Government Agency News State.gov Press release
1:19 p.m. EDT
MR MILLER: Okay, that’s too much information, but thank you for sharing. Don’t have anything to start with. Matt, kick us off.
QUESTION: You don’t have anything to start with?
MR MILLER: I have your questions to start with.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well, actually, I don’t really have anything that I think you can answer, but I’ll start with Niger. After Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland’s meetings yesterday, do you guys have any idea where things are going?
MR MILLER: I will say that you’re right, Acting Secretary Nuland met yesterday with leaders of the junta and made clear that there was a diplomatic path forward for them if they would choose a return to constitutional order. She also made clear that there would be consequences if they didn’t, that there are hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. assistance at stake. As she said last night in the call she had with the press, they were very difficult conversations. She didn’t achieve any breakthroughs and it’s not at all clear that they will choose the diplomatic path forward.
And I do want to emphasize that she also met with civil society leaders, leaders of NGOs while she was on the ground yesterday. She mentioned some of this. And in those meetings, she heard them express real concerns about the situation and express a desire for the country to return to a constitutional order. And I wanted to say something about that, because I’ve gotten a lot of questions the last few days about so-called protests happening on the streets, and I would just – I think it’s fair to note that not everyone that supports democracy in the country can take to the streets because of potential concerns about their safety. But she heard in their meetings that there is support in civil society for a return to constitutional order, so we will continue to press for that, but I think we are very clear-eyed about the situation as it stands.
QUESTION: Are you specifically referring to protests where people were waving Russian flags and – is that what you’re talking about?
MR MILLER: I am. I am.
QUESTION: So – and do you think that that’s a significant issue that needs to be addressed?
MR MILLER: I think – I have heard questions about these protests, sometimes in this briefing room, and sometimes you see people assume that because you see people on the streets it is an expression of actual support rather than people who might have been paid to show up at protests. It does seem odd to me that if your country is suffering an attempted military takeover, the idea that the first thing anyone would do is run to a store and buy a Russian flag. That strikes me as somewhat an unlikely scenario.
But I wanted to emphasize that what we heard – what Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland heard in her meetings is the same thing we’ve heard in conversations we’ve had, that there are civil society leaders and NGOs and others in the country who are very concerned, even if they are not always in a position to make those concerns public.
QUESTION: Are there stores in Niamey that you’re aware of that sell Russian flags?
MR MILLER: I am not. I don’t know where those flags came from. (Laughter.) That magically appeared – the flags that magically appeared in the hands of protesters. It did seem like an odd choice.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, so I knew you – well – all right. And then last thing on this: The – in terms of the aid that’s been paused, are you in a position now to say exactly how much has been paused and what programs they are?
MR MILLER: I am – I still do not have a total amount for the reasons I outlined yesterday. I can give you a few examples. I did after our exchange, knowing that you might ask again, ask to drill down with a couple of examples, and so here are a few examples of the types of assistance that are being paused: approximately a million dollars in international military education and training funding, which sends Nigerien military students to the U.S. for training; our peacekeeping operations funded programs that support infrastructure, training, advisory support, and equipment for counterterrorism and/or peacekeeping purposes; foreign military —
QUESTION: What was that amount? (Inaudible.)
MR MILLER: I don’t have the amount for that one. It goes – this goes into, again, it depends on how long, if the pause is temporary, if the pause is permanent. Our Foreign Military Financing programs that are paused that support Nigerien counterterrorism capabilities through sustainment and training on aviation assets – so those are the types of programs that are being paused, and we’re continuing to go through an exact inventory of all of our programs.
QUESTION: But these are the exact same programs that would be suspended, not just paused, should you make a determination that there was a coup.
MR MILLER: Correct. Correct, and we are pausing those now. But as I have said – think you were out last week when we talked about this question in more specifics – we are still hopeful and we are still trying to achieve a result that is a return to the constitutional order. We hope we don’t have to get to the point where we need to make that determination, because our hope is to see the constitutional order restored. We don’t believe that window’s closed at this point, but it’s a very dynamic situation.
QUESTION: All right. And is it – so – and it’s about a million – I just wanted to make sure I got this right – a million in IMET?
MR MILLER: Correct. Correct.
QUESTION: Is it not the case that one of the leaders of this insurrection was trained under an IMET program?
