spoke not so long ago with President Sall about the election. The – there was a court decision calling for a new date but it hasn’t been set yet. Do you have any update on U.S. engagement there and the U.S. stance about what’s happening now?

MR MILLER: So we continue to stay engaged with the government in Senegal. I don’t have any specific engagements to read out, but as – we have been – stayed in close coordination with them, and I’ll just say that we want to see the election take place as soon as is practical – practicable.

QUESTION: Sure. Elsewhere in Africa, there was an agreement signed today between Somalia and Türkiye on a naval upgrade or a coastal upgrade. It’s obviously a bilateral, but this is in the context of Ethiopia and Somaliland having a pact. Does the U.S. have any stance on Türkiye’s involvement here?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back and get an – get you an answer on it.

QUESTION: Sure. And one other thing: Pakistan.


QUESTION: I know you’ve been saying in recent weeks that it’s – you’re not going to comment till a government is formed, but there’s a coalition that actually has – is being formed between two of the major factions without Imran Khan’s enforcement. Is there an idea that this is a representative government? How does the U.S. feel about this?

MR MILLER: Again, I don’t want to comment on the government before it’s formed. Ultimately, as is the case whenever you see coalition politics taking place inside any given country, that’s – it’s a decision for that country itself, not something that we would weigh in on.

QUESTION: Sure, sure. And in terms – I know in the past you’ve talked about allegations of fraud, of rigging. Is there any follow-up on that? Is the U.S. looking for anything in particular before a government comes in?

MR MILLER: We want to see a full investigation into any claims of irregularities.

QUESTION: Okay. And just finally, yesterday I asked about the disruptions on social media in Pakistan. Is there anything further on that, whether it was (inaudible) communication?

MR MILLER: So we are concerned by any report of restrictions on the exercise of the freedom of expression and association in Pakistan, including the partial or complete government-imposed internet shutdowns, which includes, of course, on social media platforms. We continue to call on Pakistan to respect freedom of expression and restore access to any social media that has been restricted, including Twitter, I think now known as X. We have and will continue to emphasize the importance of respecting these fundamental freedoms during our engagements with Pakistani officials.

QUESTION: Sure. And just finally, that’s – has that been communicated through official channels or —

MR MILLER: It has been, yeah.

QUESTION: Follow-up on Pakistan?

MR MILLER: Go ahead. Right here.

QUESTION: The Foreign Policy magazine, in a recent report titled “The Taliban Wants a Piece of Pakistan,” reveals that Taliban engaging to border tension with Pakistan through their supporting TTP. While the Taliban publicly refuse the —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry, what was the – what would – what was the – just didn’t hear the last – the beginning of the last sentence.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. It’s about a Foreign Policy report that they titled “The Taliban Wants a Piece of Pakistan.”


QUESTION: And while the Taliban publicly refuse the Durand Line as the official border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, what’s the position of United State about Durand Line?

MR MILLER: We support the territorial integrity of both Afghanistan and Pakistan within their internationally recognized borders.

QUESTION: Follow-up —

QUESTION: Another question about Afghan Adjustment Act that was not passed by the Congress recently. While there are some reports that United State Department of State is going run out of the SIV P-1 and P-2 quotas, do you confirm this report? And what are you doing about SIV and Afghan Adjustment Act (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: So as the President has said, we urge Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. We support it and want to see it passed. When it comes to Special Immigrant Visas, I would just note that in the last fiscal year, 2023, the government issued more than 18,000 Special Immigrant Visas to Afghan applicants outside the U.S. That was the most in any single year.

So go ahead. We’ll work down —

QUESTION: On Pakistan, thank you. Pakistan Ambassador Masood Khan here in D.C. yesterday said that Pakistan is pleading with the Congress, with the U.S. Congress, to help restore the U.S. military aid that was suspended in 2018 by the Trump administration. Is the U.S. considering restoring the program given that Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally in the region?

