HomeUnited StatesDepartment Press Briefing – June 21, 2022

Department Press Briefing – June 21, 2022

QUESTION: And for your stance towards Russia, have you communicated that you will hold them accountable if anything befalls the two captured Americans in the hands of their proxies? Is that a stance the department has?
MR PRICE: It’s difficult for us to say at this point. As I noted before, we have been in contact with Russian authorities regarding the reports of detained Americans. We have not received any formal or official response. The only response we’ve seen has been the response that Russian officials have made in public interviews. So we just don’t have anything from that private engagement.
MR PRICE: Well, that’s why I said we’re consulting with Israel —
MR PRICE: The Secretary was not signaling a change in our approach. He was not signaling anything different than what I just said right now. What we are calling for, what we are seeking, what much of the international community is seeking is a set of investigations – there are two in this case, but investigations that are impartial, that are transparent, that culminate in accountability.
QUESTION: Hello.
So with that, we’ll go to your questions.
The United States reaffirms our unwavering commitment to alleviate the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people through our global leadership in humanitarian assistance and diplomacy.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:20 p.m.)
MR PRICE: The two sides are conducting their own investigations. We’re not necessarily calling for a joint investigation, but we are calling on the two sides to share evidence with one another. We believe, again, that by sharing evidence, we will be able to – or the two sides, I should say, will be able to facilitate what is our goal, what should be a collective goal, and that is an investigation that is impartial, that’s transparent, that’s thorough, and that culminates in accountability.
QUESTION: Ned, on – New York Times also came out over the weekend with an investigation about the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Basically, they are also saying, just like all of the other media outlets who have done similar investigation, that the bullet was fired from the approximate location of the Israeli military convoy. So I’m just wondering in light of this, like, mounting new information, is the United States going to do anything more to press the Israelis to speed up their investigation, and are you going to do anything differently, maybe like consider conducting your our own investigation, since this is a U.S. citizen?
The U.S.-Colombia relationship remains based on shared democratic values, and we remain committed to working with the next Colombian administration in support of our mutual goals. Those goals include supporting Colombia’s implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord, reducing violence and narcotics trafficking, expanding rural development and security, promoting human rights, growing inclusive trade and investment, protecting the environment, and combating the climate crisis.
QUESTION: Okay. I want to ask you about what I asked you last week, which is the Secretary of State, asked by Abby Martin, responded by saying that he calls for an independent investigation. What does that mean? Have you reflected on what he said? There are mechanisms that you have in mind that an independent investigation could be pursued?
MR PRICE: Whether this is – whether it is the efforts of private Americans, private American organizations, our guidance remains: Americans should not travel to Ukraine. Traveling to Ukraine brings with it significant and profound dangers, including some of the dangers we’ve already talked about during the course of this briefing. So whether for individuals or organizations, that guidance is constant.
QUESTION: Thank you. I just want to follow up on Humeyra’s – on Shireen. Now, you believe that Israel’s track record proves that it can conduct a transparent and thorough investigation in this particular case?
MR PRICE: Well, all of these concerns exist when the JCPOA is not being fully implemented. If we were to fully implement, if Iran were to fully implement the JCPOA, many of the concern that you just alluded to, that I just alluded to, would be taken off the table, because they would not be permitted. And the IAEA would have the wherewithal to be able to inspect, to have real-time monitoring, to alert the international community if Iran surpassed those limits. That is not the case now, and that’s what gives us such great concern.
# # #
QUESTION:  Ned, thanks so much.  Ned, on Russian aggression, Putin last week hinted that neighboring countries might face Ukraine’s fate if they turned against him for the invasion.  Now, if you sit in Azerbaijan, Georgia, or Kazakhstan, you might scratch you head and think about whether or not the U.S. will help me in case Russia does more conflict?  Can you explicitly state that the U.S. will not leave those countries alone if Russia does what it says it does?
Secondly, does the United States see the Taiwan Strait as international water?
MR PRICE: I was counting climate change as one, but yes, thank you, Matt, if you want to be literal about it.
QUESTION: Move to PRC, China. Give us your comments about China’s claim of successful anti-ballistic missile interceptor test on Sunday as well as recent launch of domestically designed aircraft carrier.
We also recognize the generosity of communities that host refugees and the united global response of international humanitarian partners who work diligently to help them.
MR PRICE: I’m not familiar – immediately familiar with the particulars of this case. It sounds like the press release was just issued. If we have anything to add, we’ll certainly let you know.
QUESTION: Isn’t that because the building was empty for the last three days and the air-conditioning was probably not on?
MR PRICE: Sure.
And of course, the JCPOA carried with it the most stringent verification and monitoring regime ever peacefully negotiated. The fact is – and we’ve made this point on a number of occasions – Iran’s program in different ways has now far exceeded the limits that the JCPOA imposed. It is spinning cascades of advanced centrifuges that are not allowed under the deal. Its fissile material breakout time has been dramatically reduced from about a year to what is now – what can now be measured in weeks or even less.
MR PRICE: But —
QUESTION: I mean, from the very beginning you guys said that —
QUESTION: That was four Cs.
Attorney General Garland upon the visit noted that, “The United States is sending an unmistakable message: There is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to ensure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.”
Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about the tensions around Kaliningrad. What do you make of the statements from Russia threatening of serious consequences and the train?
All right, thank you very much.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you in a position to be a little bit more specific on who in the Russian Government you are in touch with? Because Medvedev said over the weekend that “We don’t have any [relationship] with the United States…They are at zero on the Kelvin scale.” Okay?
