1:22 p.m. EDT
MR MILLER: All right. Good to see everyone again. Let me start with a few comments marking the 500th day of the war in Ukraine.
For 500 days, the Ukrainian people have endured the Russian Government’s relentless attacks against homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, nuclear facilities, shopping malls, restaurants, and other infrastructure. Members of Russian forces and their proxies have committed international crimes such as the unlawful transfer of Ukrainian civilians, including children, to Russia as part of its so-called filtration operations. The Kremlin has repeatedly ordered attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid, seized its nuclear energy facilities, and engaged irresponsibly in nuclear saber rattling. By destroying arable land and preventing Ukraine from exporting agricultural products, Russia substantially worsened global food security. Moscow’s strikes have hit thousands of schools and hundreds of hospitals and cultural sites. Members of Russian – Russia’s forces and other Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
For 500 days, Ukrainians have bravely defended themselves, their families, their communities, their land, and their proud national identity. The international community has rallied around Ukraine in the face of Moscow’s flagrant violations of the UN Charter and attempts to conquer its neighbor and redraw internationally recognized borders by force.
Since day one of the Russian Government’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States has stepped up its help to Ukraine. We rallied the world to Ukraine’s side and surged our security, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The United States, our allies, and partners imposed unprecedented sanctions, export controls, and other costs on the Russian Government that are having severe and cumulative consequences, particularly on the Kremlin’s ability to finance and prosecute its war effort. We demonstrated the concerted power of our alliance and partnerships by coordinating with NATO, the EU, the G7, and multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence, and to hold Russia to account.
In the weeks and months ahead, the United States will continue to work with Ukraine, with our allies and partners, and with any and all stakeholders dedicated to supporting a just and lasting peace. We cannot cave to Russia’s aggression or accept its brazen attempts to redraw borders by force.
For 500 days, we have stood firmly united with Ukraine, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks. I do have a question about the forced deportations, but it’s a little bit off the grid and so I’ll do it at the very end on that.
MR MILLER: It was on what deportation?
QUESTION: Well —
MR MILLER: On the forced deportation. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: — just on, yeah, the forced deportations and that being a crime. And I’m sure that other people will get back into Ukraine specifically in a second, but I just want to ask you, tangentially related to Ukraine, in terms of NATO expansion and the Turks. So it has not escaped anyone’s notice that the Secretary has spoken three times in the last, what, five days?
MR MILLER: Correct, five or six.
QUESTION: Four days? Five or six days —
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — with the new Turkish foreign minister. The President’s spoken with Erdogan. They’re expected to meet in Vilnius, I don’t know, in the next couple hours or so. And there is this new Turkish – I don’t know if I would call it a demand, but suggestion that if the EU would pave the way for Turkish accession to the EU —
MR MILLER: Right.
QUESTION: — then they would be more willing or would be willing to agree to Sweden getting into NATO. I realize the U.S. is not a member of the EU; you have no desire to be a member of the EU. Toria Nuland expressed her feelings about the EU quite specifically not so long ago.
MR MILLER: We are not a European country.
QUESTION: Maybe —
MR MILLER: It’s kind of in the name: European Union. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But there are plenty of countries in NATO that are not on the Atlantic.
MR MILLER: (Laughter.) Fair.
QUESTION: Okay. So I’m just wondering, do you guys have a position on this? Is this just a – is this something that you guys are okay with even though you don’t have a decision in it? Or is it something that you just think is out of bounds that the Turks are pulling out of their – of their hats as a kind of a last-minute thing?
MR MILLER: Yeah. Let me say a few things. Number one, the United States has for a number of years supported Türkiye’s EU aspirations, and we continue to do so. That said, as you point out, it is not a decision for the United States; it is a decision for the European Union and, ultimately, that’s a matter between the European Union and Türkiye. However, we do not believe that it should be an impediment to Sweden’s accession to NATO.
As you pointed out, the Secretary has talked three times in the last five or six days to the foreign minister of Türkiye, Foreign Minister Fidan. Talked to him this morning; he talked to him on Saturday; he talked to him last Wednesday. The President talked to President Erdogan yesterday. We continue to press the case that Sweden has taken a number of steps to address the concerns that Türkiye raised, and we believe that it is time for Türkiye to support Sweden’s NATO accession.
QUESTION: So in his conversations with the foreign minister – I won’t ask you about the President’s conversations – conversation with Erdogan – but in his – has he made that point?
MR MILLER: He has made that point.
QUESTION: And to be very – to put a really fine point on it, you’re saying, yeah, we think you should be a member of the EU, but you shouldn’t link your joining the EU to Sweden joining NATO? Is that correct?
MR MILLER: I won’t – I won’t get that specific. I will say that the —
QUESTION: But you kind of did before, but that’s – so that’s why I just want to make sure I understand what the U.S. position is.