MR MILLER: That may be the case. I’m not familiar.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I just a follow up a little bit on Niger? The Secretary in his interview with – guess it took place yesterday with the BBC talked about Wagner potentially taking advantage. Can I just ask for a clarification? Is he saying that he’s seeing that happening right now or is he warning against this happening in the future?
MR MILLER: He was referring to the comments that Yevgeniy Prigozhin made last week when he publicly – last week or over the weekend – when he publicly was celebrating the events in Niger and the fact that we certainly see Wagner take advantage of this type of situation whenever it occurs in Africa.
We, as I’ve stated before, did not see any role by Wagner in the instigation of this attempted takeover, and we have not seen any Wagner military presence as of yet in Niger. I don’t have any specific Wagner activities to – that I can make public at this point, but we saw Yevgeniy Prigozhin publicly celebrating what’s happened. And as I said, it did seem a very odd event that we had a bunch of Russian flags show up at so-called protests on – in support of the junta leaders.
QUESTION: Sure. Can I just – unless you want to follow up —
QUESTION: Is there any – the mysterious flag purchases that you’re – what’s the evidence that you’re citing for —
MR MILLER: I’m not citing any evidence other than what I just said, which is I think it’s very strange that if your country is taken over by a military junta and you want to show your support, the way you decide to do that is by running out and buying at, I guess, a store locally a Russian flag. That seems like an odd choice.
QUESTION: I guess – to follow on to that, some of the reporting from Niger – not to say that what you’re – the innuendo that you’re implying is – it may be correct, but it’s also possible that – based on some of the reporting that there are some people in Niger who are leaning towards Russia because there’s a historic dislike of France particularly, and the U.S. is grouped in with France. So I wondered, rather than this sort of suggestion that maybe the flags were brought by Russians or whatever it is, is there some concern that there could be actually legitimate or genuine feeling in the country of we would rather be aligned with the Russians because we’ve had a pretty bad experience with Western powers in the past?
MR MILLER: Look, it is certainly a big country with a diversity of views, so I am not going to in any way try to stand here and speak for every citizen of that country. I will tell you that we in our conversations with leaders of civil society and NGOs, including the conversations that Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland had yesterday – we have heard support for a return to the constitutional order. And, remember, it is the people of Niger themselves that elected – that chose a democratically elected president that has now been placed under house arrest as a result of this junta.
So I will say that and then add on top of it, as we’ve said before, look, any time you see instability in – or I shouldn’t say any time – but as we’ve seen before during instability in African countries, you have certainly seen Wagner try to take advantage of that. And even in the last few weeks, you’ve seen Yevgeniy Prigozhin making public remarks trying to do the same thing here.
QUESTION: And just, sorry, one other thing. You mentioned that you still have some hope that things can be reversed. Is there – what’s that hope based on? Is there any – from the deputy secretary’s trip is there any – anything you can point to as like this gave us hope? She didn’t even get a meeting with the junta leader, so —
MR MILLER: I – look, we do still have hope, but we were also very realistic. And you heard her say yesterday that the conversations she had were very difficult. As I said at – in my first comments, we are realistic about the situation on the ground. We do have hope that the situation will be reversed. But at the same time, we are making clear, including in direct conversations with the junta leaders themselves, what the consequences are of failing to return to constitutional order.
QUESTION: Can I just follow —
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just follow up on Niger, you discussed, of course, last week a lot about the civilians, American – about American citizens leaving. Can you talk about the status of U.S. soldiers? I know it’s – obviously it’s a Pentagon issue, but the – in terms of U.S. troops there, is there any move to withdraw them, to relocate them?
MR MILLER: I will defer all comment on that to the Pentagon. I just don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into it from here.
Others on Niger.
MR MILLER: Sure. Yeah. Go ahead. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Nuland said that he was under virtual house arrest. She was not allowed to speak with him, did not see him. Do you know – has anyone – has anyone been able to contact President Bazoum?
MR MILLER: Yes. We’ve had a number of conversations with him, including yesterday. It’s possible people had conversations – have had conversations with him today that I’m aware of them, but I know we had conversations with him as – by phone as recently as yesterday.
QUESTION: Okay. So what is – what kind of content these conversations have? I mean, what do they talk about when they speak with the president who is under house arrest?
MR MILLER: Sure.
