Department Press Briefing with Spokesperson Ned Price | January 31, 2022

U.S. State Department Press Briefing with Spokesperson Ned Price, January 31, 2022


Good afternoon. Happy Monday as a gift to all of you. I don’t have anything at the top. So happy too. Start with start with your questions. Time will tell wow about a very general question on on Ukraine. What what exactly do you think you accomplished at this uh Security Council? Well, matt you heard from our ambassador to the U. N. Linda, Thomas Greenfield, She had an opportunity in the session. You don’t need to go through everything that she said and everything that everyone. I just what did what what what does the administration think it accomplished by bringing this? The Security Council? Can I give a slight slight preamble? And then and then and then I will and then I I will I will I will come to your question but I think it is important because not everyone is uh the the famed Matley diplomatic uh reporter extraordinaire. And I think the context here is important because the U. N. Security Council, as we know under the U. N. Charter has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Uh It takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to international peace and security uh and takes the lead in examining instances of aggression. Uh and that is precisely what we are seeing here. Uh and you have heard that from us over the past couple of months, You’ve heard that from our allies and partners. You heard that from members of the Security Council uh today, the point today matt to come to your question was um to continue to shine a spotlight on what we are seeing uh into demonstrate to the international community, to demonstrate to the Russian Federation that the world is united in the viewpoint that aggression violations of a core tenant of the rules based international order, that these elements uh must not be allowed to to be conducted with impunity. Uh We heard a good deal of consensus from the Security Council, we heard from uh many of the speakers today that uh this situation, the situation and the crisis on the border that Russia has needlessly precipitated should be resolved diplomatically. Uh That is the point that we have been emphasizing all along diplomacy and dialogue remains our preferred course. But there was a resounding call from the Security Council this morning uh that Russia should avail itself of that course. We heard from the Russian Federation, as we’ve heard from Moscow before, that they have no plans to invade Ukraine. But as we’ve consistently said, we’ll be looking for deeds, will be looking for concrete signs of de escalation. We and the members of the Security Council will even as we look for those concrete signs of de escalation and in those deeds, will hold them to those words, we’re continuing to monitor their actions. You heard that from us in the in the Council this morning, You’ve heard that from any number of allies and partners around the world. So this was the first time, despite dozens and dozens of private engagements, about 100 and 80 engagements in in recent weeks alone. But this was the first time that the Security Council took up this question in an open session and we thought that was important, we thought it was important that they do so in that venue uh and uh with that level of exposition, uh so that the world could hear it and the Russian Federation could hear it. Okay. But I’m just trying to because it’s it sounds like the same thing going back and forth between both sides. And when you say that the Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to international peace and security, um did the Security Council actually do anything matt. This was not about resolution, It was not about to vote, this was about an exposition of the facts. Expositions after expositions after expositions of this going back, you you yourself get up here every single day and talk about or whenever you get up here, I’m gonna say, I mean, just when when your briefing, you get up here and you talk about the G seven and talk about the EU you talk about NATO, you talk about, you know, and any number of international for us that where this stuff has actually come out and been agreed on that. We are not going to apologize for engaging in robust diplomacy for bringing this to every conceivable for an appropriate for us and for continuing to be transparent with our concerns if the criticism is that we are engaging to robustly in diplomacy, that we’re being too transparent that we’re being too consistent. And what we’re saying that as criticism that that we will accept if that’s a criticism you want to lodge? Well, I’m not criticizing at all. I’m just curious as to when you say the world is united in opposing Russian aggression. Uh but and and you say that because of what happened in the Security Council today, then that’s just flat wrong because the world isn’t united, there were two members of the council that veto wielding members of the council that I didn’t even want to have this meeting in the first place. So when when when you talk about when you talk, I just I just wonder, what do you think? How do you think you have advanced the claws or your your your your cause the cause of the United States of europe of NATO and countering Russian aggression with this meeting? So, you raised two countries, I think one country, we can explain their you can explain their opposition pretty easily the country that is behind this aggression. The country that is behind this build up the country that has consistently engaged in disinformation, misinformation and propaganda in an effort to obfuscate the facts. So we can we can explain that country’s vote. But I assume you’re also referring to the PRC a couple of facts. One is that the PRC frequently does side and vote with Russia on the Security council uh that did not come as a surprise. We also understand, I think as you alluded to that their objection today was more of an objection to the format uh than a dismissal of the subject. And we know that this is a matter of concern for the PRC. Secretary Blinken discussed it with Foreign Minister wang when they connected uh