12:39 p.m. EST
MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me start with some opening comments.
As you all have repeatedly heard Secretary Blinken say, it has been one of his top priorities to disrupt the global flow of synthetic drugs and their precursor chemicals, which fuel a fentanyl crisis, into the United States. For years, bilateral cooperation between the United States and the People’s Republic of China on counternarcotics had been suspended, which hindered our ability to make progress on addressing this crisis that touches the lives of so many Americans.
That began to change when the Secretary traveled to Beijing last June and raised the importance of cooperation to address the fentanyl crisis. Those discussions laid the groundwork for the meeting between President Biden and President Xi Jinping at Woodside, California in November where the leaders announced the resumption of bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics.
This week, the United States Government began to put that agreement into practice. Over the past two days, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Todd Robinson joined an interagency delegation to Beijing marking the initiation of a bilateral Counternarcotics Working Group with the PRC. The launch of this working group marks an important step to advance concrete law enforcement action, and to coordinate targeted measures to stop the illicit flow of precursor chemicals that are fueling the fentanyl crisis. At this working group, the United States emphasized the importance of multilateral and international cooperation on chemical precursor scheduling, information sharing, and other measures.
The PRC has already started to take steps to dramatically curtail the supply of fentanyl precursors, including taking regulatory and law enforcement action against dozens of PRC‑based synthetic drug and chemical precursor suppliers, issuing a notice to industry, and resuming the submission of chemical incidents to the International Narcotics Control Board’s global information-sharing database.
Those were important initial steps, and through this working group, we will continue to press for concrete action.
Addressing the fentanyl crisis in the United States and the surge of synthetic drugs globally is a transnational challenge that demands a strong and coordinated global response. We will continue to engage in the robust diplomacy required to make that happen.
With that, Mr. Lee.
QUESTION: Thank you. What can you tell us about the Secretary’s imminent travel plans?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any announcements to make about upcoming travel. Obviously, he has made four trips to the Middle East since October 7th, and you can certainly expect him to make future visits, but I don’t have any announcements to make today.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just secondly but related to the Middle East, have you gotten any clarity from your people about this hospital raid in Jenin yesterday or on – or from the Israelis about the destruction of the university in Gaza?
MR MILLER: On the first, we have not. It’s – obviously, we’ve raised these issues regularly with our Israeli counterparts and seek information. I don’t have a report back on the incident in the West Bank. With respect to – with respect to the university, I think you’re referring to the university in Gaza that we talked about a couple weeks ago. So we have raised that —
QUESTION: No, it was last week.
MR MILLER: I wasn’t here last week, so it couldn’t have been with me last week.
QUESTION: All right.
MR MILLER: I think it was two – I think it was —
QUESTION: Maybe it was ten days ago. Whatever. Whenever —
MR MILLER: I think it was two – yeah, ten days, two weeks, whatever it was. So —
QUESTION: But – yeah, but it’s been – it’s been a while.
MR MILLER: Yeah. So —
QUESTION: And you’ve got nothing back?
MR MILLER: So I didn’t say that. I will say —
MR MILLER: I will say that (laughter) —
QUESTION: All right.
MR MILLER: I appreciate it. It is an issue that we raised with the Israeli Government. We’ve raised with them the issue of both the demolition of sites, which they have reported to us they have conducted – they have undertaken only when they were sites from which terrorist activities were launched or plotted or being planned; and we have raised with them the issue of the establishment of a buffer zone, because you’ve seen the reports that these demolitions might have been to advance a buffer zone. They have – I will say we have made clear to them the same thing that we have said publicly, which is we are opposed to any reduction in the size of the territory of Gaza. And what they have said to us is that they do not intend to occupy Gaza; they do not intend to leave forces there. And we’re going to continue to engage with them on this question.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but that doesn’t answer my question, which is specifically about the demolition of the university. I mean, you say that they’re only going to – they only target facilities or whatever when they are —
MR MILLER: That is what – that is what they —
QUESTION: — terrorist – terrorist —
MR MILLER: That is what they have reported back to us, correct.
QUESTION: Does that mean that 75 percent of Gaza was —
MR MILLER: So I don’t want to mix —
QUESTION: — of buildings in Gaza were, like, being used to plan or – was that your understanding?
MR MILLER: So I don’t want to – I was speaking specifically with respect to this demolition. There are obviously other buildings that have been hit in air strikes, and some of those have been —
QUESTION: Well, they’re not just in air strikes, but in —
MR MILLER: No, I know, but let me just finish.
QUESTION: — but in controlled demolitions.