QUESTION: What do – what – they say the cavalry on its way or —
MR MILLER: So the – I will speak to the conversations the Secretary has had with President Bazoum. And in those conversations, the Secretary has, number one, looked for an assessment of the situation from President Bazoum; number two, he’s been checking on his safety and his health, and the health and safety of his family. And number three, he has been assuring him that we support the return to the constitutional order, and that is the position of the United States and that is what we are trying to work towards.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. still in a position of not calling what’s happening in Niger a coup?
MR MILLER: It is, at this point, an attempted military takeover. But again, we do not – we are still working to achieve a different outcome, and we are hoping to see President Bazoum released from house arrest and able to resume his duties.
QUESTION: And what are your expectations from the emergency summit of West African leaders to be held on Thursday, this Thursday?
MR MILLER: So I wouldn’t want to speak to that in advance of it happening. Obviously we’ve been in touch with leaders of the members of ECOWAS, and we’ll continue to be in touch with them as we try to resolve this situation. We have been fully supportive of their efforts to resolve it.
QUESTION: On this, Matt.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. attend this meeting on Thursday?
MR MILLER: Well, we are not a member of ECOWAS, obviously, so we wouldn’t be —
MR MILLER: So we would – let me finish. We are not attending as a – we’re not a member state. Whether we have someone attending as an observer, I don’t know.
Yeah. Stay – stay on this topic? Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just want to circle back to that, the coup question. What glimmer of hope are you holding onto if, based off of the deputy acting secretary of state’s trip, there was little movement. I mean, we’re almost two weeks in; he’s still under house arrest. He’s not in control. What sliver —
MR MILLER: That we remain in conversations with partners in the region, with civil society leaders, with leaders of NGO groups. And we believe that the people of Niger, who elected President Bazoum, support a return to the constitutional order. So that is the policy we will continue to press and try to achieve. But I – look, I recognize that this is a difficult situation and the outcome here is uncertain, but we are not ready to throw up our hands and go home and stop trying to achieve a return to democracy and a return to the constitutional order. We are going to try to – we are going to continue to press for that outcome, because it’s one we support and one we believe ultimately the people of Niger support.
QUESTION: On consequences for the U.S. and potentially other countries around the world if, in fact, this attempted military takeover is not reversed, what do you think might happen if – even if the current power state stays the way it is, on collaboration with counterterrorism, given how intractable that this seems to be?
MR MILLER: Again, I don’t want to speculate about decisions that we make down the road. Right now, we are trying to return to a constitutional order, trying to see Niger return to a constitutional order. But we have made very clear to the leaders of the junta that there will be consequences – with respect to the assistance that we provide them – if they don’t return to a constitutional order. What those consequences will be beyond what we’ve already discussed, which is the hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance that we provide them, I’m not ready to get into that at this point because, again, we are trying to achieve a return to democracy here.
Any – yeah. Go ahead, Kylie.
QUESTION: Just one more question on the ECOWAS angle of this. I mean, they’ve obviously threatened to take military action to reinstate President Bazoum, and you said that the U.S. support – fully supports their efforts to resolve this. So if they did take that military action, the U.S. would support it?
MR MILLER: We are supporting a diplomatic path at this time, and I wouldn’t want to speculate about other outcomes or other policy choices that we might make at some other point. But right now, our focus is on a diplomatic path. That was the purpose of Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland’s visit yesterday, was to present a diplomatic path to them, one that they rejected. But right now, we’re going to continue to focus on diplomacy.
QUESTION: And then could we just get your response to the Nigerien military leaders rejecting ECOWAS, the African Union, and the UN mediators from trying to have meetings in the country earlier today?
MR MILLER: I think it’s very unfortunate, and it is in keeping with the message that we heard from them yesterday, when Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland presented options for a diplomatic path forward and a negotiated process going forward, and they were not willing to take that path at this time. We’re going to keep trying – again, fully recognizing how difficult that path is.
QUESTION: Different question?
MR MILLER: Anything else on Niger? Niger? All right.
MR MILLER: All right. Anything else on Niger, before I go? All right. Janne.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ukraine – do you have any specific informations about the arrest of a Russian spy who was trying to assassinate President Zelenskyy?
MR MILLER: I’ve seen those reports. I don’t have any specific comment on them. I would obviously refer to Ukraine to talk about that in any detail. But obviously we’ve seen Russian espionage and Russian intelligence activities in Ukraine for some time. That is not in any way surprising, and we fully support Ukraine’s general efforts to hold people accountable for those activities.