MR MILLER: The U.S. position is very clear, as I just stated. And in the —
QUESTION: Well, it’s not that clear. I’m asking you to make it clear. Is it your position that it’s all well and good and you support Türkiye getting into the EU, but you don’t think the Turks should link their joining the EU to their dropping —
MR MILLER: Correct.
QUESTION: — their objections to —
MR MILLER: Correct. That is correct. We think that there is —
QUESTION: Okay. Can you put that in, like, a —
MR MILLER: We think that we —
QUESTION: — succinct sentence?
MR MILLER: We think that they are separate issues, and we support the – Türkiye’s longtime aspirations to join the EU, but that is a separate question than the question with – the question about Sweden joining NATO, and we think it’s time for Sweden to join NATO, and we hope Türkiye will support them. And the Secretary has made that clear in his conversations with Foreign Minister Fidan.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on this?
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. To follow up on Matt’s question, did the EU topic come up in his conversations with Fidan? Did they give a heads-up that Erdogan was going to be raising this today?
MR MILLER: I’m —
QUESTION: And then just on the F-16 issue, what is the Secretary able to say in terms of how much push has been given to Congress to approve those jets to Türkiye if they are to approve Sweden’s NATO accession?
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak with that level of specificity to either of those two issues other than to say that all of the issues that Türkiye raises publicly with us, you can, I think, fully expect and understand that they raise those issues privately with us. And all the things that we have said publicly about the need for them to support and our hope that they will support Türkiye – or Sweden’s accession we say privately to them. We have also say privately – we also say privately to them what we have said publicly, which is we have supported the provision of F-16s to Türkiye for some time. We’ve made that clear publicly that we support it, but that there are a number of members of Congress who, as much as we don’t believe the issue should be linked with NATO accession, there are members of Congress who believe that it is. And so we always make that clear privately and publicly that that is an issue that a number of members of Congress have raised.
QUESTION: And in terms of what else the U.S. can do to try to grease the wheel for Sweden’s accession before or right after Vilnius, like, what is that position? Like, are you warning of any consequences if they continue to place obstacles in front of this?
MR MILLER: I won’t get into the private conversations, but we are making very clear that it’s something we believe should happen in short order.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this, Matt?
QUESTION: Thanks so much. General public learned about this new Turkish demand today, this morning. Based on your response, this does not come to your surprise that the Secretary spoke with Turkish counterpart yesterday?
MR MILLER: The —
QUESTION: So you are not surprised by this new demand?
MR MILLER: I will say what I said to Matt or, I’m sorry, what I said to Jennifer, which is the same issues that they raised publicly, they often raise with us privately as well.
QUESTION: But when was the first time you guys have learned about this?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to that.
QUESTION: This new demand – how much does this complicate your efforts to line up all the ducks in the same row?
MR MILLER: I won’t make any predictions. I will just continue to state our position, which we think that in – at the beginning of this process, Türkiye raised a number of concerns that it had with respect to Sweden. Sweden took steps to address those concerns. Sweden changed its constitution. It passed a new law. It’s arrested terrorism suspects. It’s prosecuting them. And we believe those concerns have been sufficient to address the concerns – I’m sorry – those actions have been sufficient to address the concerns that Türkiye – that Türkiye professed. And so now we believe it’s time to move to full accession for Sweden in very short order.
Now, in terms of any predictions about how or when that might happen, we think it will happen, but I don’t want to make any exact predictions about when it will come, other than that we believe it ought to happen in the very near future.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up?
MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks very much. I’d like to take a look at it from a different perspective because your colleagues Ned Price and then Vedant Patel and now you, you’ve been telling me – because there have been so many different instances, as you know, like the first burning of the Quran, PKK protests, day in and day out I would see – like, and asking questions about them. And seven months ago, your colleagues were telling me that Sweden was ready to join NATO even before those steps have been taken. So that created some kind of distrust amongst Turks because you were literally talking about something that hasn’t happened yet, and now you’re telling us again that they’re ready to join NATO. So I think – would you not say that that created a bit of distrust towards the U.S. statements because you were saying that Sweden was ready to join NATO in January, and you’re still saying that, but between the two months – January and July – a lot has happened?
MR MILLER: Sure. What I will say to that is, yes, you’re right. We believed – we have believed for a number of months that Sweden was ready to join NATO, but part of the NATO – part of the consultative process of joining NATO is it has to be a unanimous decision by all 31 members of the Alliance. And as part of that consultative process, it is appropriate for countries to raise issues that they have and ask for applicants who want to join NATO to take issues to correct them. We think it was appropriate that Türkiye raised those questions. We think it was Türkiye – it was appropriate that Türkiye pressed Sweden to take action.
So far from not listening to concerns expressed by Türkiye, we have welcomed their expressing those concerns, and we have welcomed —
QUESTION: And it created some kind pressure, right?