last week, but I make a couple other points. One we often hear from the PRC very forceful um very forceful uh support for territorial integrity uh and the concept of sovereignty that is a refrain of the PRC in new York uh in Beijing and around the world. Uh asked one thing about that and when they talk about that they’re talking about too bad. They’re talking about Hong Kong. These are all things that you actually disagree with. These principles, the principle of sovereignty, the principle of territorial integrity. Uh these are principles that are universal, they have universal applicability. Uh So do you believe that that that that the PRC has territorial and sovereignty over Hong Kong and Tibet. If if any country believes in the concept of sovereignty, this should be china this is an episode that has the potential to undermine that core tenant, that core tenant of the rules based international order to um there of course are a lot of issues where we don’t see eye to eye with our PRC counterparts, but I think where we do see eye to eye. And you saw from the PRC’s remarks, uh their support for diplomacy for dialogue, their support for a diplomatic resolution. I think it speaks to the fact it is in no one’s interest, not in our interest. Of course, not in NATO’s interest, not in our European allies and partners interest and not in the PRC’s interest to see a potentially destabilizing conflict emerge in the European continent? Uh It would impact the PRC’s interests all over the world as well. Uh So we know how the PRC tends to operate, including in the U. N. Security Council, we’re clear eyed about that, but we also know that Russian aggression, a renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine. Uh It would be a matter of great import and presumably a matter of great great concern for the PRC as well on those. So after today, do you guys have a concrete plan to keep the Security Council’s attention on this issue, like Russia will hold the presidency in February. Do you guys have any plans to call further meetings on the situation? I’ll defer to my colleagues up in new York to speak to the next steps, but I think what you heard from ambassador Thomas Greenfield today is that she has been intently focused on this. And you heard from her yesterday on television as well, She has been intently focused on this uh with our allies and partners in new York but also with the Russian delegation in new York. So whether it is within the U. N. Security Council context, whether it’s within the U. N. Context more broadly in new York. The answer to your question broadly speaking is yes we will continue to keep the focus on this. As I was referring to matt across all appropriate for the U. N. Being one of them. So last week Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman made a comment about the potential timing of a potential Russian invasion and she was speaking in reference to the Olympics. She said given the timing and the Olympics starting soon, she said president she wouldn’t be ecstatic if Putin chose to invade. Now surely you will say I’m not in Vladimir Putin’s brain and I don’t speak for him. But certainly the US has an assessment on this is it. Now the U. S. Assessment that Putin will wait until after the Olympics. Can you talk a little bit towards that end? So there is not much, I’m in a position to say here beyond a couple of broad points. And you heard this from Secretary Austin, you heard this from Chairman Milley uh last week. Um we don’t believe that Vladimir Putin has made a firm decision. Uh The other point is that only one person can make that decision. So if Putin hasn’t made a decision that decision to move forward or not has yet been made. It is our goal in all of this to attempt to influence Moscow’s decision making. And Moscow’s calculus because even as we have made very clear that our preferred course is dialogue and diplomacy, we have continued to make prudent preparations vis a vis the other path and that is defense and deterrence. Uh and so it is um up to us and to our partners and allies to make very clear the costs that the costs that would befall the Russian Federation if renewed invasion work to go forward. We’ve been very clear about that. Again, to max max question perhaps to clear um in the in the words of some, but uh that’s what we’ve engaged engaged in all along. Even as we continue to prefer the path of dialogue, dialogue and diplomacy. We’re continuing to with our partners and allies, prepare with defense and deterrence. And the final thing is about just an update whether you have an update on the number of Americans in Ukraine. Sure, so as you know, and we’ve discussed this uh in the context both of Ukraine and other countries, but you well know by now that we typically um don’t provide numbers of U. S. Citizens living in or traveling to another country and we don’t do that for all the reasons that are very familiar to you by now. United States citizens are not required to register when they travel overseas. Those that do opt to register. Uh most of them presumably do not de register when they leave a country when it comes to the registration of individuals in our in our so called step system. We are also not in a position to verify individuals who sign up. And in fact we know from previous experiences that international organizations, third country nationals, many people who aren’t um us citizens do sign up for various various reasons. Uh Now having said all that uh our embassies do compile estimates of U. S. Citizens uh in their countries for time to time for contingency planning purposes. Uh And as you know, our embassy in Kiev has been engaged in robust contingency planning together with officials here at the department and across the interagency uh for some time now these estimates are based on the best available information specific to that country, um pulling on all available uh inputs but even then we are not in a position to call any particular figure authoritative or uh comprehensive, but I will say uh that for Ukraine in October which I’ll come to you, that’s that’s noteworthy. Uh The estimate was that there were 6600 U. S. Citizens residing in