Department Press Briefing – April 11, 2024 – United States Department of State

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. We have a couple of guests today. Run of show: Our Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is here along with our Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is going to kick it off with some open remarks. They’ll take a few questions about the conflict in Sudan, and then I will return for the remainder of the briefing.

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees had fled for this camp in the months prior – 90 percent of them women and children. And among those refugees was a six-month-old baby, born only days before the fighting broke out in Sudan. When I saw her, she was suffering from acute malnutrition – so small, so fragile, I thought she was a newborn. There is so much about her story that I don’t know: how she arrived at the MSF hospital, whether she ever left the hospital. But I think about her today as the world nears a grim milestone: one year of horrific civil war in Sudan; how she was born as her country spiraled into conflict; how she was carried into Chad, her protectors walking miles and miles to reach a semblance of safety; how she spent those formative few months in a hospital too small and weak to even cry as doctors tried desperately to nurse her back to health; and how now she reaches her first birthday having only known violence, hunger, and displacement.

April 11th should be a historic occasion as we mark the five-year anniversary of the revolution that toppled the Omar al-Bashir’s regime, 30 – his 30-year reign. Five years ago, you could practically taste the spirit of freedom, peace, and democracy in the air as women and young people took to the streets demanding change. And yet that baby I met in September is not growing up in a free, peaceful, democratic Sudan. Instead, she’s one of millions whose lives have been upended and forever altered by this war.

Today, nearly 25 million Sudanese people live in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection; three-quarters of them face acute food insecurity. Nearly 8 million have had to flee their homes in what has become the world’s largest internal displacement crisis. We’ve seen reports of gang rape, mass murder at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces militia, of girls sold into sexual slavery, boys being made into child soldiers, of urban areas destroyed by arial weapons, and entire villages burned to the ground. And yet, as communities barrel toward famine, as cholera and measles spread, as violence continues to claim countless lives, the world has largely remained silent. And that must change and it has to change now. The international community must give more, it must do more, and it has to care more.

And let’s start with the funding piece because that’s critical. To date, just 5 percent – 5 percent – of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Sudan has been met. Already, the World Food Program has had to cut assistance to over 7 million people in Chad and South Sudan, and that includes 1.2 million refugees like the ones I met in Adré, people who were already struggling to feed themselves and their families.

This is a matter of life and death. Experts warn that the coming weeks and months, over 200,000 more children could die of starvation. The United States, for our part, plans on significantly increasing our funding in the days to come.

More than just lacking aid, however, humanitarian workers have been systematically obstructed from delivering aid to those in need. From the beginning, brave people have been on the ground, often putting their lives at risk, to save people in Sudan. But at every turn, combatants on both sides of the war have undermined their work. That includes the Sudanese Armed Forces, which has impeded the major humanitarian aid crossings from Chad into Darfur.

And that’s where doing more comes in. Should the SAF not reverse course immediately, the Security Council must intervene to ensure lifesaving aid is delivered and distributed, including, if necessary, through a cross-border mechanism. What’s more, we must continue urging the warring parties to stop the fighting and get back to the negotiating table, as well as urge those outside supporters prolonging this conflict and enabling these atrocities to stop sending weapons to Sudan.

Finally, I want to talk about the lack of care, the lack of attention, the world has paid to Sudan. Just five years after a revolution that offered a glimpse at a free, peaceful, democratic Sudan, people are losing hope. Aid workers have begun calling this conflict the forgotten war. Sudanese children are asking why the world has forgotten them. And let’s be clear: I don’t believe the dearth of attention is because people are ignorant or unfeeling. In fact, I believe it’s the opposite. I believe it’s because there are so many terrible crises, so much violence and pain, that people don’t quite know which way to turn.

And this is where I need the help of all of you – the members of the press who join me in this briefing. As we mark one year of this conflict, please don’t let it go uncovered. Don’t let stories like the ones I heard in Chad go unheard. Don’t let perpetrators of this horrific violence go unexposed, from the generals who started the war to the backers who continue to fuel it. Don’t let the feeling that we have forgotten Sudan become a reality, because we need – we need to reignite that spirit of revolution, the hope and promise that characterized this day five years ago. I’m counting on you, and the people of Sudan are counting on you as well.

So thank you, and Special Envoy Perriello and I will now take a few questions.

MR MILLER: Matt, do you want to – do you have anything?

QUESTION: I don’t really have anything.

QUESTION: Sure, thanks. Thanks, Ambassador and Special Envoy. Could I ask you two things?

Tom, you’ve said before that you’re hopeful with the end of Ramadan that the talks could resume. Do you think that that’s on the cards now? Do you see an interest – a strategic decision by both sides – to resume talks?

And Ambassador, you mentioned a cross-border mechanism. I know you’ve spoken about that before. How close do you think we are to that becoming reality? Do you see that as realistically something that the Security Council with the vetoes there can push through?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You want to come first?