MR MILLER: Some of them have been instances where they are going after legitimate military targets. Some of them are instances where they make mistakes, right, where there is targeting that either they have bad information or where the – you referred to —
QUESTION: I’m sorry, a —
MR MILLER: You referred to seven —
QUESTION: — a controlled demolition is not a mistake.
MR MILLER: Matt, you referred to —
QUESTION: It’s an intentional act.
MR MILLER: You referred to 75 percent of buildings.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know how much —
MR MILLER: So that’s why I’m – that’s why – that —
QUESTION: Okay. Because —
MR MILLER: You only – first of all that —
QUESTION: — understandable that there’s going to be damage —
MR MILLER: Matt —
QUESTION: — in any kind of an operation like this. But these are – these – this – the university and others that the IDF has put video out of —
MR MILLER: Can I just —
QUESTION: — are not – they are intentional —
MR MILLER: Right.
QUESTION: Sorry. So —
MR MILLER: And my – and let me —
QUESTION: And all of those so far —
MR MILLER: Just give me – give me —
QUESTION: Hold on.
MR MILLER: Well, but —
QUESTION: Just let me finish the question.
MR MILLER: Well, but – all right. You let —
QUESTION: Is it all of those that they have told —
MR MILLER: We’ll have a deal to let each other finish.
QUESTION: They have told you that all of those that you’ve asked questions about, all of those buildings, those facilities, were being used or had been used to either plot or conduct terrorist operations?
MR MILLER: Yes. That is what I have said.
QUESTION: Yes. And you accept that? You – which is fine if you do, but —
MR MILLER: That is what they – that is what they have told us. We don’t have the ability to independently verify all of these issues. But let me just – let me just – I want to follow up on what I was saying a minute ago. The reason I started to talk about air strikes is you referred to 75 percent of buildings in Gaza being destroyed, which —
QUESTION: I don’t know if it’s 75 percent.
MR MILLER: — which – let me – I – no, no, no —
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have used that word because (inaudible).
MR MILLER: Let me finish. I know it’s not – it’s not 75 percent; whatever the number is. But the great majority of them would not have been included in this controlled demolition activity; they would have been hit through air strikes.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MR MILLER: Which is why I started to explain a different universe of possibilities. So.
MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: A new report out a moment ago from Axios that Secretary Blinken has ordered staff to prepare policy plans for a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza, and that this signals a policy shift in the administration – do you have a comment on that?
MR MILLER: So there has been no policy shift in the administration. We have made quite clear publicly that we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. That has been the policy of the United States for some time. It has been the policy of this administration. You’ve seen the Secretary speak about it publicly. I’m not going to comment on the internal work that we do to advance that objective, but I will say that there are any number of ways that you could go about accomplishing that. There are any number of sequencing of events that you could carry out to accomplish that objective. And we look at a wide range of options, and we discuss those with partners in the region, as well as other partners inside the United States Government, but there has been no policy change.
QUESTION: But presumably I guess policy planning would have contingency plans in the works that would include a Palestinian state. I mean, is there something new? Was there a new – can you tell us if the Secretary issued, like, a new directive?
MR MILLER: So what I will say is yes, we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and we do a lot of work inside the government to think about how to bring that about. And you see us talk about that work publicly when we’re in the region, talk about it sometimes here. And as part of that work, obviously we look at any number of options. That’s part of the normal planning process. The vast majority of options never usually get implemented, because we take things – we put things on the drawing board and figure out what will work, what will be effective, and how best to sequence it. So I won’t get into that underlying policy planning process that we go about.
But yes, we are actively pursuing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state – with real security guarantees for Israel, because we do believe that is the best way to bring about lasting peace and security for Israel, for Palestinians, and for the region.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I – can I —
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just to put a little context on that – on this, hasn’t the State Department been looking at what it would take to create a Palestinian state since the Clinton administration?
MR MILLER: At —
QUESTION: Maybe with the exception of the four years of the Trump administration?
MR MILLER: I would say at least that long, yes. Correct. (Laughter.)
MR MILLER: My own – my history only goes back nine months, but yes, it has been the longstanding position of the United States.
QUESTION: Well, let’s go back – let’s go back 20 —
MR MILLER: Right.
QUESTION: — 20 or so years. Hasn’t this always been —
MR MILLER: I feel like you’re asking me leading questions, Matt, but yes, the answer – the answer is yes. I will – the witness will be appropriately led.
QUESTION: Okay. So if this report were to be true, it is – it’s basically just a continuation of what has been going on, with the exception of maybe the four years when Trump was president?