MR MILLER: Let me just – let me just finish. We have welcomed Sweden’s taking steps to address them. So I would say we think that it was appropriate for Türkiye to raise those concerns. We believe that Sweden has addressed them. And as I said, we think it’s time to move to full membership.
QUESTION: One more, please.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So regarding the EU “demand,” quote unquote, from the Turkish president today, it kind of turned into things being linked up to each other, right? And it all started with the F-16 fighter jet sale approach; that’s because there was, if you can call it, blackmail from certain Congress members that we’re not going to approve the F-16 fighter jet sale unless this and this and that happens. And they also said that even if Sweden has made application process completed, we’ve got other demands.
So isn’t it just fair, then, that seeing that treatment from certain Congress members, and also President of the United States said that Erdogan told me, let’s work on something on the F-16s, but I told him let’s get Sweden done – so that was literally a deviation from the State Department talking points, so isn’t it just fair now Ankara is making some demands?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to what’s fair or what’s not fair. I’m not going to speak to what certain members of Congress have said.
QUESTION: How would you react, then, the President deviating from the talking point?
MR MILLER: I – the President has not deviated from any talking points. The President sets the policy for the United States, of course. I will say, as I have said, as the President has said, as the Secretary of State has said, we support the provision of F-16s to Türkiye. We have made that clear for some time. We also believe that it’s – that it is time for Sweden to – Sweden’s accession to NATO to be approved. We will continue to have conversations with senior-level Turkish officials. I’m sure that the Secretary of State would be ready to have another conversation with the foreign minister at the appropriate time, because this is a high priority for us and we believe it’s time to get it done.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
MR MILLER: Stay on – stay on this – let me just stay on – if anyone else has anything on this topic before I move on. On this?
MR MILLER: No. All right, let me – all right.
QUESTION: Well, on Ukraine.
MR MILLER: Yeah. We’ll go to Ukraine. We’ll come back to you.
QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to go back to the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. I’m interested in what responses the administration has heard from allies and from other countries, noting that the prime minister of Cambodia, for example, who – the country that – a country that dealt with a lot of unexploded ordnance from American bombing, Hun Sen came out and basically appealed for the Ukrainians not to use these weapons, saying Ukrainians will suffer in the long term. I know several other countries have raised these concerns. And specifically, under the convention that the U.S. is not a signatory to, but a lot of countries are a signatory to on cluster munitions, it does require them to make efforts to discourage other countries from not using them.
So I’m wondering if you could sort of talk us through what diplomatic outreach you’ve had from other countries; specifically, have there been notifications from other countries that are signatories to the convention, either before or after the decision was made public, asking the U.S. not to go ahead with this?
MR MILLER: What I’ll say is that we consulted closely with our allies and partners on this decision. I’m not going to detail all of those conversations, but we don’t believe – based on those conversations, we don’t believe that the decision will impact support for Ukraine from around the globe. And I just want to reiterate something that the National Security Advisor spoke to when he was at the White House podium on Friday, which is that this was a very difficult decision for the administration. It was a difficult decision for people in this department; it was a difficult decision, I know, for the President, based on what the National Security Advisor said. And it was a decision that we made based on a number of circumstances.
Number one, the fact that Ukraine is in the middle of a counteroffensive that requires an enormous amount of artillery, and that they are at a point where they are running low on the type of artillery that – artillery rounds that they need; and we needed to bridge the period from when they will run low on those stocks to when we can provide them with new stocks based on the manufacturing that we’ve turned on both here and abroad in the past number of months.
And so we were faced with the decision of either allowing Ukraine to run low or potentially run out of ammunition, and seeing the Russians, which have used cluster bombs with much higher dud rates than the ones that we are providing them, to the Ukrainians – 40 percent or so versus 2.5 percent, the ones that we’re providing – have seen them use them against not just military targets but against civilian targets.
We ran the risk of allowing them – leaving the Ukrainians without the ability to defend themselves against those munitions versus providing them these munitions with some very serious assurances that we got from the Ukrainians. Number one, most importantly, that they would use these only against military targets; that they wouldn’t use them against civilian populations, which of course makes sense because the civilian population we’re talking about are Ukrainians. And number two, that they would conduct extensive demining operations at the conclusion of these hostilities, something that we will support them in – and I think, notably, something that they were already going to have to have to do anyway, because as I noted, Russia has been using cluster bombs since the outset of this war, cluster bombs with a high dud rate. So the Ukrainians are at some point going to have to conduct these demining operations already.
So when you weigh the – kind of both sides of the ledger of this, that it did make sense to us – still a difficult decision, but it did make sense to us to provide these weapons. It’s something we’ve consulted with allies and partners, and we understand that different countries will come to different conclusions.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you confirm that some countries have made those specific notifications – say, under the convention, we’re discouraging you from doing this?