MR PERRIELLO: First. We do sense a great deal of urgency to resume talks. And in fact, talks are already ongoing in the sense that we are negotiating every day and trying to align key actors inside and outside with a plan that would end this war. We appreciate that Saudi Arabia has committed to hosting a new round of talks and that those will be inclusive talks. We hope that that will be a date that we can be able to announce soon and build momentum coming out of the gatherings in Paris and start to have a sense of when that date will be. But in the meantime, we are not waiting to continue to try to put pressure on the parties to come to the table, and we do think that there are some signs – while many, many signs point to the war getting even worse, in some ways it’s gotten so bad and it’s starting to have such regional implications that it’s also increased, I think, some of the diplomatic appetite to try to find an end to this war. And we’re going to try to use every lever we have to build that into enough political momentum and political will to end this war.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, on the cross-border concept, we know that it is a concept that can work. It worked in Syria. We hope we don’t have to go there. We hope we don’t have to push for a resolution to go there. And for that reason, we’re engaging very actively with the SAF as well as the RSF and other parties on the ground to see how we can work with all of them to facilitate getting needed humanitarian assistance into these areas that is so desperately needed.

But if we’re not able to work with them, if we’re not able to get their cooperation, then we have to find another way. We can’t sit back and not look for other opportunities to see – to get humanitarian assistance to people who are in desperate need.

MR MILLER: Michele Kelemen in the back.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking my question. You talked about other countries fueling the conflict. I wonder if you can name them. What are you telling them? Because I think some of them are U.S. partners.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, we —

QUESTION: And what more can the U.S. do to put pressure on the political players in terms of sanctions?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: With all of the countries who have been identified as possibly fueling this conflict, we have had direct conversations with every single one of them to press them to cease their support and fueling of this war. They’ve been named in the press. We’ve seen the Emiratis be named in the press. We’ve seen Egypt be named in the press. There are others who have been identified in the press as well. And with all of them we have constant engagements, and I know that Tom has had those engagements as well.

QUESTION: Thank you. Just to elaborate a little bit more on that, to what extent is the UAE – can you talk about them helping the RSF and refusing to listen to U.S. messages to stop its weapons shipments? Can you speak about that at all?

MR PERRIELLO: I think we’ve been making very clear to all partners across the region that escalating the war at this time is something that is going to not only have increasing humanitarian costs but actually risks destabilization of the entire region. We see a conflict that in some ways has been between two sides that shows signs of being increasingly factionalized in ways that brings in some of the tribal militias that have stayed neutral and affects the ability of some of the neighboring countries to – that have tried to stay – be constructive and not get more involved to get pulled in. And right now is a time that every arms shipment, every bit fueling this conflict, is something that pushes us closer to not only famine, but to a failed state. And the flip side is this is a situation in which everyone in the region can benefit from a peaceful and stable Sudan. The Sudanese people are extremely clear about what they want. They want a return to the constitutional transition begun with great courage just a few years ago. They want to see a unified professional military that is accountable to the people. They want to see not a return of extremists and former corrupt officials. And they want that full humanitarian access.

And I think they’re going to be looking across the region at who stood with the Sudanese people at this time of great crisis, and who was pouring fuel on the fire. And those consequences for those that are making the situation worse need to increase, and I think we are seeing particularly around this anniversary on the 15th that finally some attention is being paid to this issue, and we need those actors to know that the world is watching. And we need that not to just be one day, but that people continue to cover the sheer scale of this – this tragedy, but also cover the inspiring stories. If you look at the emergency response rooms, you see young Sudanese who’ve created cash apps in local kitchens to completely disrupt the kind of barriers being set up by the belligerent actors to get food into some of the hardest-hit areas. These are stories of courage and of innovation, and ones that are literally a lifeline for many of the Sudanese left behind.

MR MILLER: We have time for one more. Simon.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on this point about the direct conversations with countries fueling the conflict, does that include Iran? And we’ve reported that Iranian-made armed drones have had a big impact on the course of the war. Is – so is that something that you’re – you’ve communicated directly with Iran on? Are they included in those countries? And what would be the message —

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve had numerous discussions with countries in the region. And in those discussions with countries in the region, we’ve encouraged them to encourage other countries like Iran not to engage. I won’t get into what discussions we may or may not have had with Iran, but in our discussions with other countries in the region we’ve also asked for their assistance in pressing each other as well as others to stop fueling this war.

MR PERRIELLO: And the one thing I would just – sorry – add on that is I think this speaks to the idea that for people in the region, there are many, many reasons to become pro-peace right now. The continuation of this conflict and the introduction of additional actors and additional negative elements only takes the situation into a more destabilizing direction in addition to the human costs of this. And we think it’s very important for people to notice those trend lines and see that this is an opportunity and a moment to switch from either not paying attention, or playing a not-constructive role, to realizing we all benefit, everyone in the region will benefit from finding a path to peace.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.

MR MILLER: — to you both.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Okay, thank you.