MR MILLER: So without confirming a specific report, I will say that yes, we do have ongoing policy planning processes about how best to advance the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
QUESTION: And is it not correct that all of the diplomatic efforts that are going into, including a potential Secretary return to the Middle East, are heavily focused on day-after and long-term stability and security for the region, which you believe would include a Palestinian state?
MR MILLER: Among other things —
QUESTION: I’m just not sure —
MR MILLER: — very much so.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR MILLER: Yeah, very much so.
QUESTION: Question about the UN. So UNRWA and the UN have kind of been giving conflicting guidance as to when they are going to quote/unquote “run out of funding” for Palestinians in Gaza. You got into this issue a little bit yesterday when you talked about the U.S. funding. Does State have any clarity on how long it might be until UNRWA does actually run out of funding?
MR MILLER: So we’ve seen what they have said publicly, and obviously we engaged with them privately as well. I will let them speak to questions of both – of their funding and when it will expire, because it’s not just obviously a U.S. Government issue. We are not the only funder of UNRWA; there are other countries that do as well. So I will let them speak to that. We don’t have any independent information on that question.
QUESTION: But as the top donor, don’t you have a sense of when they’re using the funds from the U.S. and how and the timeline?
MR MILLER: We – of course we do, but as we are not – because we are not the only donor, we don’t know necessarily when other countries are making their contributions, whether there are others that are pending. In the same way I talked about yesterday how we had upcoming payments that were pending, that will be true for other countries as well. We don’t have – it’s not an internal budget schedule for UNRWA that we keep at the United States. It’s a question that they keep at UNRWA and the United Nations, so they’re best to speak to that question.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense that as the secretary has now said, the secretary-general has now said that this could be – the U.S.’s pause on funding could be catastrophic for Gazans?
MR MILLER: So what I would say to that is, first of all, to reiterate – as you’ve heard me say, as you’ve heard the Secretary say, and others inside the administration say – the work that UNRWA does is critical. It is critical that – it is critical work to deliver food, and water, and medicine, and other humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. That said, the responses were – or, I’m sorry, the allegations last week were incredibly troubling, and so it is exactly because the work is so important and the work should not be jeopardized that UNRWA needs to conduct – the United Nations needs to conduct a full investigation, respond as appropriate, and put into place measures to prevent such incidents from ever occurring again.
The two – I don’t actually – we get this question – I don’t find the two in tension with each other. It is because the work is so important that we cannot allow it to be threatened, right, that UNRWA has to take this seriously. There has to be a real investigation. There has to be full accountability. And there have to be appropriate measures put in place to happen again. I think the two go hand in hand.
QUESTION: But just to follow up on that, Israel is saying that UNRWA is fundamentally compromised. So you still stand by UNRWA in that – in that context?
MR MILLER: So we believe it’s important that there be a full investigation and there be accountability and there be measures put in place, as I said, to prevent this from happening again. But at the same time, we think UNRWA’s work is critical, and we believe that there is no other partner on the ground right now who can replace UNRWA and can deliver the humanitarian assistance. And I will say that in our conversations with the Israeli Government, they have acknowledged to us at very senior levels that the work that UNRWA plays is important.
Now look, they have a longstanding dispute with UNRWA that goes back to well before October 7th, as I know you’re aware of, Leon. And I’m sure that they will continue to have disputes with UNRWA that extend far beyond the end of this conflict. But I can tell you that in our conversations, they recognize the critical role that UNRWA plays and that, importantly, there is no other humanitarian relief organization that can play that role in the short term.
QUESTION: You said that – sorry – the Secretary’s going to meet with the UN’s Sigrid Kaag today. And you mentioned yesterday that there would hopefully be some work to lay the ground for this UN assessment mission in northern Gaza. Is there any update you can give on what’s happened?
MR MILLER: I don’t have an update of what happened today. I know that it’s been planned for – the initial assessment has been planned for the next couple days. I actually just don’t – I don’t know what happened on the ground today. There’s always kind of questions about people being able to move about as they want to in Gaza given ongoing fighting.
With respect to the Secretary’s meeting today, what he’ll be emphasizing is that she is an individual who he has worked with in the past, who he has great confidence in; that he welcomes her appointment to this role – as you may know, he talked with her a couple weeks ago. Last time she was here in D.C., he was unfortunately travelling in the region and so couldn’t meet with her, so looks forward to doing it today to discuss how we can continue to coordinate the humanitarian efforts that are so vital on the ground.
QUESTION: And in terms of the – the sort of assessment mission was something that the Secretary came back with several weeks ago from the Middle East now. Is it – what is it that’s been holding up getting that assessment mission in there?