Ukraine uh and that is in addition to American tourists and visitors who may have been there at the time. Now we reached that estimate as I said based on all of the inputs that were available to us and that includes data from our Ukrainian government partners interactions with American organizations in Ukraine like the Chamber of Commerce, uh exchange programs and international schools and the number of people applying for U. S. Citizens services such as passports at the US embassy in Kiev. So as you will see, those inputs are instructive but they are not necessarily dis positive when it comes to a firm accurate comprehensive number. But that is the estimate we were able to arrive at last October 6600. Now, our embassy also estimated again in October before Russia’s military build up began uh that at any given time any given point in time there could be 16,000 U. S. Citizens. Uh U. S. Citizen tourists and visitors in Ukraine. Uh Now this was back in October uh and ever since, as you know, we have been urging us citizens not to travel to Ukraine. And in fact uh those warnings began that very month in October 2021 October of last year, it was in the first instance, the results of the covid 19 pandemic and epidemiological conditions in Ukraine. Uh And of course more recently due to the increased threat from Russia. And so While we estimated at the time there could be 16,000 tourists and visitors are best assessment is that that number is much much lower now. Uh and we do not believe this figure to be an accurate reflection of where we are now since many of those American tourists, many of those visitors presumably would have we departed the country uh never intended to stay more than a few days a couple of weeks um or have heated our concerted messaging, including in recent weeks that American citizens should strongly consider departing the country that they should avail themselves of the plentiful commercial options that are available, both due to covid, but of course more recently and more acutely due to the risk of a Russian invasion. Final one for me is like, are you guys doing any undertaking any effort to reach out to these people Like the 6600? The answer to that is unequivocally yes, we have is a matter of course uh this happens all around the world, but especially in places where the situation has the potential to destabilize quite rapidly, which of course is the situation in Ukraine. We have been regularly messaging American citizens uh sending out notices urging them as we have done in recent days and even in recent hours to strongly consider availing themselves of uh the available commercial options and departing the country. Now we have been issuing that message for uh some time now we will continue to urge American citizens who despite months of warnings that Americans should not travel to Ukraine. Despite a more recent campaign to educate American citizens who for um whatever reason remain in Ukraine that they should leave, we will continue to be very clear i through every channel we can to convey that message to American citizens, whether it’s social media, whether it’s on our website, whether it is through engagement with um reporters like all of you, we have engaged with diaspora reporters as well. Again, availing ourselves of every appropriate channel to convey in strong terms, the guidance that Americans should strongly consider leaving Ukraine at this time using available options 6600. Does that include US government personnel? These are private. Us citizens private. Okay. And then you said that you don’t you think that the number of the 16,000 potentially at any one time would have decreased significantly over the last four months? Do you also think that the 6600 would have decrease significantly or no, do you not have? So the the difference between those two numbers is the 16,000 our visitors and tourists. So presumably people, some of the some are, you know, uh some kind of percentage of the 6600 who were living there permanently or you know, it’s residing there have also left since October. So the short answer is that we we don’t have a way of knowing. But if you take your question on the basis of human nature rather than any sort of consular knowledge, I think the short answer is probably that a greater percentage of the visitors and tourists That were there in October are no longer, there that that 16,000 number is is lower When it comes to the 6600 figure. Again, we don’t have perfect insight into it. But many of these individuals are likely to be dual. Us Ukrainian citizens, many of whom consider Ukraine to be to be home. The decision to leave for them may be more difficult than it would be for someone who was there for a a business opportunity or therefore tourism purposes. For example, Francesca. Tomorrow, the Secretary would talk to Foreign Minister Lavrov, Could you share your expectation about this call? I know that before previous engagements, you guys have said, we’re not expecting any breakthrough, but this time you have shared your written response. They’ve studied it. Everyone knows the other sides concerns, threats stakes. So what do you expect tomorrow’s make or break dialogue or is it not? Are you just trying to push the cannon? You can have the dialogue down the road to earn time. I would characterize it as the next step as the next step in the path of diplomacy and dialogue. And uh, the opportunity for the secretary and Foreign Minister to speak was something that the two individuals agreed to in Geneva the other week during that session, as you later heard from us, uh, we told the Russian Federation that are written response would be forthcoming imminently. Uh, and then it was agreed that at a date to be determined, the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State would have an opportunity to engage. And so that date has now arrived. It will be tomorrow morning. You have heard from the Kremlin um what to us is the key fact and the key reaction and that is that it is and has been on the desk of Vladimir Putin. And this goes back to Tamara’s question. Uh There is only one individual who from the Russian side can determine what Moscow does or does