MR MILLER: I will say that we’ve had the – I don’t want to confirm that specifically, because I’m not aware of the details of any specific notifications. But I will say we’ve had a number of conversations with countries, and there are countries that have made their position known publicly. But as I said, we do not believe this is an issue that is going to crack the unity that we’ve had with our allies and partners.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My question is: Five hundred year – 500 days of war. Would you call this – this is the longest war, and also would you call this is the defeat for Russia, a superpower, and after their eject from Afghanistan? And now also one question. Almost 200 member nations, United Nations – what are they doing or what should we – you think their role in this 500 days of war? And finally, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was here at the White House, Ukraine issue came up, and he has spoken many times that the war should stop. Do you think Narendra Modi or India can still break the ice and play in this role to stop the war?
MR MILLER: A few things. So I will say with respect to your first question, we believe the war has been a strategic failure for Ukraine. The Secretary spoke to this in a speech he gave in Helsinki last month, I believe it was.
QUESTION: For Russia or —
QUESTION: A strategic failure for Russia or for Ukraine?
MR MILLER: I’m sorry, a – excuse me, a strategic failure for Ukraine. Thank you for the correction. Which is —
QUESTION: No, (inaudible).
MR MILLER: Oh. I need more than one correction today. A strategic – this is the first time at the podium for a week; I’m a little – I’m apparently a little rusty.
QUESTION: That’s okay, I never expected – I never expected anyone to – that – I never expected you guys to cede the high ground (inaudible).
MR MILLER: I’m a little rusty, I guess. A strategic failure —
QUESTION: Or even (inaudible) asked about it in private.
MR MILLER: A strategic failure for Russia, which has seen an enormous loss of both military personnel, but – personnel, but military equipment. It’s seen its standing in the world affected. It’s seen its economy crippled by the sanctions and export controls we’ve imposed.
I will say with respect to what other countries of the world can do, we welcome the international support that Ukraine has received since the beginning of this conflict. And to your last question, I would say we welcome a role that India or any other country could play in helping achieve a just and lasting peace that recognizes Ukraine’s territorial integrity and recognizes Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Let me stay on Ukraine before we move in –
QUESTION: One more on Ukraine, please.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Since you’re rusty, I’m going to spice things up a little bit, ask about “Track Two,” so-called diplomacy, that made headlines last week. And understand the anger Ukrainians –
QUESTION: It should be one more. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, how much did they – no. I know you guys covered it last week. But the Secretary shared the same stage with Richard Haass two weeks ago. Can you tell us how much the Secretary know about these efforts? When did he know it? And did he request any debrief after or any time after?
MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about this. Number one, we’re not going to speak for any private citizens that are not part of the administration. With respect to these conversations that we understand former officials held, they were conversations they were having on their own behalf, not on behalf of the administration or of anyone in government. Our focus continues to be on helping Ukraine succeed in the battlefield.
And I just want to reiterate that there is one thing we have said previously that is really our North Star when it comes to any potential negotiations, and that is, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. So it is fine for private citizens to have conversations, but it is not – they are not in any way speaking on behalf of the administration.
QUESTION: But when those private citizens are former officials from previous administrations, isn’t that a breach of the Logan Act?
MR MILLER: No. No, we don’t believe it is.
QUESTION: What made you draw that dotted line?
MR MILLER: They are not conducting foreign policy on behalf of the United States.
MR MILLER: Yeah, Janne, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have a couple – thank you, Matt. I have two questions, one in North Korea, one in China. You may have seen this report this morning – North Korean’s sister Kim Yo-jong threatened to shoot down United States reconnaissance aircraft in a statement this morning. How will the State Department react on this?
MR MILLER: I would just say that we would urge the DPRK to refrain from escalatory actions and again call on it to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy. We remain committed to diplomacy and reiterate our interest in dialogue with Pyongyang without preconditions. We’ve made that clear on a number of occasions, and unfortunately they have refused to engage in a meaningful way.
QUESTION: On China. China said it would not have resolved the North Korean issues as long as the United States was involved in the Taiwan issues. What is your view of Chinese intention of this?
MR MILLER: I will say this is an issue that came up in our conversations in Beijing when the Secretary traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese Government officials. And we continue to believe that China can play a role, if it chooses to, in helping convince the DPRK to take de-escalatory actions, and we will continue to urge them to do so.
QUESTION: When you are AIF meeting in this time, does the Secretary – raising this issue with that meeting? I mean AIF.
MR MILLER: I wouldn’t want to preview any specific meeting, but of course this is an issue that we often raise in our diplomatic engagements.
All right, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have a couple questions on Jenin. But since you mentioned a milestone of 500 days, I want to ask you: Do you know how many days has it been since the Palestinians have been occupied by Israel?
MR MILLER: I do not.
