HomeUnited StatesDepartment Press Briefing – June 16, 2022

Department Press Briefing – June 16, 2022

QUESTION: Which is exactly the same thing that you’re complaining that China is doing?
QUESTION: Do you think China will be willing to support military aid to Russia, any movement or —
When it comes to Afghanistan, all U.S. military detention operations conducted at Guantanamo Bay are carried out in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict – also known as the Law of War – or international humanitarian law, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and all other applicable international and domestic laws. So our position on this has been consistent.
QUESTION: Do you mind if I just do one more on —
MR PRICE: No, but I think that’s actually an important point.
They went on to make the point that in the absence of meaningful channels of participation in Iran, peaceful protesters are now the sole remaining means for individuals and groups to express themselves and to share their grievances with the authorities. And they were deeply concerned that first response, the first response by the authorities, is that of excessive use of force against the protesters. That is certainly a concern of ours. It’s why we condemned the use of violence against these peaceful protesters. We made the point that we support the right of these protesters to peacefully exercise their fundamental freedoms.
Now, it’s an open question if we can get there. There’s a lot to suggest we won’t be able to. But we are and have been preparing equally for scenarios where there is a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and the scenario where there is not, and a scenario where we will continue to work closely with our partners and allies, but working with those same partners and allies we will pursue a different approach that will nonetheless ensure that we’re able to live up to the commitment President Biden has made that Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon.
MR PRICE: Okay. So I guess the answer would be no. Yes. Great.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
MR PRICE: Well, we’re reaching out to the Ukrainian Government to see if —
And since 2014, in this case, the Treasury Department has authorized the provision of a wide range of personal communications software and services to Iranians. This is something that we do around the world to see to it that efforts on the part of governments to stifle the ability of their citizens to communicate, to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, to freedom of assembly, cannot be trampled. And we’ll continue to work with the private sector and the Treasury Department to identify additional measures to support and facilitate the free flow of information inside of Iran.
MR PRICE: Matt, I would not —
We’ve seen this from the earliest days of this conflict, even before this conflict. As Russia amassed its forces along Ukraine’s borders, President Xi on February 4th, about three weeks before the invasion began, when it was quite clear what was likely to happen, chose to announce what the PRC and Russia called a, quote/unquote, “no limits” partnership. And in the joint statement from – that emanated, 5,000 words from the meeting between those two world leaders, they put forward a vision of the world order that is profoundly illiberal, that is profoundly different from the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and beyond that the United States and our partners have not only espoused but have sought to promote and protect.
MR PRICE: The deadline is when it’s no longer in our national security interest to pursue it. It continues to be the case that a mutual return to compliance would put us in a far preferable position to where we are now. But again, that won’t always be the case.
MR PRICE: Well, the Russians have certain obligations, and members of the Ukrainian armed forces, including volunteers who may be third-country nationals incorporated into the armed forces, should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and afforded the treatment and protections commensurate with that status, including humane treatment and fundamental process and fair trial guarantees. Under the Geneva Convention, POWs are entitled to combatant immunity and cannot be prosecuted for participation in hostilities. Russia’s obligations here are very clear: As a party to the Geneva Convention and the First Additional Protocol, they apply to its detention and treatment of anyone in the armed conflict, regardless of the status that person merits or that Russia purports to recognize of any such individual.
QUESTION: I remember you saying that the Israelis have the wherewithal to conduct a very solid and truthful investigation. Do you still believe that?
We have called for the release of both of them beyond making these public calls. We are working assiduously behind the scenes, quietly, to do everything we can to see to it that they are released as soon as possible. And those are efforts that continue day in and day out.
MR PRICE: We certainly support Ukraine’s European aspirations. Our support since Ukraine’s independence has been to help place Ukraine on the path to help support its European aspirations. We continue to, and to this day, continue to work with Ukraine to realize those aspirations. Obviously, this is a question for the EU, but it is also an aspiration that we fully support.
But Pakistan is a partner of ours, and we will look to ways to advance that partnership in a manner that serves our interest and our mutual interests as well.
MR PRICE: We welcome the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s unanimous judgment that Hizballah operatives Hassan Merhi and Hussein Oneissi be sentenced to life in prison for their role in the 2005 terrorist attack. That attack killed 22 individuals, including the former prime minister. It injured a couple hundred more – 226 people. The judgment represents a significant overdue milestone in pursuit of justice for the people of Lebanon.