not do his reaction. His response is the response that matters most to us. We will have to see what the Foreign minister has to say in terms of conveying the official position or any initial reactions from the Kremlin to our written response. But that’s precisely why the Secretary is engaging in this conversation to hear uh initial reactions and again to share our concerns uh and to continue discussions around issues where there may be the potential for reciprocal progress, reciprocal in terms of improving um uh and addressing the security concerns of the United States, uh those we share with our European allies uh and partners. But then to determining if there are ways within the Venn diagram of issues that all of us believe may be viable to determine if there are ways to address some of Moscow’s stated concerns as well. President Macron just talked again today to President Putin the second time in like four days, isn’t it more effective to to to just talk to President Putin and skip the the the the the the the the other parts of the government since you say that he’s the only one who can decide well, as you know, we haven’t shut the door on engagement with President Putin. And quite to the contrary, the President was asked about this at his press conference and he said he would be amenable to another conversation with President Putin. But we are fortunate to um have a Secretary of State who was deeply engaged on this. Uh and the next conversation will be at that level. Yeah, President Zelensky keep saying that you guys are, you know, exaggerating and sowing panic and so on. If the Ukrainian ambassador today, Oxana Markova said basically the same thing. So why, why all this drumbeat? I mean if if there there if the Ukrainians are saying, look you’re exaggerating, there is no more and so on, but you keep saying that it is really eminent. Could you at least clarify this discrepancy this economy, You said you heard from the Ukrainian ambassador yesterday, the level of coordination between our two countries. The fact that we see eye to eye on on on many key issues are our point in all of this. And I think this speaks to what we’ve heard from some of our Ukrainian partners. Uh this is not about panic to the contrary, this is about prudent preparation. Everything you have heard from us is in the vein of prudent preparation whether that is in terms of fulfilling the Ukrainian government requests for significant amounts of defensive security assistance, which we’ve done to the tune of $650 million last year more than any administration has uh previously uh done uh whether it is in terms of authorizing as our Ukrainian partners have applauded other NATO allies to provide us origin equipment to the Ukrainians, whether it is what we have done in the context of uh NATO, both the contingency planning uh and the pledge to uh reinforce it and reassure NATO’s eastern flank. Uh None of this is an effort to uh so panic uh to make an invasion more likely into the contrary. All of this is an effort to deter ah and invasion and should Vladimir Putin determine to go forward regardless to ensure that defenses are appropriately reinforced equipments to Ukraine. So we announced a couple of weeks ago now that the president in December authorized an additional drawdown of $200 million. Several deliveries of that tranche of defensive security assistance has been delivered to Ukraine. Uh and there are more deliveries associated with that drawdown that will continue. Yes, yes. On sanctions and on possible new ambassador nomination to Ukraine, would you be able to confirm that ambassador Bridget bring his top choice for the nomination to be Ambassador to Ukraine? I am not in a position to confirm that as you know, nominations emanate from the White House. But the Secretary was asked about this when he was in Kiev the other day. And he did note that we expect a nomination to be forthcoming shortly uh second on on sanctions. Last Friday during the press conference, um President Zelensky asked publicly why the U. S. And partners are talking about possible sanctions in case Russia invaded. Why after why not now? He asked, would you be able to to elaborate on that? Sure. So, uh and this gets to the point I was I was just making our overriding goal in all of this is to resolve this crisis that Moscow has precipitated through dialogue and diplomacy. Our goal is to see to it that we need not enact sanctions because that means that the Russians won’t have moved forward with aggression. Our goal here is deterrence uh and a key point in all of this is that our sanctions, any sanctions package would lose its deterrent effect if it were to be put in place in advance of an invasion in advance of additional Russian aggression. That’s one point number two, we’ve heard from. We’ve heard the question as to why we don’t be more specific about the sanctions that we are preparing and have prepared with our allies and partners. Uh and that is equally simple. Uh It is not in our interest to telegraph our moves to allow the Russian federation to take steps that would mitigate the impact of these sanctions. Part of the deterrent effect of these uh sanctions is the fact that we have been very clear that these sanctions will be unprecedented, unprecedented in terms of uh their scope, in terms of uh their their scale, what they are and can inflict on uh the Russian Federation that they go after. Um Uh sectors that have strategic importance to the Russian Federation. And these are measures that were intentionally not pursued in 2014 because of their implications on the Russian Federation. So of course, these are not elements and these are not tools that we take lightly. But this would not be um anything further. Russian aggression would not be anything that we would seek to discount that we would seek to minimize. And so that is why you have heard us speak to uh the strength of the sanctions that would befall uh in a man in a manner that is swift, strong uh and sudden, Third point, the even as we uh put these measures in place, these measures that are designed to have a deterrent effect, we are moving forward across a range of actions to in the vein of