Department of State Daily Press Briefing – May 25, 2022
Good afternoon everyone. Mhm. Before I get to your questions, I’d like to take just a moment to highlight an initiative that illustrates the U. S. Commitment to pursuing accountability for war crimes and other atrocities committed by members of Russia’s forces in Ukraine. Using every tool we have available earlier today with our European and UK partners, we announced the launch of the atrocity crimes advisory group for Ukraine or the A. C. A. This multilateral initiative directly supports ongoing efforts by the war crimes units of the office of the prosecutor general of Ukraine. The O. P. G. To document preserve, analyze evidence of war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine. With a view to criminal prosecutions. As the secretary said in a statement earlier today, evidence continues to mount of war crimes and other atrocities committed by members of Russia’s forces in Ukraine. In addition to continue bombardments and missile strikes hitting densely populated areas, causing thousands of civilian deaths. We continue to see credible reports of violence of a different order unarmed civilians shot in the back, individuals killed execution style with their hands bound bodies showing signs of torture and horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and girls. The establishment of this multilateral accountability effort therefore comes at a critical time. The A. C. A. Will provide strategic advice and operational assistance to the war crimes unit of the O. P. G. The legally constituted authority responsible for for prosecuting war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. The A. C. A. Will reinforce and help coordinate existing US EU and UK efforts to support justice and accountability for atrocity crimes, it will demonstrate our international solidarity with Ukraine as it seeks to hold. Russia accountable. Although the United States and our partners are supporting a range of international efforts to pursue accountability for atrocities. The O P. G. Will play a crucial role in ensuring that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities are held accountable at the domestic level. The A. C. A. Is an essential element of the United States commitment to seeing that those responsible for such crimes are held to account with that. Happy to take your questions about Ukraine. The Ukraine has voiced Russia said it’s going to make it easier for people in parts of Ukraine that are under Russian control to obtain Russian citizenship in the United States have a view on that. We certainly have a view on some of the horrific tactics that the Russian Russian federation has employed in parts of Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine where its forces are present. We have seen Russian forces uh forcibly remove individuals from occupied territory. We have seen Russia’s forces transport Ukrainians to the so called filtration camps. We have seen Russia’s forces attempts through other ways to subjugate otherwise subdue the Ukrainian people in these areas. So to the extent that this is uh an effort that is only loosely disguised as an element of Russia’s attempt to subjugate the people of Ukraine to impose their will by force. That is something that we would forcefully reject. It is not entirely unlike Russia’s attempts to manufacture these fake referenda referenda that are designed to offer the veneer of legitimacy to Russian rule over parts of what is sovereign Ukrainian territory referenda where Russian backed officials tend to Somehow a crew 90-plus 99% of the vote. It is a tactic that Russia’s forces. The Russian Federation have used In different contexts before in Crimea and 2014 in Chechnya more recently, our concerns that were voiced with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in this phase, including in places like Carson, you know, shooting people in the back and things like this tied behind their hands. Is that a new thing or is that the massacre you’re looking into? Old stuff are all lumped together. The reference that the Secretary made in his statement today, and the reference I made at the top of course includes Buka. But we have seen reports of these types of summary executions in places well beyond Buka, as the Secretary speaks to this as he has talked about it, he has described a receding tide, a receding tide of brutality. And when Russia’s forces leave a city, a town, a place like Buka in the coming days, a place like Mary and Paul, what we have found in its wake are additional reports of these types of atrocities? Okay, and the A. C. A. Is it going to be something akin or parallel to the I. C. C. For instance, how would it conducts its work? So what the A. C. What the A. C. A. Does is bring together multinational experts to provide strategic advice, operational assistance and capacity building and including technical capacity building in areas such as crime scene and forensic investigations, the drafting of indictments, the collection, preservation of evidence, operational analysis, uh The investigation of conflict related violence including sexual violence in cooperation with international and national accountability mechanisms. It uh specifically into includes two key elements. The first is an advisory group to the O. P. G. The office of the prosecutor general made up of experienced war crimes war crimes prosecutors, investigators and other specialists based in the region to provide expertise, mentoring advice and operational support to the O. P. G. Uh And the second component is something known as MGM GTs or mobile justice teams composed of both international and Ukrainian experts. Uh These experts will be deployed at the request of the O. P. G. To increase the capacity of the war crimes unit in regional prosecutors to assist the investigation on the on the ground. We said this before, but the reason we’re focusing at least in the first instance, our efforts on the office of the prosecutor general and her war crimes unit is precisely because they have the capacity they have the determination and importantly they have the jurisdiction to bring these cases to trial, including criminal prosecutions, one of which we have already seen result in a guilty plea Simon government officials who will be working in those mobile justice team right now, these are non official American experts individual who bring expertise knowledge and know how as well as experience in all of these areas. So those are civilians but but they will travel into Ukraine as as as part of the mobile justice teams. There will be international experts who will be on the ground at the disposal of the Ukrainian prosecutor general and her team whose expertise and can be deployed as appropriate. Yes, able to advice to investigate, put it uh the A. C. A. Is focused on uh war crimes and potential war crimes in Ukraine. So they will be looking at reports, reports that may well entail much more than reports and could constitute evidence of war crimes. Now of course in the first instance there are going to look to criminally prosecute those who are in Ukraine as is the case now with the Russian soldier who has recently undergone trial. But we’ve made the point clear that under international humanitarian law, it’s not only the individual that pulls