We continue to be concerned about the risk of escalation in the Middle East – it’s something we have been working to mitigate and contain since the attacks of October 7th – and specifically about the threats made in recent days by Iran against the State of Israel and the Israeli people. You saw the President make clear yesterday that we stand in strong support of Israel’s security against these threats. Secretary Blinken has been engaged in diplomacy over the past 24 hours through a series of calls to foreign counterparts, including Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan to make clear that escalation is not in anyone’s interest, and that countries should urge Iran not to escalate. We have also engaged with European allies and partners over the past few days and urged them as well to send a clear message to Iran that escalation is not in Iran’s interest, it’s not in the region’s interest, and it’s not in the world’s interest.

Separately, the Secretary spoke yesterday to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to reiterate our strong support for Israel against these threats. On that call, the Secretary also emphasized the importance of Israel meeting the commitments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made to President Biden last week to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, and to put in place enhanced deconfliction and coordination measures. Our teams, including our Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield, have been meeting with Israeli, UN, and private relief organizations this week to push forward on all of those fronts. And while we have seen progress, it is critical that that initial progress continue and that it be sustained. And that is the message we have been delivering consistently to the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: Right. Thanks, Matt. Just to – logistically, the calls that you just mentioned with the Turk, the Chinese, and the Saudi foreign ministers were all today?

MR MILLER: He talked to the Turkish foreign minister last night, he talked to Wang Yi this morning, and then – early this morning, and then talked to the Saudi foreign minister later this morning.

QUESTION: Okay. Are there others planned as well?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any calls to announce, but we have been engaged in a series of contacts – not just at his level, but at other levels too – to talk to foreign counterparts to send this very clear message to Iran that they should not escalate this conflict.

QUESTION: All right. I didn’t want to raise this with the previous two speakers, because obviously the Sudan situation is a situation in and of itself. But so much of what they said very powerfully about the conflict in Sudan could also – or does also apply to what’s happening in Gaza. And when they say – when the ambassador and special envoy talk about how every arms shipment leads us closer to famine and a failed state, do you not think that that same logic applies in Gaza?

QUESTION: Just because it’s you who are supplying the weapons as opposed to whoever it is – the Iranians, the Emiratis, the Egyptians, whoever it is that’s supplying the weapons in Sudan – doesn’t the same thing apply?

MR MILLER: I would say that we are incredibly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and that’s why you’ve seen the United States Government working to get more humanitarian assistance in and it’s why we’ve been pushing the Israeli Government so hard to let more humanitarian assistance in and to improve their deconfliction and coordination measures so there isn’t such a loss of political life.

And then on the political front, it’s why we have been pushing with partners in the region to develop a plan for post-conflict governance in Gaza so we don’t see a failed state, so we don’t see anarchy in Gaza, so we see a path forward for the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations. That is very much the policy that we are trying to pursue and that we have been engaged in in this administration from the President on down.

QUESTION: But is it correct then, though, that the administration believes that every arms shipment to Sudan leads us closer to famine and a failed state – that that does not apply —

MR MILLER: You have a very —

MR MILLER: You have a very —

QUESTION: I get that, but —

MR MILLER: You have a very – it is – they’re – it is a very different situation in Sudan, where you have a brutal civil war, two warring parties trying to seize control of the government; and in Israel, where you have Israel responding to a terrorist attack against its people and trying to achieve a legitimate counterterrorism and military purpose. That does not change at all the severity of the humanitarian situation, which is why we have been working so hard to improve that humanitarian situation for the people in Gaza.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that arms shipment to Israel leads us closer to famine and —

MR MILLER: We have continued to support Israel’s right to —

QUESTION: Is that correct?

QUESTION: I just – I don’t know.

MR MILLER: Let me say —

QUESTION: It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other what you say, but —

MR MILLER: They are different conflicts, but the – I’d say —

QUESTION: I know they are, but I’m just asking you —

MR MILLER: I would say —

QUESTION: They made the point in Sudan —

MR MILLER: And I’m answering the —

QUESTION: — and I just want to know if you have – if you feel the same way about Gaza.

MR MILLER: They are very different conflicts, but the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, and that is why we are working so hard from the President on down to get more humanitarian assistance in, and it’s why we are working to improve deconfliction and coordination so we don’t see such a high number of civilian casualties as we have seen over the past six months.

MR MILLER: Shaun, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just press you briefly on the – what – on the opening comments on calling Wang Yi and others? I realize you’re probably not going to give a full readout, but how successful was that? I mean, do you think there’s an interest from these other countries as well to see Iran not escalate?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak for any of those other countries. I will let them speak for themselves. But the point that the Secretary has been making to each of these counterparts – foreign counterparts, both those in the region and foreign counterparts outside of the region – is that further escalation of this conflict doesn’t just hurt Israel, doesn’t just hurt Iran, doesn’t just hurt the countries in the region, but that it harms every country in the world. Every country in the world would be hurt by wider regional conflict. Every country in the world would be hurt by wider regional war, both economically, diplomatically. And so the Secretary has been making clear to every country that has any semblance of a relationship with Iran that it is in their interest to use that relationship to send a message to Iran that they should not escalate this conflict. But I will let those countries speak for themselves about what action they may or may not take.

QUESTION: And I have to ask – I know this has been asked before – but Iran, of course, argues that a diplomatic facility was struck in Damascus. Has there been an assessment at this point from the United States whether this was indeed a strike on a diplomatic facility?