QUESTION: And one on North Korea. North Korea continues to operate vessel sanctioned by UN Security Council, and China is providing used vessels to North Korea. What sanctions will the United States impose on countries that violate sanctions?
MR MILLER: Well, first, I will say that we will fully enforce our existing sanctions, but then I will give the answer you’ve heard me give in the past, which is with respect to any potential future sanctions actions, I would never want to preview them from this podium.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) China have 10 years. They still provide these ships. So do you have anything about it, this issue when Secretary Blinken meeting with the Chinese counterpart?
MR MILLER: I don’t want to comment any more with respect to any potential sanctions actions, other than what I just did.
Go ahead, Alex.
QUESTION: Thank you. First, on Ukraine. May I get a reaction to Russian missile strikes last night on residential buildings in eastern Ukraine, in Pokrovsk? One of the buildings was known, apparently, to be used by journalists. So they aren’t even hiding that they’re targeting non-military targets. Is this how you think they responding to the peace summit that happened over the weekend?
MR MILLER: Look, I wouldn’t want to draw any specific parallel, because we’ve seen Russians – we’ve seen the Russians target civilian infrastructure and homes and apartment buildings and schools and hospitals going back for some time. So they do that; they have done that consistently since the beginning of the war. So I wouldn’t necessarily put two and two together and say it was a response to – it was a direct response to the talks that went on about securing a just and lasting peace. But certainly, I think it is a reflection, as all of their attacks on Ukraine – their continued attacks on Ukraine, on civilian infrastructure, and their attacks on grain facilities are a reflection of Russia’s refusal to engage in real peace negotiations.
QUESTION: On that point, your Russian counterpart seemed to have an issue with your statement on Russia —
MR MILLER: Oh, what a surprise.
QUESTION: — refusing the negotiations, saying that the U.S. apparently discouraged Ukraine from negotiating. Was that the case?
MR MILLER: No, absolutely not. Is this current or at some previous point? When did we – when did we —
QUESTION: Yesterday you —
MR MILLER: No, no, when did we supposedly discourage Ukraine from negotiating? I —
QUESTION: That’s a good point.
MR MILLER: I don’t know, but it’s not the case.
QUESTION: Yeah. You did offer a partial answer to my obvious follow-up question on (inaudible) to help Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign minister yesterday asked the Secretary in a phone call for long-range missiles. Are you in a position to share what the Secretary’s response was?
MR MILLER: I am not. I’ll keep those private – those private – I will keep those private diplomatic conversations private. But as I will say, as we’ve said before, we continue to supply Ukraine with artillery, with a whole host of weapons. We have other announcements coming later this week about additional assistance that we plan to provide Ukraine. And with respect to any other potential missile systems, they are – or other defense systems, those are always actions that we consider, but don’t have any announcements to make.
QUESTION: Thank you. My last question on Ukraine, Russia – Russian president is – the Turkish side already announced it – is expected to be in Türkiye by the end of this month. Do you take an issue with the fact that an indicted war criminal will be visiting a NATO member and will not get arrested?
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to the visit in particular, other than to say one thing that we have welcomed is the role that Türkiye has played in pressing Russia to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We think that they have been – they were productive. They were very constructive, obviously, in helping reach that – reach a deal for that initiative in the first place and helpful in convincing Russia to continue with the initiative the first – I don’t know three or four, however many times it was they threatened to withdraw before they ultimately did. And they continue to play a productive role. We think it’s useful that they play that role. I don’t have any comment on a potential visit other than we do support Türkiye continuing to press Russia to re-enter that initiative because it’s so important.
QUESTION: Did this come up during Secretary’s phone call with Turkish —
MR MILLER: I’m not going to read out the private conversations.
Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MR MILLER: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me go to the Palestinian issue. An Israeli newspaper published an article saying that the Israelis will allow the Gaza people the benefit of the pilot program beginning next month. And my question to you: First of all, can you confirm that the Israelis will be doing that? And second: Why is it – since this started back on July 21, why is it taking so long?
MR MILLER: So I won’t speak to decisions made by the Israeli Government about how they are going to implement this program or when they are going to announce or the details of it. But they have assured us – they assured us when we first made this announcement – believe it was last month, and they have assured us throughout this process – that they would be making changes to the way they’re implementing it to ensure that – excuse me – U.S. residents of Gaza would be able to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. We believe those assurances are important; we believe they’re mandatory. And we look forward to them being implemented.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On the —
QUESTION: Well, wait – can I just – have you seen any progress towards them meeting this goal so far? I mean, I understand that you’re monitoring it and checking it out, seeing it. So what’s it look like so far?