the trigger or conducts the war crime on the ground, but it is anyone in the chain of command who was winning and part of a war crime. And so that’s something that more broadly we will look to as well. I’m sorry, I missed the top. I’m beginning to think there might be something of a conspiracy with no two minute warning or at least I didn’t hear if there was one. So anyway, I apologize, I will just I will make the point that everyone else was here on time. Okay, well I apologize for missing the very top and I hope that you’re prepared to answer this question and I want to preface it by saying, I am not suggesting that it is a waste of time or money to investigate war crimes allegations at all wherever they take place or if it’s in Burma, whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Afghanistan, whether it’s in the West Bank, whether it is in Ukraine or Syria, I that’s fun. But since the President President Biden first said that he believed war crimes were being committed by Russia and Ukraine, there have been by my count and correct me correct me if I’m wrong at least three different initiatives that the United States has either begun launched or taken part of to investigate war crimes in in allegations in Ukraine. This latest one says in the joint statement says it seeks to streamline coordination and communications efforts to ensure best practices and most critically avoid duplication of efforts. Now less or just a week ago, like eight days ago, you guys announced that there was this creation with $6 million dollars of this new observe conflict observatory which is basically going to do the same thing as what this a c a thing is unless you can tell me that I’m wrong and that it doesn’t, but you had already when but even before that, after the President’s comments, when the secretary made his announcement that he had concluded that war crimes were being committed, you guys had also pledged additional funds to N G O investigators who were going to be in the region, maybe not necessarily in Ukraine, but traveling in and collecting evidence and sharing it with the I C C. And others. So this the latest thing which you know, I’m sure that there’s you know, it’s being done with good intentions but how is it not duplicating efforts that you guys have are already spending millions of dollars on if your point matt is that we are heavily in point. I just want to know how this is not duplicative of of the other 3 to 2 at least two and maybe three initiatives that you guys are already doing well. The the premise of your point or perhaps your question seems to be that were heavily invested in this. We absolutely are, we are committed to working with Ukrainian prosecutor general and her team to see to it that we can do everything we can to be helpful in the effort to bring to justice those who are responsible for war crimes. You raised a few different mechanisms. Let me see if I can offer some clarity on that you are correct that we did launch something called the observatory in recent weeks, that is last week. That is separate and distinct from this new mechanism. The observatory is a consortium working with by the way, some of the same partners who are involved in this, but for a very different purpose, it is not to provide the sort of technical expertise, technical analysis, the writing of indictments, the forensics, the investigation on the ground of potential war crimes. The observatory is a hub to collect open source potential evidence pointing to war crimes not only for authorities in vari various jurisdictions, but for the public, including to continue to shine a spotlight on what are clearly atrocities and apparent war crimes that are ongoing in Ukraine. This, as I alluded to a moment ago is quite separate. There is, as I said, two elements to this. There is an advisory group that is made up of war crimes prosecutors, investigators, other specialists to provide expertise, mentoring advice, operational support, the kind of tactical operational support that you’re not going to see from the observatory. The writing of an indictment, for example, the forensics investigation. And then of course the observatory does a a service by publishing open source information. But what the A. C. A. Does is it helps our Ukrainian partners actually collect that evidence actually on the ground with mobile justice teams composed of international and Ukrainian experts to be deployed to augment the capacity of the Ukrainian prosecutor general. You are also right that we have funded various operational partners. Again, some of whom are have been recipients of that funding that we talked about and who are involved in both the observatory and the A. C. A. So when we talk about deconfliction and the avoidance of duplication, that is absolutely a goal of the A. C. A. That’s part of the reason why we’re working with the U. K. And the EU bringing to bear this technical expertise, this technical know how in this technical capacity so that together with some of our closest partners, we can help direct it precisely where the Ukrainian prosecutor general and her teammate, maybe we can get someone in here to explain to me exactly how these aren’t duplicated because I don’t get it and what you I don’t think your response has cleared it up. Maybe it has for others but not for me. So perhaps we could have a conversation with someone who’s actually, you know, directly. So anyway, how much is this A. C. A gonna cost? This is something that we’ve we’ve just launched today. We we don’t have a specific figures to release but we’re working with Congress to allocate additional assistance funds that will continue to support the important work that’s being undertaken. And then the last one on this is that you have a pretty scene. I don’t know if this was at the top that I missed but you have some senior officials who are in the Hague today we are finishing their trip today. Did you get into that? Oh is that not part of this? It is it is separate. Well they seem to talk about of course, statement about their visit says that they were talking about the European democratic resilience initiative, which is the same thing that the visitor going on for the the visit is not linked to the launch precisely. Alright. So does it have anything to do with more cooperation or increasing cooperation with the I. C. C. And the visit? And the visit has to do again with our support for the announcement of the fact that we welcomed the announcement by the I. C. C. Prosecutor general. Looking into the situation in Ukraine. Again, we have said that we are willing to assist the efforts of all of those mechanisms that have the potential to bring to justice to hold accountable those who are responsible for war crimes in Ukraine in the first instance. As I just said, it’s it’s some length we’re focused on the Ukrainian prosecutor general and her team precisely because they have the determination the know how and importantly the jurisdiction to do just that which they’ve already proven in at least one case. But there’s the Moscow mechanism. There’s a commission of Inquiry through the Human Rights Council that we helped to establish and there’s the I. C. C who’s announcement we did welcome when it came about. Just to just to put a fine point on it. They didn’t go there to say we’re going to do