MR MILLER: We do not have a final determination. It’s something we’re still assessing.

QUESTION: Is it – do you think there will be an assessment at some point from the U.S. on that?

MR MILLER: I do, but it’s something we’re continuing to work through.

MR MILLER: Yeah, Michel, go ahead.

QUESTION: Reports say today that Iran delayed or changed plans to attack Israel at the last moment due to U.S. warnings. Can you confirm that? And do you still expect an Iranian reaction to the attack on Damascus?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to what Iran may or may not do, or what our assessments are. You don’t need an Intelligence Community assessment to see the threats that Iran has been making. They’ve been making those threats quite publicly and quite loudly over the past few days. So we will continue to send the message to them that it is not in their interest to escalate this conflict and it’s not in the region’s broader interest, and we hope other partners will send that same message.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead, Nadia.

QUESTION: Sure. I wanted to ask this question actually to the ambassador, but the Iranian mission at the UN said that basically if the U.S. – or the Security Council, rather, condemn the attack on the consulate in Damascus, this could – any retaliation could’ve been avoided. So is this your understanding, that actually you don’t condemn it because you cannot verify whether it is a diplomatic mission or not? And also, do you think that Israel can go and attack any other diplomatic mission if this is proved to be actually a diplomatic mission, and you don’t expect any country to retaliate? Just explain those points.

MR MILLER: So a few – a few things in order. First of all, I think that’s a pretty flimsy excuse from the Iranian Government. If they don’t want to widen this conflict and they don’t want to attack Israel, they don’t need permission from anyone else either at the United Nations or – they just have to make the decision not to do that, and that’s the decision that they should make.

Now, with respect to your second question, no, we do not want to see attacks on diplomatic facilities. We oppose attacks on diplomatic facilities. We continue to assess the exact status of that facility in Damascus, and don’t have a final determination on that question.

QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up on Iran?

MR MILLER: Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I – yeah. I – not Iran, but —

QUESTION: Like Matt, I was struck with what the ambassador said, the similarity. You could change the word “Sudan” for “the Palestinians” or “Gaza” and it’d be exactly the same, with one difference. I mean, you don’t have any control over the conflict in Sudan, but you certainly have control —

MR MILLER: Said, that’s – let me just say —

QUESTION: Can I just finish my question? I have not asked my question.

MR MILLER: Fine, fair enough. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So my question to you is: Why has the United States not taken its – the moral high ground and its ability and its leverage to end this conflict, as it can? We have seen this happen in the past. We’ve seen it happen in 1982. We’ve seen it happen with this administration in May – in 2021. So my question to you: Why has not this administration taken that step to end this conflict now?

MR MILLER: So first of all, Said, they are very different conflicts and very different situations, and that’s incredibly important. The conflict in Sudan is two warring military factions, following a coup that overthrew a democratic government, who are fighting for control of Sudan. That is a different question than the conflict in Gaza that was started not by Israel, but by Hamas – Hamas launching a brutal terrorist attack that killed over 1,200 Israelis and citizens of other foreign countries. And Israel has the right to hold Hamas accountable for those attacks, as the United States would, as other countries in the region would, as any country in the world if it were the victim of such a brutal terrorist attack.

That said, we are trying to bring this conflict to an end. You have seen us work to try to achieve a ceasefire, an immediate ceasefire of at least six weeks that would bring the hostages home and that we have said consistently we would like to see widen into a broader end to the conflict. You have seen us work on post-conflict governance to try to find a path forward for the Palestinian people’s legitimate political aspirations. And you have seen us work to address the very, very severe needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza. So we are working to try and do exactly that.

QUESTION: Okay, let let me just follow up.

MR MILLER: Please don’t interrupt.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up.

MR MILLER: Just let me go – I’ll go through the questions and get to who I get to.

QUESTION: If I may, I just want to follow up. I mean, you talked about Palestinian legitimate aspirations and so on, but insisting that this conflict began on October 7th does not recognize that, does it? Does it recognize that this – that the Palestinians have legitimate aspirations that go back 75 years, not just to October 7th?

MR MILLER: So they do have legitimate political aspirations that go back decades. It has been the policy of the United States for decades to try to achieve two states. But, Said, I don’t want to – not only I don’t want to, I fundamentally degree – or disagree that October 7th had anything to do with trying to answer the Palestinian people’s legitimate political aspirations. It was a terrorist attack targeting civilians, that killed civilians, by a terrorist group that does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel. So when you look at trying to achieve a peaceful resolution to the decades of violence and the decades of political conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, it is Hamas that has firmly rejected a political solution to that decades-long dispute.

QUESTION: Yeah, but do you – do you acknowledge that Gaza was under siege for basically 17 years and —

QUESTION: — every other year there would be an attack and a war by Israel, time after time after time, killing hundreds and thousands of Palestinians?

MR MILLER: Said, there – there have been incidents going back in this dispute, in this conflict for decades. Nothing that happened in – on either side justifies the attacks of October 7th.