defense and deterrence. I’ve already spoken of the defensive security assistance that we are providing to Ukraine the authorization for third countries to provide um US origin equipment to Ukraine. We’ve spoken of uh the economic assistance and support that we are looking with the support of Congress to provide Ukraine, we’ve spoken of what we are doing with NATO to reinforce and to reassure NATO’s eastern flank. Those are just some of the areas in which uh, well in advance of any potential Russian aggression, be it an invasion or something else from Moscow’s playbook. We’re moving full speed ahead. Full speed ahead to make sure that even as we continue to prefer this course of diplomacy and dialogue, we are ready with the path of defense and deterrence. If that’s the path we have to go down. One more question on sanctions. You mentioned Congress, there is an effort bipartisan effort in Congress to pass a new Russian sanctions bill. Um, the only contestant contestant issue is it seems like North Stream Two sanctions on North Stream to the administration’s support this effort for new sanctions bill. And do you have any new position on North Stream? So I will defer to Congress as this specific legislation moves through the process. You heard from Toria Nuland yesterday that we’ve been in regular touch with the hill on this legislation, we continue to be in close touch with them on everything pertaining to to Russia and Ukraine. But as this legislation moves to the process, I will defer to Um our counterparts on the hill and beyond what we’ve said last week that in the event of a Russian invasion, North Stream two won’t move will not move forward one way or another. Uh, that continues to be our position. That will be our position. Yes, John Today, Ambassador Thomas Greenfield said that the United States believes that Russia moved 5000 troops into Belarus and the United States has information and evidence that they believe that Russia is moving 30,000 troops to the Ukrainian border within a matter of days. It said early February. Um A U. S. Official said said that this uh comes from recently declassified U. S. Intelligence. Um Can you just get a little bit more information about how the United States knows this without getting into sources and methods? Uh as you know, the U. S. Does not have a flawless record when it comes to giving intelligence at the Security Council. I was just wondering if you could give us a little bit more background information on. So the short answer is that I’m not in a position to offer further details on the information that we have released precisely as you stated because some of it uh does come from the information that we’ve been able to appropriately declassify with adequate protection for sources and methods. So the amount of additional detail we can offer is limited. What I will say though is that uh we have since the earliest days of uh this crisis that Moscow has needlessly provoked been extraordinarily transparent. And I think your question speaks to the fact that we are not in some ways following the normal formula in how we talk about these things because we thought it was important early on to be clear and candid and consistent with the American people but also with the international community including our our allies and partners in europe, but also the Russian Federation to let them know uh and to leave no mistake that um ah we have taken note of what we initially called their unusual military movements and what we have since come to recognize as potential preparations for large scale action against Ukraine. The secretary, I spoke to this in November uh the concerns that we had at that time and since then we have been in a position to release additional detail to expose uh what the Russians had uh and are doing. Um uh and you’ve also seen our allies and partners do that as well. Our British counterparts of course released some information uh the um that was information that the British released. We have an incredibly close intelligence sharing relationship with the United Kingdom. It is true that we share an extraordinary amount of information with them. But the but the British government did release information pointing to uh what was characterized and what we assess as well uh to be uh preparations to install Kremlin loyalists in the event um uh that the uh in the event of Russian aggression. So that speaks to the fact that it is not just the United States Government sharing these concerns. And we have heard this from other governments that have declassified information but also from allies and partners around the world uh that have spoken not always in the term in terms of declassified information. Um but in terms that clearly are informed by information that is available to us collectively through all channels. Whether that is information that is non public. But again, john much of this is information that is crystal clear to the casual observer, The movement of 100,000 troops. Um the preparations that the Russian Federation is undertaking, you need not be sitting in Langley Virginia to know the import and to know um what that what that suggests. Uh and whether it’s commercial satellite imagery, whether it is social media, whether it is what the Russian government itself is saying, Even as it attempts to explain away the movement of 100,000 troops and tens of thousands of troops into Belarus, using whatever explanation is the explanation to your um these things can’t be disguised, these things can’t be obfuscated. Uh and so uh we are um going to extraordinary links to Um sign a spotlight on them in the vein, again, uh of prudent preparation, um prudent preparation for what we know the Russian Federation has done in the past, including in 2014. Uh and what we are deeply concerned, they may seek to do going forward. You’re feeling a credibility squeeze at all, just because obviously this is being contested by the Russians, but the intelligence is also being questioned by the Ukrainians as well. Uh so while neither are in Langley, uh they’re clearly on different sides of this conflict, john we are sharing information sharing intelligence with our Ukrainian