more to help you, we’re just going to continue what we’ve already I don’t have conversations to read out. Of course, the visit is ongoing, but we have said that we are prepared to work with the appropriate mechanisms in the pursuit of justice in Ukraine zero. Sure will be involved in investigating war crimes elsewhere. Or is it all the distinct about Ukraine? This is focused on Ukraine Price. As you know, the Taliban recent decision ordered all women during the program programming and tv use mask. It’s too difficult. I don’t know. The United States has some reaction to them and what their expectations, what they want from the United States and international community because it’s really tough decisions every day. They create a new regulation for women. Number two. Can you update me about about refugee number, how many came since august 15 and how many expected to come to the United States? Please thank you, thank you for that. You you raised the most recent set of restrictions and it’s important that we dwell on the fact that it’s only the most recent because these restrictions do come in the context of a number of restrictions that the Taliban has imposed on women and girls inside of Afghanistan, including the continuing ban on girls, secondary access to access to secondary education and work restrictions on freedom of movement uh and the targeting of peaceful protesters. We have said, I think I’ve said this to you that the Taliban’s policies towards women and girls, they’re affront to human rights. They will continue to negatively impact the relationship that the Taliban has uh and potentially hopes to have not only with the United States but with the rest of the world. We are discussing this with our with other countries with our allies and partners. You may have seen the joint statements that came out of the G seven, also, the joint press statement out of the U. N. Security Council, uh the legitimacy that support the Taliban seeks from the international community. It depends on their conduct, including and centrally their respect for the rights of women. When it comes to the public and private commitments that the Taliban have made, they have made a number of them uh including their counterterrorism commitments uh including uh there uh pledge to respect and to uphold the human rights of women girls, Afghanistan’s minorities, including access uh the freedom of access, freedom of travel for those who wish to leave Afghanistan. Uh And when it comes to uh Isis K uh and Al Qaeda, of course, the Taliban has not been living up to the commitment it has made in the realm of human rights in the realm of what it is pledged to the women and girls of Afghanistan. Uh It is not just the United States that has taken note, but it is a number of countries around the world, including multilateral organizations including the U. N. That have also taken note and of course that will have implications for the world’s relationship with the Taliban going forward. Number two dominate refugee expected to come to the United. I don’t have an updated refugee figure to offer, but we can get back to you on that. Yes. Internet on North Korea and the PLC. So could you give us your reaction to the ballistic missile test yesterday? Is there any indication of another nuclear test and on the PLC? Could you help us understand what would be the main focus of the Secretary’s policy speech tomorrow? So on the missile launches that we’ve seen overnight, we condemn the DPRK s multiple ballistic missile launches that took place last night Eastern time. Uh These launches are a violation of multiple U. N. Security council uh resolutions uh and they are a threat to the region, a threat to its peace and stability. We call on the DPRK to refrain from further provocation and to engage in sustained dialogue. Our commitment to the defense of the rok into Japan is ironclad. That was a message that Secretary Blinken delivered to his Japanese and South Korean counterparts shortly after the most recent launches last night. Secretary Austin also spoke to his counterparts. This of course came on the heels of President Biden’s meeting with his Japanese and rok counterparts in Tokyo and uh South Korea. It is a testament we think to the strength of our alliances with the Rok and Japan uh that we had this close coordination at multiple levels and multiple principles in the immediate aftermath of the launches of these ballistic missiles. Uh in the Secretary’s call last night calls last night, all three officials strongly condemned the DPRK s ballistic missile launches as a clear violation of multiple U. N. Security Council resolutions. The Secretary noted our commitment to the defense of our treaty allies and affirm the importance of continued close trilateral cooperation on the threat that is posed by the DPRK and towards the objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We know that the DPRK is ongoing provocations pose a threat to the region, pose a threat to all of us and it’s incumbent on the international community to join us in condemning the DPRK is flagrant and repeated violations of these multiple U. N. Security Council resolutions in to uphold their obligations under all relevant un Security Council resolutions when it comes to the Secretary’s speech tomorrow, of course, I want to allow the Secretary to deliver that speech before we go too far into detail, but he will deliver remarks at the Asia at the George Washington University in a speech that is being hosted by the Asia Society. He will outline our approach to the people’s Republic of china. I think you will hear from the Secretary the fact that this relationship is one that Will and has the potential to contour the international landscape for the next 10 years will in many ways be the decisive decade in the competition between the United States and China. That’s why even as we’re focused together with our allies and partner partners on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, we’ve continued our focus on the long term challenge of the PRC and that’s what the Secretary will detail tomorrow how we’re going to and how we have pursued that. I will thank you. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Rudenko said today that that he would support helping Ukrainian grain and other grain get out of the Black Sea today in exchange for the lifting of sanctions on Russian exports and financial industry. So I’m wondering if the US supports that, given that, you know, it as many of us thought that negotiations that the U. N. Was leading, we’re looking for some sort of sanctions carve out or sanctions exemption on fertilizers and food. Well, first and foremost, we continue our close cooperation with our Ukrainian partners. What we said in the lead up to the invasion is true. Now, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine, you have heard from Russian officials a series of lies, a series of disinformation um regarding the issue of food security and the global food supply despite those claims, US sanctions are not causing disruptions to Russia’s agricultural exports. The fact is that US sanctions were specifically designed to allow for the export of agricultural commodities and fertilizer from Russia. So we certainly won’t lift our sanctions in response to empty promises. And we’ve heard empty