QUESTION: Can I just have a quick question on Iran before we —

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one, there are reports of the Iranian foreign minister coming to New York City next week to visit the UN. I’m wondering how the U.S. assesses the likelihood of an Iranian attack happening during that period of time, if it would have any attack – any impact at all?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to speak to a timeframe. We’re obviously very concerned about the threat of an Iranian attack. We’ve made that clear from the President on down, but I don’t want to put any kind of timeframe on it. We were hoping, of course, to avoid such an attack in the first place.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s moving in the direction of avoiding one?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to give any type of assessment. As I said, it is not in Iran’s interest, it’s not in anyone’s in the region – anyone the region’s interest for Iran to escalate this conflict. And that’s the message we are sending to them.

QUESTION: Wait, you were hoping to avoid an attack in the first place? Has one happened?

MR MILLER: An attack by Iran. Yeah, we’re – no, one has not happened. We are —

QUESTION: Well, weren’t you hoping to avoid the Israelis attacking an Iranian diplomatic facility?

MR MILLER: I – her question – her question was – her – hold on.

QUESTION: I know, but you – but you made it —

MR MILLER: No, hold on, let me just answer the question.

QUESTION: Your answer to her seemed to suggest —

QUESTION: — that you thought the Iranians had already retaliated.

MR MILLER: No, my – well, that’s not what I was suggesting.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MR MILLER: My answer was in the context of the question she asked me, which was about an attack coming next week.

MR MILLER: So let’s go – let me – just in – yeah.

QUESTION: On that call, just – the call with the Turkish foreign minister, was it purely Iran call or did they have a chance to discuss Ukraine, the Caucasus, President Erdogan’s upcoming trip? And why Türkiye? Do you guys believe that Türkiye has enough leverage to move the needle on Iran – they have Iran’s ear?

MR MILLER: It’s not just Türkiye; it’s a number of countries. It’s other countries as well that have relationships with Iran – Saudi Arabia, China. And we have made other – have had other diplomatic engagements with countries in Europe and other countries in the world because we want to send a very unified message. With respect to the call itself, the primary purpose of the call was to discuss Iran’s threats against Israel. There were other issues discussed, but I don’t want to get into those any further.

QUESTION: Last thing, because we have a statement from Khamenei last night saying that any Islamic countries supporting Israel or not supporting their narratives, they’re engaged in treason.

MR MILLER: Any countries that what?

QUESTION: Any Islamic countries that do not fall in line with their narratives, they are engaged – they’re engaged with treason. I’m just wondering how much this – your calculation of calling Türkiye in this case is part of —

MR MILLER: So it doesn’t —

QUESTION: — fits into this —

MR MILLER: — have anything to do with the with those comments. Obviously, his comments are not – are ones that wouldn’t be – just be rejected by the United States but would be rejected by other countries in the region.

QUESTION: I have different coverage of questions. Please come back to me.

MR MILLER: Let me stay in the region and then we’ll – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. On the hostage talks, can you give any update on whether there’s been a response from Hamas? And also, is there a level of concern in the U.S. Government about the Israeli strike that killed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s family members and how that might affect the talks?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to give any update on the talk – excuse me – the talks themselves, other than that we continue to engage in them and try to pursue a successful resolution.

With respect to those strikes, I certainly hope that it will not, but I wouldn’t want to make any kind of assessments.

Stay – want to stay in the region? Nadia, go ahead. And then we’ll come back.

MR MILLER: So two things. First, we have made consistently clear that we oppose further settlement activity in the West Bank. We think they are a barrier to peace; we think they are inconsistent with international humanitarian law.

And I will just say, to put those actions in the larger context, there have been a number of things that the Government of Israel has done over time that we have said are detrimental to Israel’s long-term security. Obviously, settlements in the West Bank are one of them. There are other actions that it has taken in Gaza that we think are detrimental to Israel’s long-term security.

So what fundamentally it comes down to is we are working, as you know, with partners in the region to develop a path forward for Israel and the Palestinian people that we would present to them, that would provide for post-conflict governance in Gaza, that would have a component to reconstruct Gaza, that would provide further assurances for Israel’s security by its partners in the region, and there are other countries ready to step up.

And so I’m making this a broader answer, because all of this relates to that very question. It’s not just about settlements; it’s about what kind of future the Israeli people see for them in the region. And ultimately – and we’re not there yet, because we’ve not finished this plan and we’ve not presented it to the people of Israel and the Government of Israel – but ultimately, this is a choice that Israel’s going to have to make.

QUESTION: Okay, just very quickly, the ambassador made a passionate appeal to us, the press corps, to cover Sudan, not to forget civilians, rightly so. But we haven’t hear from any senior officials the same appeal about Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Number one, we have many journalists who’ve been killed, including our colleagues. We don’t hear any – apart from condemnation, nothing is being done to protect them. And second, why can’t the United States allow independent journalists to go to Gaza, since you don’t have anybody on the ground, so they will have access and tell us what’s happening there?