MR MILLER: They have not – with respect to – let me speak with respect to Gaza —
QUESTION: With respect to the whole thing.
MR MILLER: Let me – I know. So let me do it first. With respect to Gaza, they have not yet implemented the changes that they are going to make specific to Gaza because of the different security situation there. But we expect those changes to be made in the upcoming weeks. With respect to the overall compliance with the program, I just don’t have an update. I’m just not personally aware. I’m sure that there are metrics that we are tracking to see. I’m not personally aware of where it stands.
QUESTION: On —
QUESTION: Since – since the pilot ended, I guess, the – through – or it is good through September 30th, that really leaves a small window by which to gauge or measure or use whatever methodology you might be using to make sure that the veracity of this program is actually being implemented.
MR MILLER: So we have a set of data already from when the program started, and we’ll have more data when the Gaza piece of it comes online. But I will say as a general matter we do continuous monitoring for all 40 Visa Waiver Program countries, even after they have been admitted to the program, to ensure that they are all members in good standing and continue to meet program requirements.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the point is that Israel is not in the visa waiver program —
MR MILLER: No, no, I’m saying – I took Said’s point. I think Said – I —
QUESTION: No, I know, but – yeah, you monitor all of them, but this one, they’re trying to get in.
MR MILLER: Right.
QUESTION: So presumably because they’re not in yet, the monitoring is a little bit more —
MR MILLER: Yes.
QUESTION: — intense. Right?
MR MILLER: My point was we – yes, we have an intense amount of monitoring going on now. We will have data on which to make a decision. I think the point Said was trying to make – maybe not; maybe I jumped to another point – was that if we let them into the program on a – the amount of data that they’re in, the point I was making is there is a monitoring period that is going on now. Should they be – should they be allowed to enter into the Visa Waiver Program, there would be monitoring that goes on after that in the same way that happens for all other 40 members of the program.
QUESTION: The point is is that right now, at this moment in time, August 8th, they do not meet the requirements?
MR MILLER: So with respect to the Gaza piece, they do not —
QUESTION: No, with respect to any of it.
MR MILLER: We – so I’m just not personally tracking. As you imagine, I’m sure there’s someone that has a dashboard pulled up monitoring. That’s not me. So —
QUESTION: Well, it’s not me either. That’s why I’m asking you, because you —
MR MILLER: Yeah, I just – I —
QUESTION: You presumably are the people who are paying attention to this, and DHS, right?
MR MILLER: There are —
QUESTION: But they right now, as of right now, as of today, they do not —
MR MILLER: They —
QUESTION: — yet meet the requirements that —
MR MILLER: They have not – so they have not done the Gaza piece yet. So the Gaza piece is an important part of meeting the requirements. With respect to the other requirements, I just don’t know. But I would – I would gather that there is an assessment – there is an assessment that is ongoing about the data that we’re collecting, and that at the end of this process we’ll be able to make a determination after having looked at all of it.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt, and sorry about getting excited a bit earlier. So my first question is about this – and especially for you, because this journalist was talking about you, so the State Department and Matt. Sami Ibrahim from —
MR MILLER: You sure it wasn’t Matt Lee?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, it was – (laughter) – who can dare to talk about Matt? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It was a lot easier when there was only one Matt.
MR MILLER: Yeah, I bet, I bet, and only one Ned. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So this journalist who happens to be a U.S. citizen as well, and he’s a top journalist in Pakistan, and he was arrested and released – I’m sure because of your pressure – he said that Matt stands there at the State Department and he talks about Niger, and he does – and him and State Department and the Biden administration is ignoring a guy like Imran Khan, who is languishing in poor conditions in jail. So no human rights, no interference, no talk about interference in internal matters when it comes to Imran Khan’s government, but Niger so much talk is given. So your reaction to that, because he specifically mentioned you that —
MR MILLER: I think I spoke to this at some length yesterday and I don’t believe that my answer is any different, which is the arrest of Imran Khan is an internal matter for Pakistan, but of course we continue to call for the respect for democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law in Pakistan as we do around the world.