Let me move around. Yes.
MR PRICE: I am speaking for what the United States is asking for, what we seek. We seek an investigation that is transparent, that’s impartial, that culminates in accountability.
Humeyra.
Yes, Alex.
But again, this was more than one attack. What we are seeing here appears to be a pattern on the part of terrorists, on the part of extremists, who are striking at the heart of Afghanistan’s pluralistic identity, who are striking against Hindus and Sikhs, and we must – those perpetrators must be held accountable, and members of all minority groups should be protected.
MR PRICE: Any consular services in what regard?
QUESTION: A quick follow-up with that. Do we know – does the U.S. Government know where these Americans are, and has the Kremlin even confirmed that they have been captured or know where they are?
MR PRICE: We —
MR PRICE: Well, we’ve seen these reports. We remain concerned that Iran continues to deploy advanced centrifuges well beyond the limits of what’s prescribed in the JCPOA. We are seeking a full return to implementation of the JCPOA precisely because we believe that Iran’s nuclear activities, including the centrifuge component manufacturing that you referred to, should be strictly limited and strictly monitored by the IAEA.
We’ve made clear our view, again, both to Israelis and Palestinians, that we seek a thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing. We expect full accountability for those responsible. And we have urged to that end, as I alluded to a moment ago, that the two sides share their evidence with one another. We believe the sharing of evidence and the bridging of these investigations will help facilitate accountability, an investigation that culminates in that.
MR PRICE: Again, Said, this is a strategic relationship. It does not depend on who sits in the Oval Office; it does not depend on who sits in the prime minister’s chair.
MR PRICE: Well, I think our embassy officials in Moscow would be surprised to hear that, because we do have an embassy in Moscow that continues to function. As I said before in a different context, it functions under severe constraints. But we have worked hard despite the onerous and unnecessary restrictions that the Russians have imposed on our embassy operations to maintain a fully functioning – or I should say a functioning embassy compound. Ambassador Sullivan is here in Washington attending the Chiefs of Mission Conference, but he will soon be returning to Moscow to lead the small but very capable team at Embassy Moscow. The embassy does regularly take part in exchanges and have discussions with their counterparts in the ministry of foreign affairs or elsewhere within the Russian Government.
QUESTION: One follow-up?
QUESTION: One follow-up?
We look forward to working with President-Elect Gustavo Petro and his new administration and to continuing our strong collaboration and joint regional leadership.
Will.
MR PRICE: I don’t have any specifics to offer at this time. We’ve talked and we’ve spoken at length previously about the cooperation. We have – vis-à-vis Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the region, of course, Iran is a country that exports its malign influence not only in the Middle East, but well beyond. We cooperate very closely with our Israeli partners. We cooperate very closely with our Arab partners and with a number of other countries around the world to counter Iran’s malign influence.
MR PRICE: I don’t think any single meeting will be able to produce a solution. Of course, there are a number of countries, the United States included, that are looking at near-term practical steps we can take vis-à-vis the grain that is stuck in Ukraine’s ports. That’s something that we’ve worked on with the UN and Secretary-General Guterres. It’s something that our Turkish allies have been very engaged in. We’re supporting their efforts to see to it that Ukraine’s grain is to be released. Of course, it could be released tomorrow if Vladimir Putin were to authorize it, if he were to authorize what would be a purely humanitarian gesture that could save untold lives around the world, but that is something that he has not yet done.
MR PRICE: I don’t think any single meeting will be able to produce a solution. Of course, there are a number of countries, the United States included, that are looking at near-term practical steps we can take vis-à-vis the grain that is stuck in Ukraine’s ports. That’s something that we’ve worked on with the UN and Secretary-General Guterres. It’s something that our Turkish allies have been very engaged in. We’re supporting their efforts to see to it that Ukraine’s grain is to be released. Of course, it could be released tomorrow if Vladimir Putin were to authorize it, if he were to authorize what would be a purely humanitarian gesture that could save untold lives around the world, but that is something that he has not yet done.
QUESTION: Can you —
QUESTION: For Americans killed while fighting in Ukraine.
MR PRICE: No, of course. Of course, we would like it to be concluded swiftly, but this is a process that requires consensus by all of the NATO Allies. Of course, the Finns and the Swedes and the Turks have been engaged in discussions, tripartite discussions, bilateral discussions. We’ve heard from them. We’ve heard them characterize these discussions publicly as constructive and ongoing. We are not a party to these talks, but we’re lending support to our partners Finland and Sweden. We’ve also had an opportunity to discuss the issue broadly with Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu and other Turkish officials.
MR PRICE: I think we also made a request to raise the temperature a little bit.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Gustavo Petro is a leftist, so that was – that is the first leftist in – I think in Colombian history. He’s a former rebel. Last year we had also leftist candidates win the presidency in Chile, Peru, Honduras. We’ll probably have Lula da Silva coming back and so on. In your view, is that a repudiation of U.S. policy toward the – South America?
We will continue to represent the best of American values by saving lives and alleviating suffering, working with our partners at home and abroad to assist those forcibly displaced in their time of need no matter who they are or where – no matter who they are, where they are, on World Refugee Day and every day.
MR PRICE: My understanding is that we learned of it before June 1st.
MR PRICE: Yes, yes, yes. Looking out for your needs. Before we begin, a few things.
QUESTION: But it is the case that’s still not permitted under the JCPOA. None of —
QUESTION: One more on Israel?
QUESTION: Two follow-up, actually, Mr. Price. So one, we have – as the war in Ukraine, it rages on, we might be more and more Americans being stranded, killed, or captured in Ukraine. And is there a discussion within the department to take some steps to stop the flow of American foreign fighters to Ukraine other than just issuing an advisory – travel advisories?
MR PRICE: — is that we learned of this individual’s death several weeks ago. It is not standard procedures to formally announce when an American has been killed.

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