MR MILLER: It’s quite clear it was ready to go and there was a resurgence of fighting in the north. After Israel pulled a number of units out, there were Hamas fighters that regrouped and started launching rockets and started launching attacks against Israeli forces. So when that fighting – with that resurgence of fighting, it just made it too difficult and too – well, too dangerous for a UN mission to actually be carried out. So what we have been trying to do is find a way for them to safely conduct this mission. We’ve been in contact or in conversation with the United Nations and with the Government of Israel with – about how they can best do that. And I should add we want to see it launched as soon as possible, and I think it would have been launched in the last few weeks if not for this resurgence of fighting.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Iranian-linked militia that the Pentagon says is likely responsible for the attack on Tower 22 over the weekend has announced that it’s going to temporarily suspend attacks on U.S. forces, really implying that Iran has pressured the group to do so. The Pentagon basically responded that it’s too little too late. But from the State Department’s perspective, is this a positive sign that Iran might be listening?
MR MILLER: So I will echo something I heard my colleagues at the Pentagon also say with respect to KH, which is that we will judge this group as we do all of these Iranian proxy groups, not by what they say but by what they do. And this is a group that we have seen launch attacks on U.S. forces in the region, U.S. interests in the region. We have made clear for some time that those attacks need to stop. They did not stop and so, as you heard the President say, we will be holding organizations accountable. This is not to preview any specific actions that we will take but that we will be taking steps to hold accountable those who are responsible for the deaths of U.S. soldiers.
QUESTION: But on that pending response, the President said he’s already decided how to respond. Is there any fear from an escalatory standpoint in this building that something that’s sustained, multifaceted, hitting multiple targets, could just contribute to the tit for tat we’ve seen?
MR MILLER: So I will say that the United States response will not be escalatory. Our actions to date to defend U.S. troops have not been escalatory. We have made clear from the outset of this conflict that we don’t believe it’s in anyone’s interest to see the conflict escalate. It’s not in the United States’ interest. We don’t believe it’s in the interests of any country in the region, and that includes Iran.
At the same time, we will defend our personnel and we will defend our interests. And we made that clear for the last – for a number of months, and you’ve seen us respond and take action, take military action at times, to respond to attacks on U.S. troops and to respond to attacks on commercial shipping, and we will continue to hold accountable those who attack our forces. But we will do so in a way that is appropriate while at the same time making clear we do not want to see this conflict escalate in any way, shape, or form.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Two questions and North Korea and China and Russia. Last week as North Korea launched cruise missiles, Chinese foreign ministry officers and North Koreans’ foreign ministry officers met in Pyongyang. China and North Korea pledged to strengthen strategic dialogue, all levels. As you know, China continues to protect North Korea in the UN Security Council resolution with its veto power. Do you think China is using North Korea strategically in competition with the United States?
MR MILLER: So I will just say, in answer to that, that obviously we have had great concern about the DPRK’s provocative, destabilizing actions, and one of the things that we have pressed China to do in our conversations with them is to use their relationship with DPRK to engage in diplomacy and try to bring an end to those actions.
QUESTION: Do – also, regarding money laundering in North Korea, what measures is being taken by United States against Russia and China to block funding for North Korea’s nuclear and missile development?
MR MILLER: So we have imposed a number of sanctions with respect to North Korea’s nuclear program, but I don’t have anything to preview today – anything further to preview. I know with respect to financing of that program I don’t have anything further to preview today.
QUESTION: But the U.S. and China, they talking about cyber hacking agreement.
MR MILLER: I just don’t have anything further to offer on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Yeah, thank you.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. A couple of separate topics. Let me start with Ukraine. Can you tell us anything about Toria Nuland’s trip to Ukraine beyond the readout you just put out – about the timing of it and any particular message she wants to convey?
MR MILLER: So with respect to the timing of it, I would say only that she has traveled to Ukraine previously. Obviously, the Secretary traveled to Ukraine last fall and she traveled with him at that time, but has conducted her own travel, her own visits to Ukraine as part of a regular tempo of engagement you have seen between the United States and Ukraine. She was there today to meet with senior Ukrainian officials regarding recent battlefield developments and the importance of continued global assistance to support Ukraine. She was also there to highlight ongoing anti-corruption reform efforts to bolster Ukraine’s economic recovery and continue its trajectory towards Euro-Atlantic integration. And I will say that she, while she was there, once again strongly reiterated the United States’ ongoing support for Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression.