promises before from the Russian Federation. I think we have all have good reason to be skeptical. When we hear various pledges and offers from Russia. This was the same country, of course, that for months maintained that it had no intention of invading its neighbor uh, and taking on this brutal war. So we’ll continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners on this matter. Just as we have since Russia initiated its unjustified and appalling further invasion of Ukraine. It is Russia that continues to destabilize global uh, food markets through its war, through its self imposed export restrictions, which have raised the cost of food around the globe. You heard from the secretary this message last week, but we find it appalling that Russia would seek to weaponize food and energy to try to bring the world to hell. Uh, we have never sanctioned food. We have never sanctioned agricultural goods from Russia. Unlike Russia, we have no interest in weaponizing food against the needy. Are non food sanctions will remain in place until Putin stops this brutal war against Ukraine sovereignty. Ah, and we know that the, the quickest solution to the rising commodity prices, the rising food prices, that have had implications around the world is for the Russians to cease this brutal war for Russia to stop blockading Ukraine’s ports for Russia to stop targeting grain silos, to stop targeting grain ships uh and to bring this violence uh to a close. So we are working along multiple lines of effort together with our allies and partners. You heard about a number of those from the secretary last week in his remarks at the ministerial in in the U. N. Security Council. But the bottom line is that there is one country that is fully capable of putting it into this crisis and that’s Russia. Yes. The New York Times today said the divided administration has accelerated its efforts to reshape Taiwan’s defense systems and that U. S. Officials are taking lessons learned from arming Ukraine. Could you describe what some of those lessons are and how they relate to arming Taiwan? Well, you’ve heard us talk about the Taiwan Relations Act and the Taiwan relations Act stipulates that we have an obligation to make available to Taiwan Defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self defense capability with in recent years, the United States has notified Congress of Over $18 billion we have encouraged the our partners on Taiwan to uh to push forward with an asymmetric strategy. Knowing that an asymmetric strategy and asymmetric model i has will be the most effective uh for them. Should it be necessary? We are in regular routine conversations with them about the best systems. The best capabilities to pursue that strategy. Uh And we will continue to consult with Congress as we move forward with other potential potential sales. Yes, thank you on the Palestinian issue. Okay. Um you know not only major American news organizations such as Ap and CNN have basically laid out almost clear and clear evidence that those ratings were behind the killing machine boxes, but also major European like France 24 D. P. I you know many others and so on. My question to you, I know you want, you know transparent and thorough investigation and so on. And I’m sure you guys probably have the best investigative assets anywhere in the world. Will they announced that pursue its own investigators to determine whether these reports by respectable news agencies and companies and so on are authentic or or right on target side. We have made clear to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities that we expect the investigations to be transparent uh and impartial uh full thorough accounting into the circumstances of the killing of Serena Bhalakula. We do expect full accountability for those responsible for her killing. Again, we are not going to prejudge that investigation. Both investigations are ongoing. We have conveyed to our partners that we do expect to be updated on the status of their investigations. But in the end we want to see accountability. Should there be a time limit on the investigation because I mean, you know, Israel’s record is abysmal in this in this regard. They can, it can drag on and on and on, should there be like a time limit? So we expect that you guys would be done with what you are doing by such and such date. We’re not going to impose a specific deadline but these investigations need to be conducted, need to be concluded as rapidly as possible. Look, yesterday I asked you if you were aware of an offer at least from the Israelis for the us to participate in or to be an observer in their investment and you said you weren’t aware of that, Is that still the case? Okay. And then you have another question, I have another one on this too and that is the fact that you left out the word immediately what you talked about the investigations are ongoing. You said yesterday, you said you wanted an immediate, so immediate meant the start of the investigation like immediately after the incident happened. It doesn’t mean immediate like you want it done is, But of course as I just said to side, we want to see the investigations concluded, Why did, why did immediate drop out of the talking point today? You just skip over. There has been, there has been no change in our policy. Yes, I just yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of the blockade on Gaza and there is a a very tight our actually potentially disastrous situation in terms of greens and so on. All factories have stopped and so isn’t it time to really lift the blockade on Gaza? It’s layer after layer of block kids. You know that Israel is the Egyptian, you mean everybody’s blockade in Gaza, Don’t you think that the time has come to lift these blockades side? We have made clear that obviously we have concern for the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza. It’s precisely why we have taken a series of steps to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. Yes, don’t really address from the podium but the situation in your home state, the tragedy and in Texas with the shooting as it relates to foreign affairs. Your counterpart in Beijing today mentioned it and said that it’s unacceptable that the U. S. Hasn’t addressed gun violence saying it’s hypocritical for the us to be raising human rights with china when when this goes on. Um do you have any response to that? Do you think it’s fair game for Beijing to raise this? I I don’t have a direct response to it. Um Perhaps I can get to it in a in a roundabout way. Um you know the toll of of watching this even even for those of us who are in mesh day today in in foreign policy has been you know a real punch to the gut and it’s been a punch that has landed on what is in many ways a bruise that hasn’t healed from just the other day. What we saw in in Buffalo? It is a toll that um it’s a, it’s a devastating human toll. But of course it, it has implications for our work here at the department as well. And as I thought about it, I’ve, um, I couldn’t help but focus on President Biden’s conception of American leadership. Um, he’s made the point that it is not the example of our power. It’s the power of example, uh, that at our best we use to lead. Um, we do so when we’re at our best, the fact is that what happens in this country