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on that.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. A question on the Kurdistan Region parliamentary election, which was expected to be held in October 2022, but due to the disputes, political status, they delayed. And last year, the Iraqi top court ruled against the self-extension of that parliament, which the region has no parliament now. And today the Iraqi top court ruled against the Christian regional parliament minority seats. Any reaction and comment on that? And have you ever engaged with Erbil and Baghdad on that issue?

MR MILLER: So we have seen the reports that the court issued rulings today related to the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament elections and other issues concerning relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi federal government. We are still reviewing the full scope of the decision. As a matter of longstanding U.S. policy, we support holding parliamentary elections in the Iraqi Kurdistan region at the earliest opportunity. And as we do everywhere, we encourage those elections to be free, fair, and transparent.

QUESTION: And one more question on Iraq. We know the situation in Iraq has been cooled down and the militia groups is not attacking you as they did before. And today the U.S. ambassador met with the Iraqi prime minister, and they discussed the upcoming visit of the Iraqi prime minister —

MR MILLER: The discussed what?

QUESTION: The upcoming visit of the Iraqi prime minister to Washington. So my question is that are you done with the response to those groups who were responsible for killing three U.S. service members and injuring 40 others?

MR MILLER: I am not going to preview or rule out any potential steps from this podium.

QUESTION: So what’s your general assessment about the current situation? Do you think that these groups are taking their words when they say that we are not going to attack the U.S. forces?

QUESTION: And how the United States analyze those comments in a moment that there is an effort to de-escalate tensions in the region?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to offer any assessment or speak for any of these groups. I will say on behalf of the United States we have made very clear, not just with our words but with our actions, that we are prepared to defend U.S. forces and U.S. interests in Iraq and in the region. And we are prepared to hold accountable anyone who attacks U.S. forces, and I think I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thanks. Barbara Miller, ABC Australia. The Australian parliament recently passed a motion calling for the Assange matter to be brought to a close and for him to be allowed to return home. What’s your response to that motion?

MR MILLER: So I spoke about Julian Assange extensively from this podium yesterday, and I don’t think I have anything to add on to that matter. It is an ongoing legal matter and an extradition matter, and beyond what I said yesterday I think I don’t want to comment in any more detail.

Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Matthew. Good to see you. Two questions – one on Ukraine, one on Haiti. On Ukraine, the Knights of Columbus – they’re an organization that has provided millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, helping people there during this very terrible time. How would you describe the impact of groups like the Knights of Columbus?

MR MILLER: So look, we support any organization that wants to deliver aid to people in Ukraine or anywhere in the world who are in need of it.

QUESTION: And then on Haiti, where of course we all know there’s been terrible violence. Catholic – the other day Catholic Bishop Pierre-André Dumas was hurt in an explosion at a house. He is in stable condition, reportedly. Recently, six Haitian religious sisters were recently abducted and then released. What’s the State Department’s reaction to those incidents?

MR MILLER: So I will just say generally we continue to be very concerned about the ongoing violence in Haiti. And it’s why we continue to focus on the launch of a multinational security force to help with the situation on the ground in Haiti, and that Secretary Blinken will in fact be engaging with counterparts at the G20 about the deployment of such a mission today and tomorrow while he’s in Brazil.

QUESTION: Can I just very briefly follow up?


QUESTION: Do you have anything to say About the indictments over Jovenel’s killing – on Jovenel’s killing in Haiti?

MR MILLER: I do not. I do not.

Go ahead, back – yeah. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much. On U.S. and Brazil, what is the evaluation of the meeting this morning in Brasília between Secretary Blinken and President Lula?

MR MILLER: So we put out a readout about that meeting, and I will say that they discussed a number of issues, including the work through the G20 to help alleviate poverty and combat climate change. They talked about regional issues, including the work that Brazil has done to try and de-escalate tensions between Venezuela and Guyana; talked about Brazil’s support for democracy in South America, including in Venezuela; and then they talked about bilateral issues between the United States and Brazil, as well as issues around the world such as the war in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Yesterday on this podium it was sad that the United States does not agree with what President Lula said last weekend on Gaza. But from your perspective, are those comments a matter of public retraction, as the Israeli foreign minister suggested?