QUESTION: Thank you. While in Ankara early this week, she was quoted as saying Türkiye will be welcomed back into F-35 program if the “S-400 issue,” quote/unquote, is resolved. How do you guys see that resolution? Türkiye already has purchased that and got punished for that. Do you expect them to return it back to Russia, perhaps send it to Ukraine, or what is the resolution that you guys are looking for?
MR MILLER: So I don’t think I – there’s anything I want to add to that other than to say that we just got finished with a long, drawn-out process over the F-16s that we are providing to Türkiye. I don’t think I’m ready to jump into the next iteration of warplanes at this time when we’ve just notified and not yet even delivered the F-16s.
QUESTION: Thank you. One more inquiry, if I may. There are reports that the administration opposes Ukraine’s membership prospects in NATO despite the fact that most of the members are in favor. Why?
MR MILLER: I – those reports are incorrect. You’ve heard the President himself as well as the Secretary say it a number of times, that Ukraine will be a member of NATO.
QUESTION: Can I move to South Caucasus, please? I have two more.
QUESTION: One more on Ukraine?
MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Since it’s just (inaudible).
QUESTION: Talk to you later, yes.
MR MILLER: I cannot promise I’ll come back to you later, Alex. We have a full room and no one gets seven questions. But go ahead.
QUESTION: Just wondering on Ukraine if you have any reaction to the UN’s top court today basically throwing out the case Ukraine brought against Russia. Of course, this was before the invasion, but still, throwing out just about the whole case.
MR MILLER: Yeah, I only will say that we’ve seen the ruling. It’s apparently 117 pages long and quite complex, so we’re reviewing it but don’t have a reaction yet.
QUESTION: A very quick question, if I may.
MR MILLER: Quick, yeah.
QUESTION: On Azerbaijan, does the administration have any policy, any approach, any view on the next week’s snap elections?
MR MILLER: I don’t have anything to offer on it. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks for the question. And on Georgia, if I may, on policy on —
MR MILLER: Let me – let me —
QUESTION: Just back on Ukraine.
MR MILLER: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: If it had gone the other way around, I’m assuming you would have a reaction —
MR MILLER: My only understanding is that it is a, like I said, 117-page ruling that covers a number of different issues.
QUESTION: There is a summary.
MR MILLER: And I know our team is reviewing it now.
MR MILLER: And we will obviously have a response to it. It’s just that we didn’t have it ready by the – we hadn’t fully digested it and had anything by the time I came out here half an hour ago.
So let me go —
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. After the Iranian-backed groups’ attacks on your forces in Jordan, new sanctions on Iraqi bank, and today you sanctioned three entities in Türkiye and Lebanon. Is that related to – is that a part of the response to the Iranian IRGC groups for what they did that – helping these groups and also providing the weapons for these groups attacking you? Or is this a separate —
MR MILLER: These were part of our ongoing efforts to hold accountable entities and individuals who generate funds for the IRGC and Hizballah to finance their destabilizing activities.
QUESTION: And today the Iranian IRGC commander said that we are heard from Americans that they are threatening us to attacking us, but we leave no response – we leave no attacks unresponsed. Do you think that this will affect the calculation of your administration when you’re thinking to responding the attacks that happened in Jordan?
MR MILLER: I just don’t think I can get into that without talking about what our response will be. I will say we are obviously quite aware of the position of every entity in every country in the region, and what the President, what the national security team do is look at all these factors in coming up with our response. But we have made quite clear that we will hold accountable those who are responsible for the attacks on U.S. personnel.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Guita, go ahead.
QUESTION: Matt, I want to follow up with Shannon’s questions about the retaliation that the U.S. says it’s going to take against – you quoted your Pentagon counterpart yesterday. That was when the KH in Iraq had announced that it was going to suspend their military activities. Now today, Syrian Observatory says that the IRGC has ordered its proxies in Syria to also stop attacking U.S. interests. Could this in any way impact at least the scale and scope of the U.S. response to these groups?
MR MILLER: So again, I don’t want to comment on what that response will look like, and it’s hard to answer the question without commenting on that. But I will say that with respect to all of these groups, we will judge them by their actions, not by what they say. And what we have seen a number of these proxy groups is take actions against United States personnel, against United States interests, and as we have made clear, we will hold them accountable for those actions.
QUESTION: Have there been any communication with Iran, whether directly or indirectly, since the attack on Tower 22?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any communications, either direct or indirect, to read out. As we’ve said in the past, we have ways to make our interests known to Iran when it’s in our interest to do so. But I don’t think our position is lost on Iran. I think they know quite clearly that we, number one, don’t want escalation in the region. We, number two, want the attacks on our personnel to stop and our interests to stop. And, number three, we’ll hold accountable those groups that launched the attacks, those responsible for the attacks at a time and place of our choosing.