is, is magnified on the world stage and countries around the world, people around the world are going to fixate on what transpires here oftentimes out of Indy. But again, that’s when we’re at our best and that’s what we want. We’ve been a city on a city on a hill, The last best hope shining beacon to the world. Um, and again, when we’re at our best, that example is one that countries around the world would seek to emulate. But the opposite is also true can also be true. We have the potential to set an example for the world that no country would wish to emulate. Uh, and rather than be an object of envy. Uh, we have the potential to be a source of confusion, a source of disbelief for our closest friends and allies worse yet and an object of pity or in the case of competitors and adversaries a source of a source of short in Florida source source of in some cases, uh, gli uh, so the the power of our example has the potential to be our greatest asset on days like today. However, it’s it’s that example, uh, an example that the world is clearly watching that will have implications for our standing. And we’re very mindful of that like me at this point. I mean, it really is heartbreaking. And I just want to remind everybody since columbine in 1999, Upward of 300,000 Americans have been hit by gunfire. I mean, this this this year alone, this is the 27th mass shooting last year, 42 mass shootings. We all have kids and grandkids in my case. I mean, you talk about genocide. Isn’t this considered a genocide? If you look at it in this kind of perspective in this context for which perhaps the gun lobby ought to be at least partially held responsible side, genocide has a very specific definition. So, of course, I’m not going to weigh in on that. But but you you you you you don’t have to tell me. And I will just say, on a, on a personal level, uh, you know, I was the age of the kids at columbine in 1999 when they were targeted In Littleton. And now that we’re nearly 25 years beyond that. And there are kids In elementary schools, uh, much younger than me who have been targeted, uh, on a mass scale twice in the past 10 years. Um, it’s not lost on me. I don’t think it’s it’s lost on anyone other than what Sean mentioned about the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. Are you aware of instances in which rivals and adversaries have taken what you you said the word ugly or use the derision maybe in comments, derisive comments. And has this come up with we in the aftermath of events like this, we often do receive formal notes of condolence from from other governments. I am I am not aware of of other instances of that, but I have every expectation that my colleagues around the world who are posted in embassies, um, and and posts around the world are hearing directly from their counterparts. Again, I think it’s probably a mixture of condolence confusion of, of disbelief, how something like this could continue to happen, but but also importantly, um, a an air of regret. Uh, you know, our friends and allies around the world want us to be that beacon. They want us to be that objective of envy. Uh, and when we give the world a reason to pity or two to change that assessment of us, it is not only not in our interests and not only has a cost for us, but it has a cost for them to do that. Us officials of what the administration is found to be particularly offensive in comments from foreign governments and I’m not, I’ve heard limited public comments and that eye on Iran, I asked you this question yesterday but it looks like Israel and members of Congress today have welcome the administration commitment not to d enlist the Irgc. Is there any official or public commitment that you can announce today in this regard? Other than the reports from yesterday? I’m not in a position to speak to the details of our of our negotiations. You’ve heard us say before that we’re not going to negotiate these issues in in public. Um but what I what I will say and special envoy molly mentioned this in his opening statement earlier today. If Iran maintains demands that go beyond the scope of the J. C. P. O. A will continue to reject them. Uh and there will be no deal. The discussions in Vienna are focused on the nuclear element, the J. C. P. O. A itself. That is what we have spent more than a year now negotiating indirectly with the Iranians. The two sides of this one, the sanctions relief that we are prepared to take. Should there be a mutual return to compliance with the J. C. P. O. A. And on the other hand, the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take if there were a mutual return to compliance, the nuclear steps that would see to it that Iran is once again permanently and verifiably prohibited from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And on other topic. Special presidential envoy for hostage affairs has met with General Abbas on Monday Abbas Ibrahim and discussed U. S. Citizens who are missing or detained in Syria as a State Department spokesperson has said, what role did the US ask General Brahmi To play in this regard? Well, as you alluded to, I can confirm that Roger Carstens are special presidential envoy for hostage affairs did meet with General Abbas Ibrahim on May 23 to discuss US citizens who are missing or detained in Syria. Um You won’t be surprised Michelle to to know that we are not going to comment on the specifics of those uh discussions beyond restating the fact that we have no higher priority than seeing the safe release of Americans who are wrongfully detained or held hostage anywhere around the world. Of course. We talked about the case of Austin Tice yesterday, An American who has been uh Who has been separated from his family for nearly 10 years, who has spent a quarter of his life uh separated from his family. He is always top of mind. The other Americans who are detained in places like Iran and Russia and Afghanistan and Venezuela and elsewhere are always top of mind for us. Do you have any information that he is still alive and what do you expect from general Ibrahim to do after this visit. It is our goal to see Austin safely returned to his family so that he can once again give them a hug he can be with him for the first time Uh in 10 years? That is what we’re working towards. Yes, Shannon this morning we did hear a commitment from the State Department that should a deal be reached with Iran that it would be submitted to Congress for approval. Now, that’s something of a departure from what Secretary Blinken said just last month. Can you explain the change? There’s been no change. What we have always said is that we would follow the law. We would follow a Nora. Uh and what special envoy molly clarified today is that we would submit pursuant to an aura for congressional approval a deal if we were to reach it. But the secretary did say that he would submit it to the lawyers. Civil lawyers make that determination. Of course, we’re going to consult closely with uh with lawyers to determine what the law with the general, what the law actually stipulates uh in this case. And pursuant to an aura, it is our intention to submit it for congressional review. If uh and it’s a big if there is a mutual return to compliance with the J. C. P. O. A. So you’re going to submit it to the lawyers first. So you if if if and it’s