QUESTION: Can you comment on naming the street on which the Saudi embassy sits after Jamal Khashoggi?
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m going to switch topics, Ned. On the Palestinian issue, the Israeli police won’t release findings of the internal probe into conduct at the Abu Akleh funeral. Apparently they have the findings and they found that the police probably conducted themselves wrongly, but they will not release it. And in fact, it seems that Haaretz is saying that they have decided not to press any charges against anyone before even the investigation. Do you have any comment on this?
MR PRICE: I will —
MR PRICE: And Matt, the fact is that there are a number of – I don’t want to speak to lawmakers, but I will speak to —
QUESTION: Are they regular army, Ukrainian army soldiers?
QUESTION: I’m not trying to make the comparison. I’m asking you if you – if there is a comparison to make.
MR PRICE: We are seeking further information from our Israeli partners. So certainly, to us, typically these investigations, the findings of them are released publicly, but that’s, of course, not our call.
MR PRICE: Matt, we have —
QUESTION: To follow up on that, I know you mentioned that you don’t have confirmation that the Russians have them, but in terms of what the message would be to the Russians – I mean the – supposedly, according to the reports from their families, they were volunteering with the Ukrainian military. What would be the expectations of treatment by the Russians? The Geneva Conventions, would that come into play?
MR PRICE: We are in touch with the family, yes.
MR PRICE: Sure. So as I mentioned before, this is something that we have been focused on because it is a very clear implication of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. We’re working tirelessly to help the Ukrainian Government assess alternative routes, to increase the capacity at cross-border points, and to explore the use of mobile equipment among other tactics, as well as temporary storage solutions, to help move some of this grain out from Ukraine.
We’ll continue to work with the UN special envoy. We’ll continue to work with our partners in the region, including our Saudi partners, who were indispensable in achieving this humanitarian truce, in achieving the extension to consolidate it, and to see to it that we can work together to bring greater levels of stability, security, ultimately peace and prosperity, to Yemen.
MR PRICE: Of course not. Of course not. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for human rights abuses that take place inside of Iran. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for every strain of nefarious activity that it undertakes.
MR PRICE: Of course not. Of course not. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for human rights abuses that take place inside of Iran. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for every strain of nefarious activity that it undertakes.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Well, how about detentions in black sites in Europe?
QUESTION: Why choose someone who voted against the deal?
MR PRICE: We continue to believe that a two-state solution is in the best interests of Israel and the Palestinian people. Again, only through a two-state solution can we – can Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state be guaranteed living next to a sovereign, independent state for the Palestinians. That continues to be our long-term goal.
MR PRICE: Obviously, we have worked closely with both sides to de-escalate tensions. We’ve done that, including in recent months. We spoke of a period of heightened tensions as the three major religions celebrated their holy days nearly simultaneously. It was during that period – it was – it has been in the weeks since that we’ve continued to work very closely. The Secretary has a number of – has had a number of calls with the foreign minister, Foreign Minister Lapid. He’s had a number of calls with President Abbas. As you know, Barbara Leaf was just in Ramallah meeting with President Abbas. Barbara Leaf was just in Israel meeting with our Israeli counterparts as well. So we continue to send that very clear message.
But I can tell you what we do know and what we can say. We are aware of unconfirmed reports of two U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine. We’re closely monitoring the situation. We are in contact with Ukrainian authorities, as well as with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the families of the two reported missing U.S. citizens. Of course, we’re not able to offer any more on that front because of privacy considerations.
QUESTION: You said you are encouraging always – you’ve been saying encouraging both sides to refrain from doing those kind of thing. But what if encouraging has been proven years and years is not working?
MR PRICE: The time has come to do all we can to support the people, the Palestinian people, in Gaza. That’s what we are doing, including through our humanitarian assistance.
MR PRICE: This is related to what we were just saying about the fundamental rights of the protesters in Iran to peacefully express and to exercise their basic and fundamental rights. We applaud the work of the UN human rights experts. They expressed, quote, “serious concerns” about a violent crackdown against civil society in Iran, including members of workers unions and teachers arrested for protesting their low salaries and their poor working conditions.
The vision that they put forward is a world in which might makes right, a world in which – contrary to decades of PRC statements regarding the inviolability of state sovereignty – where big states can bully small states, where countries are not able to exercise a discretion to choose their own partnerships, to adopt their own foreign policy, where in many ways coercion is the name of the game.
MR PRICE: Yes, Michel.
A couple final questions. Yes.


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