QUESTION: Well, not including today, 20,475. Not including today. Facing a very brutal occupation. Unlike the Ukrainians, they’re not – the Palestinians are not afforded the right to self-defense, facing against Apache helicopters, American-supplied weapons and so on. Kids throwing stones at these weapons that you supply so generously to Israel and so on. Do you believe that the Palestinian people in Jenin have a right to defend themselves?
MR MILLER: Let me just say first of all with respect to the comparison to Ukraine, the United States does not believe these two situations are comparable. I’m not going to litigate all the differences here at the podium, but in no way do we believe there is a comparison to be drawn here.
Let me speak about —
QUESTION: So the —
MR MILLER: Let me speak —
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. Because you —
MR MILLER: Let me speak about Jenin.
QUESTION: Are the Palestinians occupied or not? Have they been at least, as you have acknowledged, been occupied since 1967 June 5, which makes it 20,475 days.
MR MILLER: We had said that in the – we have said that in the past, and our position has not changed.
QUESTION: So how is it not compare?
MR MILLER: It is not in any way related to Ukraine.
QUESTION: Okay, I’m not relating to Ukraine. Do you believe that the Palestinians – it is high time that the Palestinians have become free of military occupation?
MR MILLER: We believe that there should be a two-state solution, as we have said for a long time. You and I have engaged in this conversation before.
QUESTION: We have, but —
MR MILLER: It continues to be our policy.
QUESTION: But you know what? I mean, last week what you guys said that – we saw all this destruction and the killing at a refugee camp, people being displaced for the second and third, probably the fourth time in their life, and what do you say? You say Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel goes into a refugee camp —
MR MILLER: Israel does have the right —
QUESTION: A hapless refugee camp.
MR MILLER: So —
QUESTION: Do the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves?
MR MILLER: Israel does have a right to defend itself. We support Israel’s – let me – should I – just let me finish. I’ve let you talk for a while. We support Israel’s security and the right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups. At the same time, it is imperative to take all possible steps to protect civilians from harm and facilitate humanitarian and reconstruction supplies for the benefit of the people, of the people of Jenin, like restoring electricity and water services.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. So would the United States wish to step in and to protect the Palestinians? Do you believe that the Palestinian people, the civilians, need protection?
MR MILLER: We believe that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live with equal measures of dignity, prosperity. It is – it is why we are such fervent advocates of the two-state solution and continue to be so.
QUESTION: The secretary-general of the United Nations said that Israel used excessive force in Jenin. Do you agree with the secretary-general of the United Nations?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to – specifically to his comments. But I will say, as I said before, we support Israel’s security and its right to defend itself against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups.
QUESTION: Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, reacting to President Biden’s statement yesterday, has said that Israel is an independent country and not another star on the U.S. flag. Do you have any comment on that?
MR MILLER: Well, that’s a statement of fact. Israel is an independent country. At the same time, when we have concerns, we will continue to express them, just as countries express their concerns about actions the United States takes, and we view that as constructive and healthy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: An Israel question?
MR MILLER: Let me – go ahead. I was going to – go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Today, Toomaj Salehi, the Iranian rapper who was detained during the demonstrations in Iran, was – his sentence was announced, six years and three months. His political – his – yeah, political sponsor in the EU parliament has said that she would like to see him and talk to him. What would the United States like to see in this regard?
MR MILLER: Let me just say that we have seen the disturbing news about the verdict for a six-year sentence. We continue to monitor his condition. He has been consistently denied access to legal representation. His trial was held behind closed doors, following reports in April he was in urgent need of medical attention after he was tortured while in detention.
The regime’s harsh treatment in this matter is deeply troubling and must be brought to an end, and we would call on the Iranian authorities to release him and all political prisoners. The world is watching, and we’ll continue to coordinate with our allies and partners to hold Iranian authorities accountable for their human rights abuses.
QUESTION: Okay. I have a question on Special Envoy Rob Malley. The House Foreign Affairs Committee expects an answer from the State Department by the end of the day tomorrow regarding his situation. Is the State Department going to comply with that? Are you anywhere close?
MR MILLER: I will say we take our oversight obligations extremely seriously. We obviously got the letter from the chairman. We’ve been reviewing it and we will be engaging with his office on the matter.
QUESTION: Israel? Israel question?
MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead. I’ll come back.
QUESTION: Yeah. The Iraqi Coordination Framework, which – they dominated the Iraqi Government, they are calling for unfreeze the Iranian assets in Iraq that Tehran could continue supply Baghdad with gas for electricity. How do you see this calling, and how do you – going to respond?
MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about it. Number one, since 2018, the State Department has provided a number of waivers in consultation with Congress that allow Iraq to import electricity from Iran. Any funds owed to Iran are paid into a restricted account that can then be used by Iran to purchase non-sanctioned goods such as food and medicine. The 19th such waiver was provided in March. We talked about it a bit from – in this briefing room, and we’re not in a position to preview any future decisions about whether to renew the waiver.