a big if you get a deal. No, I I just said we will submit it to Congress for review, pursuant to the lawyers to see what requires. Is that your is that the administration’s belief that simply rejoining the 2015 deal does not constitute a new deal and that there therefore doesn’t need to be submitted to review. It can be given to the Congress so they can take a look at. But it isn’t subject to the delays that Nora you know, there’s there’s a time period here that that will need to be overcome to get it done quickly if you are to get back into one. So are you saying that it will go through the whole thing the whole in our thing. Regardless, you you heard from special envoy Malley this morning that is our intention to submit the deal to Congress for review if we are able to get there. So that means that the administration believes that even if the deal that might you that you might get is simply a rejoining of the 20 of the J. C. P. O. A. As it existed in 2015. That means that you will still submit the administration still believes that that it should and will submit it is our intention to submit it to Congress for review. Yes. The Noble Peace Prize winner will be I believe it’s already at the State Department is gonna meet with Deputy Secretary Down three increasingly Russian journalists back at home and abroad are under pressure. Most recently we had two reporters got charged or I believe disseminating quote unquote fake news um and separately but not unrelated Duma recently passed another legislation going after English speaking language media um, too easy up, you know, prosecutions against them without any court order. Um, meeting with muratovic Bombay to express your support. But can you be more specific, how are you going to support both Russian journalists and foreign media um, at home and abroad who are trying to be truth tellers in this crucial time? Yes. Uh, so importantly, one of the elements of that is to stand in solidarity with those Russian journalists, many of whom are inside Russia operating under what even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have been described as incredibly difficult. Now, of course, President Putin’s efforts to manipulate even further uh, the information environment to suppress the truth to keep from his people the true motivations, the true costs, the true consequences of this war have made the operating environment for journalists in Russia even more difficult. And of course, the Duma has done its part. Um, the sentencing, the potential for jail terms for anyone who would dare call this war, anything other than the benign sounding special military operation we have seen Russian media outlets have to shutter their operations. We have seen journalists forced to flee Russia. We have also seen and you referenced a couple of cases. Journalists who have been thrown behind bars uh, for their persistence in doing nothing but uh, peacefully continuing to perform their indispensable function a function that is indispensable inside Russia and a function that is indispensable for those of us living and viewing this from from afar, it is our goal to do everything we can responsibly to see to it that the information environment in Russia is not further constraint. That’s precisely why we have urged stakeholders around the world not to enact so called internet blackouts on Russia to keep information flowing to Russia, to keep the internet free and open and interoperable within Russia itself. Now, of course, this is very challenging for for any country to do given uh the fact that the Kremlin really does have a tight grip on the information flow. Um but we will continue to do what we can to support Russian journalists, to support Russian media organizations that are attempting to do their work, whether they are now located outside of Russia or to those who are remaining inside Russia. Another Russian question. One more question, Yeah. On cybersecurity, you expressed previously your concerns about Russia’s cyber activities. Um there are signals most recently coming from Moscow and National Security Council Deputy Secretary Karimov send out a message saying that they are planning to put together agreements between Russia and a number of countries such as Serbia. Tajikistan Azerbaijan, I’m just wondering what kind of reaction put that invites from the West if they move forward with that? Well, to put it mildly. The Russian federation has not proved itself to be a responsible actor in cyberspace. So we would certainly caution countries against entering into such agreements. Yes. Saudi Arabia anxious report that two advisors for President Biden, Brett McGurk and Hartenstein are actually on a secret mission or secret trip to Saudi Arabia for a possible increase in oil production for to discuss the islands and for possible normalization. Are you aware of that? Can you comment on this? I’ve seen the report, I don’t have any travel to speak to at this time. We have spoken at length including at senior levels about the critical importance of the strategic ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia. How strengthening those ties, putting those ties on stable footing can work to the benefit of both countries. I think we’ve seen that across different realms in recent weeks. In recent months, we’ve talked about Yemen here now that we have a true something that our Saudi partners were quite helpful in helping uh working with the U. N. Special envoy, working with our special envoy, working with other stakeholders in the region to achieve. It has enabled humanitarian access to parts of the country that have been denied critical humanitarian supplies for far too long. And it has quelled the violence that has plagued Yemen for far too long dating back to 2014. We have of course seen welcome steps with regards to uh the kingdom’s relationship with Lebanon, The kingdom’s relationship With its other Gulf neighbors, but the fact is that many of these steps also worked to our benefit. Of course, there are 70,000 Americans who live in Saudi Arabia. Uh they these Americans like our Saudi partners are encountering legitimate security threats. So we’ll continue to work closely with our Saudi partners to counter the threats to both of our interests as we continue to uh support a relationship that works to the benefit of both of our countries. Thank you. Yes, China is also said to be pursuing a new regional agreement with Pacific Island nations that would expand Beijing’s role in policing maritime cooperation and cybersecurity. They’re they’re also planning to offer scholarships for more than 2000 workers and young diplomats from the region. Um Do you see this as a reaction to President Biden’s trip to Japan and meeting with allies. And what concerns do you have about this expanded regional agreement if any? I think it would be a stretch to call this a reaction to President Biden’s engagement. I think this may be a reflection of the PRC’s response to our sustained engagement with the region. Since we came into office, of course, President Biden’s visit to Japan to South Korea was only the latest element of that. But we have had senior officials from the White House, senior officials from the State Department travel to the region, including to the pacific islands region. To speak of our vision for an affirmative