QUESTION: We don’t have too many U.S. citizens top journalists in Pakistan, so that’s why specifically. Just small questions, a little bit about the history or the past, and you spoke about it last week. So Rashid Dostum, the biggest heroin dealer from Afghanistan who is in Türkiye right now living in a millions-dollar villa – when I published a story about him in 2005, did the State Department official in Pakistan inform you that I had published a story that he was smuggling heroin in helicopters and then he called me and threatened me? Did your colleagues at the State Department mention —
MR MILLER: In 2005?
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
MR MILLER: No, I – I was not here in – I was not here in 2005.
QUESTION: Can you check for me then, please? Can you check for —
MR MILLER: I will – I will – I will look into it. Yes.
QUESTION: And one similar one. Same thing about Pakistani officials. Senior military officials were published in the story in The Frontier Post in Pakistan that they were involved in this trade. Can you check if your colleague at least mentioned that there is this newspaper —
MR MILLER: So instead of checking about whether someone read a story or not, is there a question that you have about a policy or —
QUESTION: So does the State Department regret that all these people – and just to, like, Matt, my serious – and seriousness in this issue is that just last week I met this guy in Arlington driving this beautiful Ferrari. For 20 years his son was hanging around by the Potomac River because of heroin. So this really is a human issue. Do you regret that your colleagues did not mention you that this gentleman was such a big heroin dealer, that a journalist has mentioned him, and you guys did not take any action?
MR MILLER: I – again, I’m – I think I’m lost here. I think I started with a comment about an article in 2005.
QUESTION: Okay, let me make it simple.
MR MILLER: It’s moved to – it’s okay. I don’t think I have any comment on it.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you, Matt. On the Iraqi ministry of defense delegation, I’m not sure if they have a meeting at the State Department, but they do have a meeting at the Pentagon, and also the U.S. ambassador to Iraq is taking a part in these meetings. They are talking about the future security cooperation between Iraq and the United States. What’s the point that you believe that is the right time to go beyond the fighting against ISIS, and what’s the reflection of this security cooperation on your diplomatic mission in Iraq and also Iraqi Kurdistan?
MR MILLER: You are correct that the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue did conclude today in Washington at the Pentagon. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq was there. The talks focused on the future of U.S.-Iraq – of the U.S.-Iraq security partnership, and both sides reaffirmed a joint commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS. We will be making a joint statement today reading out the meetings, and I don’t think I want to comment in detail before that statement comes out, but do look forward; it will have a number of details about the – what was discussed in the meetings.
QUESTION: Sorry, who will be making the joint – the State Department?
MR MILLER: Between – I don’t know if it’s going to – it’s a joint U.S. – U.S.-Iraq statement.
QUESTION: The Pentagon?
MR MILLER: I don’t know if it’s us or the Pentagon. We can obviously find out.
QUESTION: And one more question.
QUESTION: On this?
MR MILLER: Let me – I think he had one more. Let me – yeah.
QUESTION: Was there any meeting with the (inaudible) —
MR MILLER: No. No.
QUESTION: And one more question, though, about the Iraqi paramilitary groups and also the Iranian-backed groups. In your recent quarterly report to the Congress, you mentioned that even the Iraqi prime minister has no full control of these groups, and there is a lot of concerns among the minority groups in Nineveh Plain and also in disputed area about these paramilitary groups, and also PMF. How does the U.S. giving and dealing with these groups? And do you have any concern about future security in the region with these groups? They are gaining more power and also they are becoming stronger in Baghdad.
MR MILLER: So the United States supports a stable, secure, and sovereign Iraq. We believe that will advance the interests of the United States and the interests of the Iraqi people. We believe all armed groups outside of state control in Iraq should be under the command and control of the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces. And we will continue to be a partner and build the capacity of the Iraqis to this end.
MR MILLER: Go ahead, Abbie.
QUESTION: How concerned are you about the thousands of people protesting in the streets right now leading to the U.S. embassy closing its doors? There were reports of gunfire outside of the embassy. And can you bring us up to date on the latest U.S. efforts to mobilize the multinational force?
MR MILLER: Sure. So we are very concerned, we remain very – we remain very concerned about the situation on the ground in Haiti. That obviously led us to take the steps we took a week before last, where we ordered the departure of non-emergency staff at the embassy. And I think that directly relates to your second question, which is the next step for this process to stand up a multinational force is for the Government of Kenya to lead an assessment mission. I don’t have an exact date of that mission, but I do expect that to happen in the very near future, in the matter of the next few weeks.