partners. We do that as a routine matter with our European allies as well. I do not think that aside from a dissonant perspective in Moscow, a perspective that relies on propaganda disinformation. Aside from that perspective, I don’t think you hear um doubt about what the Russians are capable capable of and the concern that their military movements have engendered around the world. What’s the track record of Langley Virginia when you talk? I mean why do you what? You know? And I would also say what john Kerry brings up the, you know, the last time the US and the British tag team tag teamed on an intelligence intelligence reporting. Uh do you remember I’m old enough to remember what happened after that matt, If go ahead, you can answer that no, please go back to Langley because I’d like to know, I mean, how did how did they do on predicting, you know, Afghanistan and what would happen after the withdrawal of US troops? Matt, I think, you know, I know as someone who used to work there, that intelligence, it is um it is intelligence analysis analysis is based on the best available inputs uh and the number of challenges that our intelligence community has approached with precision in a way that has allowed policy makers to make informed decisions that have saved. American lives have advanced American interests have forestalled uh crises and challenges around the world. They are far greater than the episodes you may be referring to, I’m speaking to greater in terms of the number over time. Uh and the totality of the experience Both before 2003 and after 2003, I don’t speak for any institution but the State Department, but I can say as a historical matter, uh you have heard from intelligence community leaders and American leaders in the ensuing years of um uh steps that have uh taken place and corrective measures that were put into place after 2003, but clearly matt, this is not analogous. Uh and anyone who would seek to claim that clear indications of Russians amassing forces along Ukraine’s borders, Ukraine’s borders inside Belarus, the disinformation that they’re taking part in their the own their own contingency planning that is ongoing. Now, all of that speaks to uh the great concern we have, not only the concern we have, but that our allies and partners around the world share understandable, but you know, when you get things so catastrophically wrong in very high profile cases, it, you know, there isn’t, it stands to reason that people are going to question the analysis even when there are such obvious signs of something potentially imminent happened. Matt, I think you I think you just said it, there are obvious signs here for concern. Uh if uh perhaps you’re hearing things, I have not but I have not heard a informed observer or set of observers question why there is a need to be concerned Over 100,000 Russian troops encircling Ukraine on from Russia within Belarus uh for the clear propaganda disinformation that is emanating from Moscow that we have exposed here from the Department of State and the U. S. Government has done as well. If anyone uh not in Moscow wants to offer innocuous explanations for all of this, ignoring the history, ignoring what we’re seeing with our own very eyes. I think that would be a very difficult, difficult argument to make uh here conversations with Minsk over this build up in in Belarus. And I know you said last week that if an invasion was launched from Belarus, there would be consequences for the Belarusian government. But what what leverage do you actually have given, Lukashenka has not been deterred by any sanctions that we’ve seen even in the past year? Well, we have been very clear, including two Belarusian authorities directly, that if it allows its territory to be used for an attack on Ukraine, it would face a swift and decisive response from the United States and our allies and partners. You’re right that the regime in Minsk is subject already to us and international sanctions, but this would be um of a categorically uh different question. Um and we’ve spoken of uh the unprecedented nature of sanctions and other economic measures that would befall the Russian federation in the event of an invasion, uh war Belarus, uh what should be a sovereign independent country if that country were to support uh such an invasion. Our response would also be swift and decisive diplomatic channel between state and with the embassy there, we still we still have an embassy there. We have diplomats who are stationed there. We have um Ambassador Julie fisher, Julie fisher who’s in Vilnius. So we are still engaged diplomatically. There were reports over the weekend including today from a particular division within Russia’s armed forces that some troops have pulled back from the border areas a couple of 1000 according to the Southern Division. Have you seen any indications that some troops have actually departed? I am not immediately familiar with those reports. If we have anything to add on those reports, we will let you know, but I will say uh and you heard this again from Toria Nuland yesterday. Uh we have consistently called for de escalation for genuine indications of de escalation. Uh and we have broadly speaking not seeing that. It’s like actually thank you. First of all, there was a call today between Secretary Blinken President Mahmoud Abbas, can you confirm this? The Palestinians are saying that they discussed among many issues the issue of the consulate and the reopening of the concept. Could you confirm that to us? And then I have, I can confirm that the Secretary did have a call earlier today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as you know side. Uh We have prioritized reengagement with the Palestinian people and Palestinian authority. Uh This was an opportunity for the Secretary who has spoken to President Abbas on a number of occasions already to continue. Those conversations will have a written read out. But there was a discussion of the broad relationship as well as the need to improve quality of life for the Palestinian people in tangible ways, something that the United States and our international partners have supported in different ways. Uh They also