But beyond that, I want to speak to the underlying issue, which is that the United States strongly supports Iraq’s path to energy autonomy and are working closely with our Iraqi partners to see that goal achieved. Just today, the – Iraq signed a $27 – a $27 billion energy deal with TotalEnergies. We believe that was an important step towards this goal and we enthusiastically welcome the development. It’s something the Secretary was personally involved in advocating for. The deal with Total and projects like those laid out during the Higher Coordinating Committee we had with Iraq in February will ultimately allow Iraq to reduce its methane emissions, improve public health for Iraqis, and utilize a natural resource that could be providing electricity to Iraq’s people and its economy.
QUESTION: The current Iraqi Government is backed by some Iranian political groups in Iraq. Are they pushing you to unfreeze the Iranian assets in Iraq?
MR MILLER: I won’t get into any private diplomatic conversations.
MR MILLER: Israel, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a question about – how would you – what would your comment be to our audience concerns about foreign government intrusion in Israel, to – working to foment the riots and protests in Israel to undermine the ongoing judicial reform?
And there’s also the issue about a lot of evangelical Christians are very supportive of Israel’s right to their land. They oppose the two-state idea. What would you say to those issues?
MR MILLER: I will say that we disagree. We support the two-state solution. I think we’ve made that very clear.
With respect to judicial reform, as the administration has said on a number of occasions, both U.S. and Israeli democracy are built on strong institutions, checks and balances, and an independent judiciary. The President has said publicly and privately that fundamental reforms like this require a broad basis of support to be durable and sustained.
QUESTION: On the issue about international issues regarding children, about sex trafficking – so what would your response to the international child sex trafficking problem? There is a Sound of Freedom movie out now that’s describing that international sex trafficking problem.
MR MILLER: We obviously oppose international sex trafficking. The department has taken a number of steps to both shine a light on sex trafficking and hold people accountable. It’s a high priority for this department and for the broader United States Government.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Just to follow up on Rob Malley, there was some more specific reporting the end of last week and over the weekend that he’s under investigation by the FBI for his handling of classified documents. What is the State Department’s latest position on why exactly he’s on leave?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any comment on those reports. As we’ve said, Rob Malley is on leave and Abram Paley is leading the department’s work on the – on – in this area. And I will just say in addition to not commenting on any reports of investigation, I’m really limited about what more I can say about what is a personnel matter due to privacy considerations.
QUESTION: You haven’t spoken about Sudan in a while at this podium. I was thinking the UN has said that Sudan is on verge of a full-scale civil war. That was yesterday. And then today, there are talks in Ethiopia, and Sudan army said that they will not participate in those talks. How do you assess the situation right now? What more can you do or not do, more sanctions or what have you? I know you never preview sanctions, but where are you at?
MR MILLER: I will say that the situation in Sudan continues to be extremely troubling. With respect to the talks that you referred to, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee is in Addis Ababa today and tomorrow to engage with African leaders, including senior representatives of governments in the region, in the African – the African Union Commission, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and she is also meeting with Sudanese civilians committed to ending the conflict and restoring democratic governance in Sudan.
I will just say that this meeting continues to send the message we have been sending to the two warring parties from the beginning that the world is watching. The United States and our regional partners are unified in calling for the parties to immediately end the fighting and for the SAF and RSF to return to the barracks, to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, and respect human rights.
There is no military solution to this conflict, so we will continue to do two things: one, engage in diplomatic efforts like the ones we are engaging now; and two, impose measures that hold the parties accountable if and when it’s appropriate. And you’re right, I can’t get – speak to those – I can’t preview any of those from here, but those are the two tools in our toolbox that we will continue to deploy.
QUESTION: Yes, but you say the world is watching, so what actions can actually take the United States beyond the tools that you mentioned?
MR MILLER: Yeah —
QUESTION: Are you at a position right now where you are – by frustration or what have you, or wanting to put more pressure – at a stage where you are going to strengthen measures against Sudan without calling them necessarily sanctions? Or are you still in this process of engaging in diplomacy (inaudible)?
MR MILLER: I will say that the two are not mutually exclusive. We do continue to consider what other measures might be appropriate that we could deploy while engaging in diplomacy in the region. And one thing we’re not going to do is give up our engagement on this matter. It continues to be a high priority for us. Assistant Secretary Phee has been in the region a number of times to work on this matter, of course John Godfrey is still there, and it will continue to be a high priority. But I acknowledge it is a very difficult solution that doesn’t present easy – is a very difficult problem that doesn’t present easy solutions.
QUESTION: On Sudan?
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So if – SAF and RSF are not part of these discussions in Ethiopia, what impact can they realistically make on this conflict?