MR MILLER: So a few things. First of all, the reason you heard the ambassador make that appeal with respect to Sudan – and this is not for me to play editor or segment producer – but it is that we don’t see as much coverage about atrocities in Sudan. We don’t see as much coverage about the plight of the Sudanese people. We do see a lot of coverage of the Palestinians in Gaza, appropriately so, but I think her point was that we would welcome seeing coverage of this very difficult conflict that we are trying to resolve in Sudan.

When it comes to journalists in Gaza, we have made clear on a number of occasions that we want to see journalists protected. And the coordination and deconfliction measures that we have been pushing the Government of Israel on so hard, that the President pushed the Government of Israel on in his call on Friday, would ultimately help with journalism and make it safer for journalists to operate inside Gaza.

And I’ll just make it very clear that we have pressed the Government of Israel directly to allow journalists to go into Gaza. It’s not something that we control, but we have made clear that we all benefit from seeing what’s happening on the ground, that we know what’s happening there – not because we have U.S. officials there, many other countries don’t have officials there, but because of journalists who are putting their lives on the line to bring us those stories. And we’ve made clear to the Government of Israel that we think they ought to let more journalists in.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead. And then I’ll come to you, and then we’ll start taking other ones. I’m going to come to you, Janne, but I know – I doubt it’s an Israel question, so that’s why I’m moving around the room first.

QUESTION: There’s some —

MR MILLER: You may surprise me, so I’ll just —

QUESTION: Yes, yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. America has a number of allies. What message do they receive when America harangues one its closest allies, Israel, and their democratically elected leader Benjamin Netanyahu? And a follow-up.

MR MILLER: I think the message they should see is that we want Israel to live up to its values, that we want to see Israel live up to the same standards that we expect every country in the world, including ourselves, to live up to.

QUESTION: Thank you. Benjamin Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history. Clearly a majority of Israelis agree with his policies, since the majority of voters keep re-electing him. How does this mesh with what President Biden seems to be calling for, which is essentially a rejection of Israeli democracy?

MR MILLER: So first, I think that is a vast conflation of two very different things. So it is up to the Israeli people to choose their leaders. We strongly support their right to choose their leaders, as we do for the people of every country in the world. But we are going to engage with the governments that they choose to talk with them about what we think are the policies that are in our interest, what are the policies that are in their interest.

And you have heard – the President himself spoke to this in the week right after October 7th, when he made the point – these aren’t the exact words, but it’s the general gist – that sometimes in the aftermath of a horrific event your vision can be clouded, and you can make mistakes. And we are there to offer them our very best advice as a country that’s made mistakes in the aftermath of horrific events and try to keep them from making some of those same mistakes.

QUESTION: Well, it seems like there is an attempt to demonize the current Israeli Government, there are efforts to support the overthrow of the Israeli Government with a lot of protests and so forth.

MR MILLER: So that is not – and that is not what you’ve seen from this administration. We’ve traveled to Israel – the Secretary has been there – eight times I believe since October 7th meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The President has been there and talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. The Secretary just talked to the defense minister yesterday. We fully support the right of the Israeli people to decide who their leaders are.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. As Secretary Blinken spoke with the regional leaders about sending a message to Iran, were there any connections with Iraqi leaders to send any message to Iran —

MR MILLER: I don’t have any – I don’t have any engagements to read out today.

QUESTION: Okay. And have you received any signals from the Iranian Government that they taking these messages into their consideration?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to speak for the Iranian Government at all.

QUESTION: And in the past few times the Iranian use it to – use its baseless accusation to attack the Erbil and also Kurdistan region in their response to the threats from Israel. Is there something that you’re concerned maybe Iran this time use the same justification and to attack the U.S. allies and U.S. friends in the region in their retaliation for that attack?

MR MILLER: So two things. We have made clear to them that they shouldn’t escalate this conflict in any way – with respect to Israel, with respect to others in the region, with respect to U.S. forces. One of the first messages we sent to them when the Iranians were making these baseless claims that the U.S. was involved in the strike in Damascus is that that is not true, we weren’t involved, we didn’t know about it, and you should not use this as a pretext to strike U.S. forces in the region, including in Iraq, as we have seen their proxy groups do over the past few months and the past few years.

QUESTION: And last thing. Have you granted visa for the Iranian foreign minister to attend the Security Council?

MR MILLER: We never speak to visa records. They’re confidential by law, and so I can’t speak to visa records from here. But as has long been the case, we take our obligations as the host of the United Nations very seriously.

QUESTION: So when he shows up in New York, we can just assume that that’s confirmation that he got a visa?

MR MILLER: Well, you can’t travel here without one. So I can’t speak to it, but you can’t travel here without one. But I would note that Iranian foreign ministers have traveled to New York —

QUESTION: Yes, they have.

MR MILLER: — under administrations of both parties, including the last one.

QUESTION: Yes. No, I’m not suggesting that there’s anything inappropriate or untoward about it. It’s just that I just – I mean, it’s ridiculous. The guy shows up in New York, if he shows up in New York, it’s pretty damn clear that he got a visa.

MR MILLER: I would welcome your advocacy to the United States Congress to change the law and allow me to speak more about any number of things from here, not just visa records.