discussed the need for reform within the Palestinian authority and Secretary Blinken made made the point that he consistently has and the point that really undergirds our approach here that our belief that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live with equal measures of security, freedom, prosperity uh and crucially dignity and that has really been at the center of of our approach um to the challenge. It may it may sound similar to that, but on the question that I just don’t have anything to add. Alright by the way, there was an amnesty international said that they are issuing Report tomorrow at 212 page report that calls Israel an appetite state. Do you have any comment on that very quickly? Have you, have you read the report, have you seen it? Have you seen I understand as you indicated that the report has not been released. So we’ll reserve official comments until we have an opportunity to see it, but as you know, side that is not language that we have used. Nor would we ever use if you allow me. I’m sorry. You know, I I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues and Israel is set to destroy the Palestinian a neighborhood reservoir that they use for drinking water. Are you aware of this issue? Would you call on these radios to sort of Mhm. To step back. We are aware of the issue you’ve heard us say and it applies equally here that we believe it is Israel critical for Israel and the P. A. To refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a two state solution. And my final question, I’m sorry just on the American citizen of America Assad who you know died in Israeli custody today they turned in the report I believe. Have did they share it with you? Did they share share the findings with you? And do you have any comments? Are you asking for to conduct your own investigation? And so as of earlier today, we had not yet seen a final report from the Israeli government. Uh you have heard me say this before but we continue to support uh an investigation that is thorough and comprehensive into the circumstances of the incident. And we welcome receiving additional information as soon as as soon as possible. Sure from sorry, great case, I will need to check on that because he was a resident of when he was in the states resident. I’ll check on that. Sure. President Biden just announced that he will notify Congress of his intent to designate Qatar as a major non NATO ally. What’s the importance of this? And is Qatar playing any role with Iran to free the American hostages hostages there or in bridging the gap between the two countries to rejoin the so on your question, the announcement that you reference takes place in the context of the visit of the Amir to the White House. Um This visit makes the Amir the first head of state to visit uh in this calendar year in 2022 the first gulf leader to visit Washington during this administration. I think that speaks to the bond we have with Qatar with Qatar. Uh it is a relationship that has never been stronger, thanks in large part to our extraordinary partnership across any number of challenges. And uh late last year we spent a great deal of time including from this podium speaking to the partnership and cooperation we have with Qatar and we still have with Qatar in the context of Afghanistan. And Qatar is extraordinary support hosting um uh individuals who had been evacuated from Afghanistan and still continuing to play an important role in our ongoing efforts to relocate uh individuals from Afghanistan. Whether they’re American citizens. Us citizens, whether their lawful permanent residents or whether they are afghans to whom we have a special uh commitment. Of course The relationship extends well beyond including in the security realm which speaks to the announcement that uh you just uh you just referenced when it comes to Iran. I don’t have anything to add in terms of a role, a Qatari role there beyond stating what you’ve heard from us before. And that is the release of the Americans and third country nationals who are being unjustly detained in Iran is a top priority for the United States. It is a priority that we raise in no uncertain terms that every possible opportunity. It’s something that special envoy, Malley Ambassador Carson’s uh they’re full teams are are focused on as we continue negotiations in Vienna with the J. C. P. O. A. Omani Foreign Minister has visited Syria today. Do you have anything on this? I don’t have anything specific on that. Um You know, uh Michelle are um uh where we fall in terms of the Assad regime uh and uh the atrocities that the regime has perpetrated against its own people. We continue to believe that now is not the time for normalization now continues to be the time uh for accountability for the atrocities of the regime. And my last one on Lebanon, the United States, as reports said, Plans to read out $67 million dollars of military assistance for Lebanon’s armed forces to support members of the military and you know, you send a notification to the Congress. Is it accurate? And do you have anything I can confirm that the administration has notified Congress of the intent to provide additional support for the Lebanese armed forces as they respond to a wide range of security, economic and public health challenges currently facing the country. We want to ensure that the Lebanese armed forces is able to carry out its duties and functions including the ability to defend Lebanon’s territorial integrity, provide internal security and preserve stability. Since 2006 U. S. Investments of more than $2.5 billion in the Lebanese armed forces have enabled the Lebanese military to contribute to the degradation of the of ISIS in Lebanon to carry out operations against Al Qaeda and to expand control over Lebanese territory along its border with Syria over the last two years. Moreover, the Lebanese armed forces have also been at the forefront of responding to the various crises that are affecting the state of Lebanon and the Lebanese people As demonstrated in in its support of the emergency response to the Beirut Port Blast in August of 2020 and of course, to its response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Lebanon