QUESTION: In an answer to Shannon, you also said that the U.S. response is – will not be escalatory. How is that?
MR MILLER: Because the U.S. response will be to hold accountable those who launched attacks on our troops. It is a – the response will be a justified response to attacks on our troops that caused the death of three American soldiers and the injury of dozens more. It is – and we will do so in a way – I would also say we will also make clear to everyone in the region that we don’t seek conflict with Iran, we don’t want conflict with Iran, we don’t seek conflict with any party in the region and we don’t think conflict is in anyone’s interest. But it is incumbent upon the United States to protect our military, and we will do that.
QUESTION: One more question. All right, these groups have said they’re going to stop their actions. But on the other side, another Iranian proxy group, the Houthis, have said that they’re going to continue standing – or facing the U.S. and the UK. They’re going to continue with their actions and everything. Seems like this is their – what the U.S. is doing is trying to stop them is not really making a difference or —
MR MILLER: We have always – I will say with respect to the Houthis, we have always made clear that this would be a process that would take place over time. You are not going to eliminate someone’s military capabilities overnight, but if they continued these attacks, we would take the appropriate actions to degrade their ability to do so.
QUESTION: All right, thank you.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matthew. So I’ve been told by a reliable source that the IDF is looking into Red Cross personnel participating in the October 7th attack. Is the State Department aware of such an investigation?
MR MILLER: I am not.
QUESTION: Okay. And given the Axios report about State Department plans to possibly recognize an independent Palestine, what do you say to critics who would say that this is rewarding terrorism?
MR MILLER: So I, first of all – sometimes I struggle to even know how to answer those types of questions. Not all – first of all, let me just say what I was about to say, which is I spoke to this at length earlier, but the idea that all Palestinians are terrorists is obviously just flat wrong.
QUESTION: Not what I said.
MR MILLER: Well, you critics say – whatever. It’s obviously flat wrong. And I would say those that – I’m not going to go there. Look, we believe that the – (laughter) —
QUESTION: How can you be so sure?
MR MILLER: Yeah —
QUESTION: Have you polled 12,000 (inaudible) for terrorism?
MR MILLER: So it’s – it is – I will say it’s – it is a ridiculous argument. It has been the longstanding policy of the United States to advance the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It continues to be our policy, and it is our policy because we believe not only is that the right answer to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, but also because it is the answer to provide lasting security to the Israeli people. And the – never mind.
QUESTION: And finally —
MR MILLER: Yeah, sorry, I keep almost doing it and then – no, go ahead.
QUESTION: And then finally, given the attacks in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East, have State Department personnel been evacuated? Has there been increased security at embassies and consulates in the region?
MR MILLER: So we always take appropriate measures to protect our embassies, but we don’t – also don’t talk about those measures publicly.
QUESTION: Thank you. First of all —
MR MILLER: Did you not get the notice the briefing had moved up?
QUESTION: Yeah, first of all, I apologize for being late.
MR MILLER: It’s fine.
QUESTION: It’s Murphy’s law, and I don’t want to go into explaining.
MR MILLER: I’m aware of Murphy’s law.
QUESTION: You may have talked about this. I just want to follow up on the UNRWA thing. Has there been any development in terms of evidence or the validity of evidence and all these things about people who participated?
MR MILLER: So there is evidence that the Israeli Government developed that they presented to us and that they presented to UNRWA. We found that evidence to be credible. But you don’t just have to take the United States Government’s —
QUESTION: No, that —
MR MILLER: Hold – let me – you don’t have just to take our opinion that the evidence was credible. UNRWA found the evidence credible as well.
QUESTION: Okay. So let me ask you this then. I mean, look, Israel stands accused of committing genocide. Right, it’s an allegation —
MR MILLER: That we reject —
QUESTION: — whatever it was —
MR MILLER: — and we believe is unfounded.
QUESTION: — the ICJ and so on. But they continue to receive a lot of money. I mean, they get $3.8 billion a year. There is talk about pumping maybe $14 billion and so on. So how do you juxtapose these things all against one another?
MR MILLER: So first of all, I’m – that’s kind of a loose question.
MR MILLER: But I’ll say with respect to the charges of genocide, we believe that they’re unfounded, and we have said that we believe that they’re unfounded. We continue to support Israel’s right to take action to ensure that the terrorist attacks of October 7th cannot be repeated, but we want them to do so in a way that complies with – fully with international humanitarian law.