QUESTION: Thank you. I didn’t surprise you today that I had to ask this. (Laughter.) Yeah, I had to ask Ambassador Greenfield and I hope you can answer this, all right?

MR MILLER: I’ll do my best.

MR MILLER: So I said I’d do my best. I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. I am not in a position to preview her trip. She does have a press office in New York, and I would urge you to send the inquiry there. Go ahead.

QUESTION: That’s why you didn’t give me any chance to ask it?

MR MILLER: She had a limited time. Sorry.

QUESTION: She can take – all right, second question quick. The United Nations Security Council’s expert panel on sanctions against North Korea was disconnected. Will the U.S. submit a report together with the other countries, and do you expect to discuss with the South Korea or Japan about the continuation of this report?

MR MILLER: So as I’ve said in the past from this podium, we are incredibly disappointed that Russia chose to block that panel from going forward. And I don’t have any specific actions to preview today, but we are engaged with our allies and partners in other ways to continue to monitor North Korea’s nuclear aspirations.

QUESTION: Have you any discussion when the – I mean, Prime Minister Kishida was here? Do you have any chance to discuss it?

MR MILLER: I would defer to the White House to speak to those engagements.

MR MILLER: So I would say that, first of all, our new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Zakiya Carr Johnson is one of the most qualified experts in this field. She has 20 years of experience working to expand diversity, and it’s something that we see as important here at the State Department that the Secretary has put a premium on because he believes that when our workforce looks like America and reflects the full diversity of America, our workforce is stronger and our ability to protect America’s national security is improved and enhanced. And that’s why he selected her to do this incredibly important job.

Second of all, with respect to her quote, I have seen that people have used excerpts, have not used the full context of it. But I would say a lot of this criticism seems to be from individuals. I saw former officials tweeting about this.

QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo took the hardest —

MR MILLER: Certain former officials who don’t seem – for whatever reason – to support our work to expand diversity inside the State Department. And that’s just where we have an honest agreement – disagreement where we think that’s work that we ought to do and we ought to hire experts who have experience in doing that. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do, and I think we’re just going to have to disagree with some of those critics.

QUESTION: Can I just lastly read you – Secretary Pompeo obviously worked here in the building. He said, quote, “The State Department should be staffed by individuals who love America and believe in our core principles, not ideologues who think that America represents a ‘failed historic model.’” Do you want to respond to that?

MR MILLER: Well, apparently, he believes there are different ways to love America, because one of the ways we believe you can best love America is to love its full diversity and build a workforce that reflects that full diversity.

Alex. I’ll come to you next. Alex, sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much. Turning to Ukraine —

MR MILLER: Sorry, I should not mumble my —

MR MILLER: So we have seen Russia, unfortunately, continue to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. That’s something they’ve done not just overnight but over the past couple of years. And I would say for us it comes back to the need for Congress to fully fund, fully pass the President’s supplemental request. And it goes directly to this question you asked me about the situation on the battlefield where we have seen Ukrainian armed forces having to ration artillery shells, having to ration ammunition. And of course that has an effect on their ability to fight the war and an effect on their ability to repel Russian troops, and it’s why it is so urgent for Congress to act.

QUESTION: Is any active restrictions on Ukraine imposed from the U.S., by the U.S., to prevent them from retaliating —

QUESTION: — this obvious steps will take it back to Russia.

MR MILLER: So two things. We have made clear that we do not encourage strikes outside of Ukraine, and we do not enable those strikes with U.S.-provided weapons and that we don’t want to see U.S.-provided weapons used for strikes outside Ukraine. Ultimately, when it comes to deciding how to prosecute this war, those are Ukrainian decisions, but we do not encourage or enable such strikes.

QUESTION: Can I have one more if may on Georgia? So what – as you have learned during the past couple of days since Georgia – Georgia Government – moved forward and submitted the Russian law, I’m just curious, like, what – you made it clear this is taking Georgia away from European path. Do you witness democratic backsliding in Georgia? Is that your analysis?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to make any broader assessment than the assessment I made the other day that pertains to this specific law that we believe would harm civil society organizations working to improve the lives of Georgian citizens and would derail Georgia from its European path. It’s still draft legislation, and I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Has anyone from this building reached out to Georgia or —

QUESTION: On Bahrain, Matt, do you have any comments on the release of more than 1,500 prisoners?

MR MILLER: We did see that step by the Government of Bahrain. We welcome very much the decision by the king to pardon over 1,500 prisoners along with the government’s announcement April 9th that they will work to help the recently released find employment.

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

Shaun, I’m sorry – well, go ahead, and I’ll come back.

QUESTION: That’s all right.

MR MILLER: This time I promise I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. In meeting alongside President Biden with President Kishida, did the pending deal between U.S. Steel and Nippon Steel come up?

MR MILLER: I will let the White House speak to those comments. In fact, I believe the President addressed them yesterday. Or speak to that question, I should say.