as well. My understanding of it is that you’re moving 67 million from the military to the military. It’s not additional and in fact it really means kind of nothing because it’s gonna you’re just, well, I’m not in a position to provide additional details at this time, we’re continuing to have consultations with the hill on this. But as soon as we have more additional details more more more more in that region. I know that you tweeted about this last night. But I just you know in terms of this the Houthi missile attempted missile attack on on the one. Do you do you have any reason to believe that it was specifically time to the visit of the Israeli president? And secondly, you know what what is it gonna take for you guys to step up your pressure on the Hootie’s? And I’m not just talking about with paper designation of a an FTo designation but you know, what do they have to do before you realize that or before you before you take action significant action against them and their pro and the people who they are serve as proxies? Well, I would be interested in hearing your your definition of significant action and how that compares to the actions that we’ve consistently taken in terms of designations, in terms of in terms of interdictions in terms of working with the international community uh to shine a spotlight on the Houthis uh conduct to uh ensure accountability um for their continued attacks, including their continued attacks against our partners in the region that includes Saudi Arabia but also the U. A. E. And you referenced uh the attack over the weekend in terms of motivation. I can’t point to a motivation specifically beyond the fact that of course this is not the first time that the U. A. E. And Abu Dhabi has endured and attempted Houthi attack. Um uh This is a challenge that we are very focused on were very focused on it in terms of uh providing support that our partners Saudi Arabia and the U. A. E. Need to defend themselves against these types of terrorist attacks. But also pursuing those who the leaders with appropriate authorities and tools uh that um will hold them accountable, will constrain their ability to engage in this type of reprehensible behavior. And that even as we do all that seeking with the Saudis with other regional partners of course with the U. N. Special envoy to find a diplomatic solution to uh the conflict in Yemen. This is a conflict that the Houthis have been able to leverage to their advantage. Uh And the sooner we can find a means by which to bring about a diplomatic solution here in Yemen. Uh we will be better positioned across across all of these challenges duties have managed to leverage it to their advantage. Well the vacuum that has existed. The power vacuum that in some ways has existed in Yemen since um 2015 has. Do you think that US policy has played any role in the what you’re saying now is that this is a conflict that the Houthis have minutes to leverage to their advantage. And what I can tell you is that U. S. Policy now is focused on finding a diplomatic solution to this. Not only to bring about greater levels of stability and security in Yemen but also to put an end to or to alleviate the humanitarian emergency That is afflicting Millions of Yemenis. 16 million Yemenis I believe are suffering from food insecurity at the moment. Part of that is due to longstanding factors, but part of that is due to what we are seeing on the ground in terms of these Houthi offenses. So for us this is a question of international peace and security. It’s a question of grave humanitarian concern and it’s a question that we’re intently focused on diplomatically. The host is on the list of we we discussed it last week that we discussed it in this room I should say last week the president has noted that um uh it is a tool that is under review. I don’t have any update to to add to that. Very quick final question, We get North Korea launched its longest range ballistic missiles since 2017 With each launch that we’ve seen this year, the 7th. Now you guys have issued the same statement condemning it, calling them to talk, saying that you’re you know, ironclad with your allies. Are you increasingly alarmed at all about these this spate of missile launches now? Well we’ve made no secret about our concern and the concern that we have for what we’ve seen emanate from the Dprk. It’s a concern we share with our allies in the indo pacific Japan and South Korea in addition to our allies uh and partners around the globe, of course, the DpRK s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program. This is a challenge that is longstanding. It is a challenge that has vexed um successive administrations. We have developed an approach that at its center um seeks to find a diplomatic means by which to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Uh It’s a challenge and an approach that we continue to uh speak about with our allies, including especially our allies in the region. But even as we seek to find ways to address this challenge diplomatically, we’re moving forward with different steps to hold uh the Dprk responsible and accountable and this month alone we impose sanctions on eight DpRK linked individuals and entities. Uh these are individuals and entities that supported the Dprk has weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile related programs. We are continuing to discuss uh this challenge in the U. N. As well, Burkina Faso, we’re a week out from the military season Power, would you now at this point in time call it a coup. And if not why not? Is a coup assessment underway? Well, we are evaluating the impact of these actions on our engagement with uh and our engagement in the country and our engagement with authorities in Burkina faso. Um it’s too soon for us to get into the specifics of that. but we have called for restraint by all actors as we carefully review the events on the ground for any potential impact on our assistance. What I can see now is that we have paused most assistance for the government of Burkina Faso as we continue to monitor the situation. Thank you all very much.

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