MR MILLER: Well, we think it’s important to engage a number of parties in the region, governments in the region, especially those who have their own relationships with the two warring parties. And it’s also important for us to engage not just with those governments, but with civilian authorities and civilian representatives in Sudan, to make clear that we don’t believe that there is a military solution to this conflict and we believe there should ultimately be a transition to democracy.
But I take your point. We have engaged with both of the factions since day one, and the point that we’re at now is we’ve seen both factions continually agree to ceasefires and then either violate those ceasefires or refuse to extend them when the ceasefires have expired. So we will continue to send the message to them that we don’t believe that there is a military solution, we’re going to engage with our partners in the region, and we’re going to continue to consider measures with which we can hold either party accountable.
QUESTION: And how are the civilian representatives who are part of this – how are they chosen or who – which civilians are involved?
MR MILLER: I can’t speak to that with any detail other than it’s Sudanese civilians committed to ending the conflict and restoring democratic governance in Sudan. There are a number of advocacy groups in Sudan that have been prominent over the last number of years; there are representatives from those groups and others.
Okay, yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: On Belarus, have you seen any evidence that Russia has moved nuclear weapons to —
MR MILLER: I don’t have any new assessment on that, but let me check.
QUESTION: On Ukraine, you just said that Russia has used cluster munitions in conflict with Ukraine. Has Ukraine used cluster munitions, and what is the dud rate of Ukrainian cluster munitions?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any assessment on that. I will say the dud rate of the munitions that Russia has used – again, not just against military targets but against civilian targets – has a dud rate, by our estimation, of somewhere around 40 to 50 percent. And the munitions that we’ve provided Ukraine, which they now will, of course, use, have a much, much, much lower dud rate, somewhere around 2, 2.5 percent.
QUESTION: Okay, and over the weekend, Hanna Maliar, who is the deputy defense minister of Ukraine, acknowledged that Kyiv was behind the terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge in October when a truck full of explosives exploded. And do you believe there should be any sort of accountability here in this case?
MR MILLER: I don’t – I have not seen those comments and I’m reluctant to comment on them without having seen them in full and in their proper context.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matthew.
MR MILLER: Go ahead – I’ll come to you next.
QUESTION: Thank you. Very quick two question on Bangladesh. The U.S. strong desire to see free, fair, and inclusive election has been (inaudible) by the Russia, China, and Iran as interference, as we have seen very harsh criticism last week from the Moscow and China, and obviously, Iran, they documented the – a film by the state-owned TV network. So what is your – I did not see any statement from DPRK, though. So what is your comment on that?
MR MILLER: (Laughter.) I don’t know why anyone would object to us calling for free and fair elections. I will note that the prime minister of Bangladesh has repeatedly stated her own commitment to free and fair elections. It’s a desire that we share as a friend and partner of Bangladesh for over 50 years. We do not support one political party over the other; we support a genuine democratic process. And as I said in response to another question earlier, we don’t consider it interference in internal affairs when other countries raise our elections process with us. We welcome those discussions as an opportunity to strengthen our democracy, and we don’t know why any other countries would object.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Zeya and Assistant Secretary Lu are visiting the region and Bangladesh. Will they engage with the ruling authority and the main opposition party BNP to make an atmosphere for holding a free, fair, and inclusive election in Bangladesh, as people of Bangladesh are demanding an election under a neutral caretaker government?
MR MILLER: I – so you’re right, the under secretary will travel to Bangladesh from July 11th to the 14th. She will meet with senior government officials to discuss shared humanitarian concerns, including the Rohingya refugee crisis, labor issues, human rights, free and fair elections, and combating trafficking in persons. She will also engage with civil society leaders on freedom of expression and association, human labor rights – inclusive of vulnerable groups – and governance and democracy.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. My first question is for my little niece, Duba Afridi. And she was requesting that – she has an Afghan friend in her class whose little brother has been ill, and she has applied for the U.S. visa for treatment, and the Pakistani embassy – the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan used to have a criteria for education and medical visas (inaudible) urgency. So I just wanted to bring that into your notice, if that issue can —
MR MILLER: Thank you.
QUESTION: — be revived where students and —
MR MILLER: Thank you. I’ll look into it after the briefing.
QUESTION: My second question is with regard to women education in Afghanistan. Last week, I spoke to Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban Qatar media – the political affairs head in Qatar, and I had requested him about the girls, because we are being contact by several Afghan families that girls’ education, nobody is paying attention to it. And I’d urged him that the online education was one way so at least these girls don’t lag behind in the whole system of education, if something with regards to honor – because the U.S. is still the largest donor there. If the State Department can look into diverging – because the families want – they prefer eating one meal but having their kids get education. If that is another – something if you can request from this podium to them that – to look into it at least.
MR MILLER: Thank you. Let me just say that the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls continues to be something we strongly object to, and we will continue to do so. And I’ll look into that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: Let me go back here first.