partnership with the countries of the region. This is precisely what Secretary Blinken laid out when from Indonesia, he spoke of our indo pacific strategy. Our strategy for the region that depicts the United States as a partner of choice, uh not a partner um of compulsion. Um uh and since we have repeatedly and consistently spoken of what we can bring to the relationships with countries in the pacific islands when it comes to what we have seen of the PRC’s Foreign minister’s intention to travel, we’re aware of media reports of his travel. We are also aware that China seeks to negotiate a range of arrangements during the Foreign minister’s visit to the region. We are concerned that these reported agreements may be negotiated in a rushed, non transparent process. At the same time, we respect the ability of countries of the region to make sovereign decisions in the best interests of their people. It’s worth noting that the PRC has a pattern of offering shadowy, vague deals with little transparency or regional consultation in areas related to fishing, related to resource management, development, development assistance and more recently, even security practices. And these recent security agreements have been conducted with little regional consultation provoking public concern, not only United States, but across the indo pacific uh region. And we don’t believe that importing uh security forces from the PRC and their methods will help any pacific island country. On the other hand doing so could only seek to fuel regional international tensions and increased concerns over Beijing’s expansion of internal of its internal security apparatus to the pacific So, we have had recent engagements with our pacific island counterparts. This of course, was a discussion in the context of the quad at the leader level with President Biden uh and the newly sworn in Australian prime Minister and our other quad partners. Uh This of course was a topic of discussion when Secretary Blinken traveled to the pacific island region in February uh and spoke in very concrete terms uh regarding what the United States is able to offer in our affirmative partnerships. Yes, delegation in town. Did any official from this building meet with them? I do not know offhand. If if there was a meeting we’ll let you know on the islands. I mean, china is also an indo pacific country, correct? And so you as long as it’s benign, you wouldn’t have any issue with them signing deals. Of course, these are sovereign decisions of individual countries. The importation of non of of of security forces from countries other than china into the, into the pacific island region wouldn’t cause an issue. The importation of, I’m sorry, non chinese security forces, I don’t know, say Australians or Americans or you know, you know, who have non change what we are sovereign decisions pacific islands, these are sovereign decisions are concerned is that when the PRC has grown increasingly involved in the region in these ah with various countries. We’ve seen a range of behavior that can only be described as increasingly problematic assertion of unlawful maritime claims, uh ongoing militarization of disputed features in the south china sea, predatory economic activities, including illegal, unregulated fishing, uh and then the investments that are extractive rather than beneficial to the countries that are subject to them. That often undermine good governance often uh fuel corruption and often undermine protections for human rights. The you said that the concerns that they’re not transparent. Um Is there a diplomacy on the part of United States with the South pacific nations specifically on this, asking them either to reject it or to or to look at it more carefully. We we we look at this not through the china lens, but through the lens of how we can partner with these countries. So our pitch to them is not the negative. It is very much the affirmative, it is what the United States can bring to the table, How we bring it to the table, the high standards that we bring in terms of our partnerships in terms of our uh investments and how when we worked together when we work together cooperatively, we can benefit both of our peoples. Yes. Questions on Turkey and Greece. The first question is that there, is it true that the United States are mediating between Greece and Turkey to end the crisis caused by president. If you don’t have an answer, can you take the question mediating between between, we talked about this yesterday. We we encourage our NATO allies, including of course Greece and Turkey to work together to maintain peace and security in the region and to resolve their differences diplomatically. We also encourage them to avoid rhetoric that could further raise tensions. But when you say you encourage you to talk to them to mediate we these are these have been uh this has been a topic of discussions with our grease in Turkish allies. Have another question I asked you yesterday, but you didn’t give me an answer. Um what are you going to do if uh Turkey attacks Greece? Because there are a lot of reports that Erdogan is planning to invade the Greek islands. The situation is very serious. That is a hypothetical that I’m just not going to entertain again, our message remains to both our allies in this case, Turkey and Greece that they should work together to maintain peace and security in the region and to resolve any differences diplomatically. Yes, that that would that would be a question that’s directed at NATO. Yes, it was actually, I mean Greece and yes, a question about something that you mentioned yesterday said you’re deeply concerned about the potential escalation of the military situation in Syria. Have you communicated that to the Turkish counterparts? And are there or will there be any diplomatic efforts to convince Turkey not to escalate the situation there. We have engaged with our Turkish allies on this question in the first instance to learn more about the proposal that President Erdogan first voiced within recent days. We’ve done so from our embassy, from the department here as well. Yes. Yes. So the truth deadline is approaching, can you tell us about anything about the effort to extend the truth? We’ll have more to say as as the time gets closer, but this has been a priority of ours in the first instance, not only to lay the groundwork for the humanitarian truce groundwork that took um that was set in place over the course of many months of our special envoy Tim Linder King working very closely with the U. N. The U. N. Special envoy Hans Grundberg in this case, working closely with our Saudi partners, working closely with other golf partners, working closely with other stakeholders in the region we have sought to consolidate and to reinforce the truce. Not only because it brings additional stability and security to the people of Yemen, but because it has very practical uh effects, it has allowed humanitarian aid to reach individuals in parts of Yemen that have not been able to receive adequate aid for far too long. We have also seen concrete steps. In terms of the first flights that have departed Yemen en route to Amman, we have seen encouraging signs that the parties are looking to consolidate uh into um perpetuate the current conditions and the steps that have given way to this again, I’m