MR MILLER: So they are comments with which we disagree. As I made clear today, the Secretary had a chance to discuss the comments with President Lula today in his meeting, in the context of an overall discussion about the conflict in Gaza, and made clear – as I did yesterday, made clear that those are comments with which we disagree.

QUESTION: And the G20, is it possible to highlight the priorities from the U.S., the summit of ministers – summit that is happening —

MR MILLER: Well, as I said, you – and you will see comments from the Secretary – he’s going to have a press conference tomorrow before he leaves the G20. So I don’t want to get too – I don’t want to get ahead too far of his comments. But we will be focused on fighting poverty, addressing climate changes, and other issues that President Lula has put on the agenda for this meeting of the G20.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matthew. A few questions. When will the draft U.S. resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire be put forth before and voted on by the Security Council?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to put a timetable on it. It’s something that we continue to discuss with partners on the council.

QUESTION: And the administration supports Israel’s goal to annihilate Hamas, yet the support does not seem unconditional, as the administration opposes any further Israeli military operation in Rafah. How do you square the two? If Israel’s goal of annihilating Hamas requires going into Rafah, why would that not be supported by the U.S.?

MR MILLER: We support Israel’s goal to defeat Hamas and to ensure that the terrorist attacks of October 7th can never be repeated, but we have always said that it needs to – the campaign that Israel is carrying out needs to be carried out in a way that puts civilian protections first. And so we don’t see any tension between those two, and that’s why we have said that before Israel conducts a full-scale military campaign against the Hamas battalions that remain in Rafah, that it needs to have that kind of civilian protection plan.

QUESTION: And finally, does the State Department have any reaction to the rise in cyber operations by China? Has the administration taken any actions to hold the CCP accountable for targeting the U.S. infrastructure with malware recently?

MR MILLER: We have long made clear that we oppose any cyber actions in that – of that regard by both the PRC and others, and if you look, there is a long history of us taking action to impose consequences when we see them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead, Shannon.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Then I think we’ll wrap there.

QUESTION: As Russia’s treatment of dual citizens has become a more visible problem, has the State Department taken any steps to push Russia to change its policy and allow regular consular access to American dual citizens beyond just asking for access to those already in detention in Moscow?

MR MILLER: Oh, we have pressed it at a number of levels. Both – you’ve seen the Secretary raise this in direct conversations in the past – not – have a lot of regular engagements with the Russian Government now, but our embassy continues to raise it on a regular basis. The unfortunate truth, though, is that Russia continues to detain its own citizens and continues to detain American citizens, and it’s why we have tried to make clear as – just as plainly as we possibly can that no American citizen should consider traveling to Russia for any reason, period, because they are at risk of detention, imprisonment by the Russian regime.

So we will continue to work to try to get consular access to Americans that have been detained. We will continue to try to work to free those American citizens who we have determined to be wrongfully detained. And we will continue to call on humane treatment for everyone, but I think people need to remember the kind of brutal regime that we’re dealing with that’s willing to inflict brutality on its own citizens and willing to inflict brutality on citizens of other countries. And if you are considering travel to Russia for any reason, do not do it. I don’t think we can say that any more clearly.


QUESTION: On the State Department – sorry, quick follow-up —

MR MILLER: Yeah, go —

QUESTION: They shouldn’t even consider traveling to – they shouldn’t think about it?

MR MILLER: Think about it and make a very quick decision not to do it.

QUESTION: But in that Travel Advisory, the State Department’s language says that Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship. Are you aware of any case where Russia actually has acknowledged U.S. citizenship (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: I’d have to look back through history. I’m not aware of any recent case where they have, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: And so —

QUESTION: I just have one more, and this goes back to something that was raised yesterday about the UN expert – panel of experts on the sexual – alleged sexual assault of Palestinians. You said that you were looking for independent confirmation or an investigation into that. Has that gone anywhere?

Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about (inaudible)?

MR MILLER: That’s it for today. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

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