QUESTION: Yeah, there are certainly settlers who serve in the Israeli army that you probably designate as either extremist or things of that nature. I mean, we can also look at the Israeli Government that has maybe 12 members who basically have called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but they continue to be members of that government in good standing, receiving a great deal of aid. Correct?
MR MILLER: And we made clear our disagreements with the calls by members of the government to force Palestinians from their homes in Gaza. Not only did we say that publicly – you may recall us doing this a few weeks ago – but when the Secretary traveled to Israel on his most recent visit, he made clear that he thought it was important that the Israeli Government speak out against those matters and those comments publicly and reiterate that it is not the policy of the Israeli Government to force Palestinians from Gaza. And in the days after the Secretary left, that’s exactly what the Israeli Government did.
QUESTION: And finally, it seems that members of Congress yesterday met with an Israeli official, and they discussed with him alternatives to UNRWA. Is the Government of the United States looking at alternatives to UNRWA?
MR MILLER: So first of all, let me say that I obviously can’t speak for members of Congress and members of —
MR MILLER: I know, I know. Just – and members of – let me just get it out, Said – and members of Congress don’t speak for the United States Government. We believe that UNRWA plays a critical role that cannot be replaced. There is no other humanitarian partner in the – in Gaza right now that could play the role that UNRWA does.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR MILLER: Go ahead. I’ll come to you next, Willy.
QUESTION: In two days, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the systematic torture and killing of former U.S. allies in Afghanistan by Taliban, who left behind by the Biden administration in Afghanistan. And UN also has documented hundred of similar cases. What the U.S. Government is doing to protect its allies in Afghanistan?
MR MILLER: So I am not familiar with the testimony that was given today, and I want to make sure that I give a complete and accurate response. Let me take that question back. I want to see what the testimony actually was and give – and get you a response to it.
Willy, go ahead.
QUESTION: What about Afghan Adjustment Act?
MR MILLER: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: What about Afghan Adjustment Act? Don’t you think it’s the time to Biden administration to push the Congress for passing Afghan Adjustment Act?
MR MILLER: Let me take – let me just take that one back.
Willy, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Appreciate it. I wanted to just go back to the Jenin hospital raid, just quickly. I have a colleague who spoke to – who went to the hospital, spoke to people there. So I know you’re still waiting for an assessment, but he said that there are reports, or that he had eyewitness accounts that the receptionist was knocked out cold with the butt of a gun. Is an action like that – is something that you would condone in the context of a, I guess, targeted assassination?
MR MILLER: Again, it’s – I don’t – it’s always difficult when I get these types of questions, because you have allegations that are unverified, and I’m essentially asked to speak about something that’s not yet verified, and it’s very difficult to do so. I can only reiterate what I said yesterday, which is we do – we want to see hospitals protected; we want to see civilians protected. At the same time, Israel does have a right to carry out legitimate antiterrorism operations in Gaza and in the West Bank, but we want to see them do so in a way that respects international humanitarian law and also doesn’t increase instability in the West Bank.
QUESTION: I have two questions, one on Venezuela and one on Mexico. The first one: Do you have any response to – that the Government of Venezuela’s threat to stop migration cooperation and not taking deportation flights? Yeah.
And the second, on Mexico. Today, in the morning the Mexican president blamed the State Department directly for being behind the story published in ProPublica about his first presidential campaign being linked to drug money. What do you have to say about these reports?
MR MILLER: So I don’t have an response to the first one. And with response to the second one, I haven’t even read the story. I have no idea – it’s hard to comment when I haven’t even —
QUESTION: You have no response (inaudible).
MR MILLER: It’s – I – it’s hard to comment on a story I haven’t even read. So I don’t have any comment, no.
QUESTION: No story to both?
MR MILLER: No, I – on that – no, I don’t have a specific response. I’m happy to take the first one and follow up on it. With respect to the second one, it’s just not something I’m going to comment on.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, sir. Sir, there was a bomb blast in Pakistan at Imran Khan’s party – PTI – election rally. Do you have any comments on that?
MR MILLER: So I will say you saw the department comment on this earlier today when the assistant secretary issued a tweet on it. We, as we did in that comment earlier today, extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by the attack on the PTI party rally in Pakistan. We believe in the resilience of the Pakistani people and their ability to recover. This attack is one of many we have seen in the last month against multiple parties across Pakistan. The election commission itself has come under attack in several places.