QUESTION: Are all U.S. —
MR MILLER: And I would defer to – obviously to the Government of Kenya to speak more specifically about that assessment mission, but they’re the ones in the lead. But we expect that to happen in the near future, and we are fully supportive of those efforts.
QUESTION: Are all U.S. embassy personnel on the ground there accounted for?
MR MILLER: They are.
QUESTION: May I just —
QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine?
MR MILLER: Okay.
QUESTION: This is not about – this isn’t a policy question, but it’s based on the CNN poll last week where we saw for the first time the majority of Americans opposed additional congressional funding for the war in Ukraine. So I’m just wondering what the administration’s response is to that, if you guys are concerned about what appears, based on this poll at least, to show that the majority of Americans are just not fully there when it comes to the need for continued support to Ukraine?
MR MILLER: So I think this is the first time I’ve been asked about a poll in my short time at the tenure, and I should probably not make it a practice to comment on specific polls, but I will note that it is always dangerous to look at any one poll, because they are snapshots in time and you can see other ones. I will say that we have been heartened by the support from the American people, and the support – the bipartisan support we’ve seen in Congress for further assistance to aid Ukraine in defending its people from Russian aggression. That support has been longstanding, it has been there since the beginning of the war, and we expect it to continue.
QUESTION: And do you think, though, that the administration is doing an effective job at keeping the American people’s support substantial for continued support if we’re starting to see numbers like this?
MR MILLER: Again, not – I’m just not going to comment with respect to a poll. But I will say that we will continue to make the case that it is in the interests of the United States to defend Ukraine; it is in the interests of the United States to see that democracy is preserved; it is in the interests of the United States to see that Russian aggression has to be answered. And so we will continue to make that case, and I will let polls speak for themselves. Though I guess polls don’t speak for themselves, but I will let the polls stand as they may be. But we will continue to engage with Congress, where we have seen robust bipartisan support – yes, and it’s – you do see dissenting voices, but overall we’ve seen bipartisan support for continued support for Ukraine, and we will continue to push for that.
QUESTION: And just staying on Ukraine for one second, last week the department put a readout of the meetings that State, NSC, and DOD had with Ukraine regarding long-term security negotiations and agreements between the U.S. and Ukraine. Do you have any idea as to when that kind of structure for long-term support for Ukraine is actually going to come to fruition, when we’ll see announcements on that? Is that something that’s happening anytime soon, or are we three to six months away from that?
MR MILLER: I don’t have a date; I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it because we are in the middle of those conversations. But in the conversations that we had with our Ukrainian counterparts, we did agree to follow-up meetings. I don’t have a date to announce about when those meetings will occur, but there will be follow-up conversations between the United States and Ukraine.
And I should note that the conversations – the bilateral conversations between the United States and Ukraine are just one part of this process. The other members of the G7 are having their own bilateral conversations about how they can assure long – Ukraine’s long-term security. And there are 12 other countries that signed on to that statement of support who will also have their own bilateral conversations.
So put together, this is a multi-country effort to assure Ukraine’s long-term security. I don’t have a timeframe on when we’ll have next steps to announce, but it’s something we’re pursuing aggressively.
QUESTION: Do you think Ukraine will see those long-term security commitments by the end of the year?
MR MILLER: I just wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it. Before I leave you, though, I understand that it’s your birthday today. Happy birthday. (Laughter.) So I won’t lead the room in song. It might embarrass especially me. I’m the one with the microphone. But happy birthday, nonetheless.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and get away with it.
MR MILLER: Matt. Yeah, right. (Laughter.) So see, I was – that was a preemptive strike by my – on my point.
QUESTION: If the two of you want to sing together, that’s fine. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Matt, you first.
QUESTION: No one else has to join. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, I – maybe afterwards on the off – in the off-the-record version.
QUESTION: Yes, Matt.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Today, the protest happening in front of the State Department for Bangladesh getting free and fair election – do you have any comment on that, what they’re doing there? And the situation in Bangladesh is really, really bad now, but they’re asking – demanding for democracy in Bangladesh. So please, what is your —
MR MILLER: As we have made clear many times, as I have made clear many times from this podium, we support free and fair elections in Bangladesh. We’ve made that clear publicly. We’ve made that clear in conversations with the Bangladeshi Government, and that will continue to be our policy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: All right. You’ve had your hand aggressively raised for a while. Go ahead. (Laughter.) How could I miss you?