QUESTION: So both President Biden and Jake Sullivan yesterday talked about that Israel’s style of security model that the U.S. is going to propose to Ukraine at Vilnius. Jake said it would involve security, cyber assistance, intelligence sharing, but is that basically how it works today? And would this model offer bilateral – actual guarantees to Ukraine? Can you speak in —
MR MILLER: It will not surprise you to hear me say that I do not want to get ahead of announcements that the President will be making in the next few days. These are matters that will be under discussion at the Vilnius Summit. The National Security Advisor gave a little bit of detail that you referred to. I don’t have any more detail, but I will just reiterate that as we’ve said, I would expect a strong package of political and practical support to come out of this summit. What that looks like, I would say just wait and we’ll see it over the next couple of days.
QUESTION: But can you say at least if this is a substitute to Ukraine’s accession to NATO or something that is interim?
MR MILLER: I will – again, I’m going to let the – I will just say wait for the next couple of days, see what it looks when it’s announced in Vilnius, and I’ll be happy to talk about it more in detail then.
All right. I’ll take a couple more.
MR MILLER: What’s that?
QUESTION: Vilnius trip?
MR MILLER: You’ve already had one. Let me go to someone who hasn’t had one before I wrap up.
QUESTION: Thanks. I have a question about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. In regards to Ukrainian reports that Russia may be planning sabotage at the plant, the U.S. and the Secretary has promised catastrophic consequences if Russia were to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Would you consider sort of deliberate sabotage of a nuclear plant to be basically equivalent to that, with similar consequences?
MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about it. One, we’re aware of the comments that President Zelenskyy made, and we continue to monitor conditions at the plant. We believe that the International Atomic Energy Agency should have full access to all portions of the plant. Russia should facilitate this onsite access. We’ve said that for – a number of times. And I would just say in direct response to your question that Russia’s leadership should think long and hard about whether they want to risk causing a nuclear catastrophe. Because if that happens, the international community will absolutely hold Russia in – Russia to account.
All right. One more. Alex, you want —
QUESTION: And later —
MR MILLER: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: Very quick questions.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: What do you make of Putin’s meeting with Prigozhin, and what are we watching for in terms of how it impacts the war and the situation in Russia and Putin’s leadership?
MR MILLER: Well, I’m not going to pretend I have a degree in advanced Kremlinology studies here and comment on what the —
QUESTION: Well, you were the spokesman for the Justice Department (inaudible). (Laughter.)
MR MILLER: Yeah, that’s different than advanced Kremlinology studies and deciding who’s up and who’s down and what that means.
What was the second part of your question?
QUESTION: Its impact to the Ukrainian war because —
MR MILLER: I, again, think that how the entire Prigozhin episode shakes out still remains to be seen. That was a new development and I suspect there will continue to be new developments. But I will just say with respect to the reports obviously that Yevgeniy Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin were at odds with each other, now we see them meeting with them, it reiterates something that I said from this podium the day after those events happened, which is there are no heroes in the struggle between the two of them. These are both people who have committed atrocities or ordered the commission of atrocities in Ukraine.
QUESTION: And my second question – my second topic on —
QUESTION: Are they in cahoots?
QUESTION: Sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: No, do you think they are in cahoots with one another?
MR MILLER: Again, I’m not going to play Kremlinologist on this.
Matt, do you want to —
QUESTION: My second topic, Matt, if you don’t mind.
MR MILLER: Oh.
QUESTION: On Armenia-Azerbaijan, the Secretary called the Arlington meeting successful. What should Azerbaijanis and Armenians be looking for in the days and months ahead to understand that it was successful? Anything?
MR MILLER: I think another sign would be the continuation of talks, which we continue to support. We continue to believe an agreement is possible and we look forward to further talks in the coming months.
QUESTION: Continuation including in Washington at the next —
MR MILLER: I’m not going to say any more than that.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just – I don’t expect you’re going to have an answer to this, but I’d appreciate it if you could look into it, particularly with L. And given the fact that the Secretary and the President were just in London and that you have – you opened the briefing with this statement about Ukraine and forced deportations, I’m just wondering if the British Indian Ocean territory issue has come up at all with – and the expulsion, the forced expulsion by the British of islanders from the Chagos Archipelago – if that comes up at all in any of these discussions. I know that Cleverly said late last year that the Brits and the – and Mauritius would be entering into another round of discussion about this. But for decades now, this has been an issue. These people were forcibly expelled. Everyone admits that. And you say that it’s a war crime in Ukraine, and I’m just wondering – this was 1970s – does this issue come up at all with the U.S.? Are we getting now – or am I, like, just bringing up something that you think is, like, equivalent to the Falklands?
MR MILLER: I will – I will have to take it back. I’m just not —
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR MILLER: — not sure.
All right. Thank you, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)
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