not going to be optimistic, I’m not going to be pessimistic but we are going to uh do everything we can diplomatically to reinforce the humanitarian truce uh in the increased stability and security that we’ve seen in recent weeks on Yemen. Are you aware of reports of the death former U. S. A. I. D. Employee Abdelhamid al Hami who was one of the people who was taken hostage prisoner by by the duties as you know Matt, we’ve been unceasing in our diplomatic efforts to seek the release of our Yemeni staff in Sanaa. We’ve demanded that the Houthis release are detained current and former US locally employed Yemeni staff in Sanaa. We’re committed to ensuring the safety of those who have served with us when it comes to to this case. We were deeply saddened by the news of the death of one of our retired employees. This individual passed away and who the detention with no contact with his family during the last six months of his life. We express our most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones, but we’re not in a position to provide further detail. Okay, maybe not about it. But is it your understanding that the only reason that he was taken the prisoner is because of his affiliation or former affiliation with the embassy with the U. S. Government. We have seen a number of former Ellie staff individuals who previously worked with and for our embassy in Sanaa held in detention. I couldn’t speak to the motivations but of course the former affiliation is a commonality that many of these detainees share. Yes, Lebanon net, the situation at all levels is deteriorating, deteriorating rapidly. There, is there any U. S. Plan to intervene to help to pressure the officials to move forward with with reforms there? Well, we spoke of this in the immediate aftermath of the May 15 parliamentary elections but we were pleased to see that the elections took place on time in Lebanon and without major security incidents, the most difficult tasks now wait, we encourage Lebanon’s political leaders to recommit themselves to the hard work that lies ahead to implement the needed reforms including the reforms that are necessary to rescue the economy. We also urge the swift formation of a government capable of and committed to undertaking the hard work required to restore the confidence of the Lebanese people uh in the international community. Uh The economy of course, is in quite dire straits These reforms are necessary for a number of reasons, including the fact uh that they are required to bring the I. M. F. Agreement to fruition to help rescue Lebanon’s economy and put it back on the path towards sustainability on this. On this topic to Assistant Secretary Barbara Relief has met with other U. S. Officials with the Lebanese Foreign Minister in Washington. Can you elaborate on that meeting? What did they discuss? I suspect our Bureau of nutrition affairs will have a readout for you for that. Yes, there’s some reporting that the US has seized the cargo of Iranian crude oil from a Russian flagged tanker in Greece in Greek waters. I wonder I think that this ship has been seized last month. But I wonder if if you could confirm the U. S. Action to seize that And and separately um the State Department announced today some new sanctions on an oil smuggling money laundering network linked to the uh goods force. Um I wonder what these kind of you know these kind of actions happening while you insist that you know, you’re still trying to get back into the J. C. P. O. A. Um don’t they signal to Iran and then they send sort of the opposite message to Iran in terms of trying to get back into the deal that you are taking these specific actions against Iranians. I I couldn’t speak to the signal that Iran is receiving. The signal that we are sending is that we are not going to tolerate the illicit activities of the Quds force of other Iranian Proxies terrorist groups that received Iranian support. We have been clear all along that we absolutely seek a mutual return to compliance with the J. C. P. O. A. That would uh in the first instance put Iran’s nuclear program back into a box to once again permanently and verifiably uh prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon? Uh but at the same time we are going to use every appropriate authority that we have to take on the broader set of challenges that Iran poses. That includes its support for proxies. That includes its support for uh terrorist groups. That includes its other destabilizing activities in the region that includes its ballistic missile program. Uh The fact is that every single challenge including those I just listed uh and more is made all the more difficult to address. Uh As long as Iran’s nuclear program is in a position to gallop forward without the strict limits that the J. C. P. O. A previously imposed. Uh So we are continuing down this dual path to attempt to put these strict limits back on Iran’s nuclear program just as we push back and hold Iran accountable for its other listed activities. But also knowing that if and when we permanently and verifiably have Iran’s nuclear program once again uh contained and confined. We are going to be able to take on these other challenges together with our allies and partners and in some cases potentially diplomatically as well. Much more effectively knowing that an uncontrolled, unconstrained Iranian nuclear program would be the most significant threat that we can and do face on the on on the tanker. I don’t have anything to offer. Yes on Iran and Russia. Can you fill us in on the statement that you guys put out there this morning In terms of designating a network uh that involves Russian high level Russian officials and I are CG are there other countries involved is an ongoing investigation behind this? So the Department of Treasury can provide you the full set of details on this. Uh It essentially boils down to the fact that one of the designated individuals has raised funds for the Quds force in coordination with senior levels of the Russian government and intelligence apparatus. But I understand my colleagues at the Department of Treasury can provide you fuller details. I’m sorry, is a person Kremlin? They can get you the full details back to the A. C. A just for one second. I don’t know if you I I don’t know if you know if you know the answer to this or maybe you could get it or if it’s just a stupid question. But do you know, for the funding of the A. C. A. And for the Observatory and any other efforts to bring accountability to War crimes, alleged war crimes are being committed in Ukraine. Is there any money in the 40 billion that Congress just passed? And the president signed over the weekend that could be used for this? Or is it all for weapons? It is certainly not all for weapons. About as I recall, is it all military assistance? It is certainly not all military assistance. There is a good chunk of humanitarian assistance. There’s a good chunk of economic assistance from, from that humanity, from the humanitarian or the other, the non military component of it. Will any of that money go to pay for these investigations? We’ve we’ve funded some of these organizations and programs prior to the recent passage of this supplemental spending bill. But if there’s anything in the additional 40 billion, well, we’ll let you know. Thank you. Thank.