QUESTION: Thank you. Jackson Richman, Epoch Times. A few questions.
One, regarding the buildup in Hormuz, is the State Department concerned about the potential for escalation in view of this new troop buildup in the region?
Second, what’s the latest on Robert Malley? Any update? Has he been fired?
And finally, what is the State Department’s reaction to China and Russia sending a naval force near Alaska?
MR MILLER: So with respect to the Strait of Hormuz, I would refer to DOD for that question. What I’ll say is that the United States, in coordination with our partners and allies, is committed to protecting the freedom of maritime navigation and the free flow of commerce. The Strait of Hormuz is a vital waterway for global markets with more than $1 trillion of seaborne trade transiting annually, including 25 percent of global crude oil.
With respect to Rob Malley, I don’t have any updates, beyond what we said previously.
And with respect to the exercises off the – near Alaska, I don’t have any comment on this.
Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: My question is that as far as Russia’s war against Ukraine is concerned, now over 500 days, and millions and millions of people around the globe are in trouble or hurting or, in many ways, including food – lack of food and security and social and all that. Also my question that next month, President Biden will be in India at G20, and many G20 leaders will be joining Prime Minister Modi in India. You think this, as far as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is concerned, will be solved? Or are we hoping anything coming out of this G20 in India?
MR MILLER: I will say that, in all of our conversations with allies and partners around the world, we continue to discuss the war in Ukraine. It is always one of the top topics that comes up in all of our conversations, and I have no doubt that’ll be true at the G20.
QUESTION: And sir, sorry —
MR MILLER: One more. Yeah.
QUESTION: What are we doing as far as millions and millions people are suffering as far as food is concerned because of this war and many – in many other ways, mental and all that?
MR MILLER: I’m sorry, what was —
QUESTION: What are we doing there? What message do you – do we have – those millions and millions of people who are suffering because of this war in many ways, including food, lack of food?
MR MILLER: So it is a matter of great concern. Obviously, we are concerned that Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was responsible for delivering food to millions and millions of people around the world, and the fact that since they pulled out, Russia has bombed grain facilities in Ukraine, which has taken further grain off the market. We’ll continue to press for a return of the – to the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And I will say, on behalf of the United States, we have increased our food aid around the world to try to address some of that shortfall.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. My first question on Burma. War crimes committed by Myanmar’s military, including the bombing of civilians have become increasingly frequent and present a team of the United Nations investigators say in a report published today. So will you share your comment about this report?
MR MILLER: Let me take that one back.
QUESTION: Second, on Bangladesh, Richard Nephew, the U.S. State Department coordinator for global anticorruption, just concluded his visit to Bangladesh and met several high-ranking officials. During his visit to Bangladesh, the English daily newspaper Daily Star published a bombshell report revealing that Mohammed Saiful Alam, the owner of the S Alam Group, and affiliate of the current Sheikh Hasina’s regime, had laundered over one billion U.S. dollar and established a business empire in the abroad. Statewatch.net and OCCRP have revealed same type of reports on massive corruption and money laundering.
During Mr. Richard Nephew’s meeting with Bangladeshi foreign secretary, he indicated that they might consider sanction as a tool against corruption. My question is: Does the United States Government intend to impose new sanction, especially on those involving corruption and money laundering?
MR MILLER: So, as I said in response to a different question earlier about a different country, we never preview sanctions actions before they take place. Generally speaking, sanctions can be a tool to fight corruption. We have other tools as well, such as freezing assets and giving partner nations information so they can prosecute cases. And we encourage Bangladesh to root out corrupt actors operating with its – within its borders fairly and impartially.
All right. I’ll do one more. Yeah, go ahead.
MR MILLER: Sure.
QUESTION: The fighting in Sudan has only intensified. What message do you have? What steps do you think the United States is going to take or until stop the fighting?
MR MILLER: So we will continue to engage with partners in the region to try to achieve a peaceful outcome. Obviously, it’s a very difficult situation, but it continues to be our belief that there is no military solution to this conflict, and we will continue to pursue diplomacy. And we will continue to press for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan who ultimately are suffering.
QUESTION: But any pressure that will be exerted on any or imposed on any of the fighting factions?
MR MILLER: We have already imposed sanctions on a number of parties, and we won’t hesitate to use those tools in the future if it’s appropriate.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
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