We strongly condemn any violence which undermines the electoral process. The Pakistani people have the right to choose their leader without fear or – of reprisal or violence, and we remain committed to working with Pakistan to address the shared threat posed by terrorist groups throughout the region. And we support the Pakistani Government’s efforts to combat terrorism.
QUESTION: Sir, Pakistani police arrested a number of PTI – Imran Khan’s party – workers for just – for a peaceful election rally. I mean, it looks like Pakistani Government is not going to allow PTI supporters, Imran Khan supporters, to just peacefully gather somewhere for the election. Really it looks like no more freedom of speech just for one party. No further —
MR MILLER: So I can’t comment on that specific – on that specific report. I – because I haven’t seen it. But I will say, as we have long said, we want to see free and fair elections take place in Pakistan.
QUESTION: I have one last question.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: According to a media report, United States lost $3 billion drone sale to India until meaningful investigation of Sikh leader Mr. Pannun assassination conspiracy. Is it true or just a fake news?
MR MILLER: So – (laughter) – I love – nice try. The – so I will say that generally the U.S.-Indian Defense Partnership has seen significant growth over the past decade. This is a proposed sale that was announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit last year. We believe it offers significant potential to further advance strategic technology cooperation with India and military cooperation in the region. Of course, Congress plays – as you know – an important role in the U.S. arms transfer process. We routinely consult with members of Congress with the foreign – on the foreign affairs committees before our formal notification to – so we can address questions that they might have, but I don’t have any comment on when that formal notification might take place.
And I said I’d come to you next, and then I’ll —
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. How accurate are the reports that the United States will hold the peace conference this fall between the Palestinian and the Israeli to establish or to discuss establishing the Palestinian state?
MR MILLER: I have not seen those reports, but I don’t have any announcements of any such conferences to make today.
QUESTION: Internationally, many consider that United States is not qualified and unsuitable to mediate this war between Palestinians and Israeli, especially the role of United States in Gaza war, and the strong relation ties between the United States and Israel.
MR MILLER: So I will say that when we have traveled in the region, one of the things the Secretary has heard from countries in the region is that they welcome the United States’ role in both trying to resolve this crisis and in ultimately reaching a broader regional agreement to establish peace and security for both Israel and Palestinians alike, and of course for the broader region. What we have heard over and over again is it is a role that only the United States can play. It’s, of course, a very difficult one – these aren’t easy issues – but it is a role that we will continue to play because of how important the issues are.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR MILLER: And Simon, and then we’ll wrap.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask a couple of things on Myanmar because you had some sanctions today and the anniversary of the coup is tomorrow – third anniversary of the coup that happened there. So obviously these sanctions are targeting fuel imports and imports to – for domestic arms production for the military. This is a military that’s engaged in a civil war. So I’m interested from the U.S. perspective, are you trying to – do you have a side that you’re supporting in the conflict between the Burmese military and groups that oppose the coup that they conducted?
MR MILLER: So what we have done, and what I’ll reiterate today, is to call on the military regime to end its violence against the people of Burma, to release those unjustly and arbitrarily detained, to allow unhindered humanitarian access, and respect the will of the people for return to the path towards representative democracy. We have always supported the people of Burma and their ability to chart their own path, and – including through the actions that you saw us take today.
We have ramped up our economic and political pressure on the military regime, including by restricting U.S. dollar transactions with state-owned enterprises that provide revenue enabling the military to harm and kill its own civilians. So we are going to continue to support efforts by the opposition to the regime and to seek a resolution to the conflict that provides for genuine and inclusive multi-party democracy.
QUESTION: And in terms of those efforts to support opponents to the regime, the – last year’s NDAA included language that gives you the opportunity to provide nonlethal aid to People’s Defense Forces and ethnic armed groups in Burma. I wonder, are you providing any nonlethal aid to those groups?
MR MILLER: Let me take that one back and get an answer.
QUESTION: Sure. And just finally, the National Security Advisor met with Wang Yi in Bangkok on the weekend. Out of that came from the White House some discussion that the Burma/Myanmar was discussed in that meeting and talk about lower-level talks potentially between U.S. officials and Chinese officials on trying to resolve the conflict in Myanmar. Is there anything you can tell us on that? Are there a working-group-level meetings that are planned to try to discuss this with the Chinese? And what would you want the Chinese to do on that?
MR MILLER: So there’s nothing that I can speak to today other than to say that we have – believe that Chinese engagement in this – on this issue could be constructive, and it’s something we’ll be following up on in the coming days and weeks. And we’ll have more to say at that time, but I don’t have anything to announce today.
MR MILLER: With that, we’ll wrap for today. Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)
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