MR MILLER: So I don’t speak to campaign matters —

MR MILLER: — but that doesn’t show a lot of confidence in the Swiss Government’s ability to conduct their own foreign policy matters. I would say obviously that is an absurd allegation by the Russian Government. I can’t preview – I believe that conference is still several weeks away. I can’t preview what the U.S. participation would be, but we have supported Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts. We have supported Ukraine’s peace formula. We have support President Zelenskyy making his case to other countries in the world, and we will – that will continue to be our policy. But we have seen consistently that Russia has not been willing to engage in real diplomacy about a path forward for Ukraine. Ukraine has made clear that at the right time they would welcome that, and they have not had a willing partner in Russia.

QUESTION: And just briefly – I mean, do you generally speaking think it’s useful for the Swiss to hold this – your support of – regardless of the participation of —

MR MILLER: Look, so our policy on this has always been nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. If this is a diplomatic meeting that the Ukrainian Government supports and wants to engage in, we certainly support their right to do so. I don’t have any further comment on the conference itself as it – or how it’s going to shape up.

QUESTION: Anything to say about that?

MR MILLER: We are deeply concerned about the Malian transition government’s decree suspending all political activities until further notice. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are critical to an open society. The transition government has already made a decision not to hold an election in February 2024 to return to a civilian-led, democratic government despite the commitment that it made publicly in 2022 to do so. We call on Mali’s transition government to honor its commitments to its citizens and hold free and fair elections. In Mali and elsewhere, democracy remains the best foundation for stability and prosperity.

MR MILLER: So we have been incredibly concerned about potential spillover this – of this conflict. It’s something that we have been focused on. With respect to any engagements with Thailand, let me take that back and get you an answer. I don’t have anything to read out.

MR MILLER: It’s absolutely a concern. You’ve heard the Secretary speak to this on a number of occasions, including in Israel, when he said that we – the worst thing that can happen is people dehumanizing each other, and that once you see people on either side of this conflict dehumanizing each other, it gives license – not actual license, but gives them – they give themselves license to do any sorts of things that we would oppose and that are not in anyone’s interests. So it’s absolutely one of our concerns.

We have unfortunately seen a rise in antisemitism. We have seen a rise in anti-Muslim summit, and the President has spoken to this. It’s something we’ve been incredibly concerned about both here at home and around the world.

QUESTION: Sir, many religious scholars and others trying to portray this situation as a war between Muslims and Jews, while many others believe it is just a territorial conflict. What is your position on this? And what are we going to say to those spreading hate in our communities?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to – we would – obviously don’t want to see anyone spreading hate in any form, and I would just say that we are trying to bring an end to this conflict as soon as possible and find a durable solution to this conflict, because it is in the interests of Muslims and Jews and Christians, Israelis, other countries in the region alike. It is in the interest of all parties to see this conflict end, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.

QUESTION: Sir, one last question, if I may. Sir, you always talk about two-state solution, but whatever is happening right now, it seems impossible. So is United States, partners, and mediators trying to explore other options to bring peace in the region?

MR MILLER: So I spoke to this a little bit in response to an earlier question. We think ultimately that is the path forward, and I know it’s incredibly difficult and it looks incredibly bleak, but it is our assessment that at the end of this conflict – it is going to end – that if there is not a path forward, Israel is going to be back with the same security risks it has had since before October 7th. It is going to be in the same position with respect to a lack of relationships with all of its neighbors. And it is in Israel’s broader security interests to find a path forward for reconciliation with the Palestinian people, as difficult as that seems, and so that’s why we’re going to continue to pursue it.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Matt. Just three questions. One is – come on, it’s my sixth briefing. Three questions is not too bad.

MR MILLER: Oh, just go ahead.

QUESTION: So with regard to Iran, please correct me if I am wrong that this administration has basically made Iran more stronger in these past few years till now, this threatening that has started. But can you confirm whether Pakistan and Iran – you have information that Iran is supporting the ISIS in Pakistan right now, these recent terrorist activities? Do you have any information that it’s the Iranian regime that is doing this or no?

MR MILLER: So I would obviously disagree with your characterization. I’m not going to get into a long rebuttal about something we’ve spoken to a number of times, but no, I do not have information to suggest that.

MR MILLER: Ultimately, as you’ve heard me say once or twice from this podium, decisions about the Pakistani Government are for the Pakistani people to make.

QUESTION: Just last one: A few days ago, U.S. officials from Islamabad embassy went to meet this gentleman named Zahir Jaffer, who was convicted on a – murdering his wife. He’s a U.S. citizen. He’s on death row now. The U.S. official went to Adiala Jail to meet him. Just a few blocks down there was Imran Khan in jail as well. Thousands of American – Pakistani Americans have asked to go and meet him as well. Why is the U.S. not going to meet the guy in jail?

MR MILLER: I would defer to the – our embassy in Pakistan for – answer that question.

Go ahead, Shannon. I’ll come to you next, Ryan.

MR MILLER: So obviously, there – we have seen Iran making public threats against Israel in the past few days. Israel’s in a very tough neighborhood, and we have been monitoring the security situation. You saw us slightly adjust our travel warnings at the beginning of this conflict, and we conduct ongoing assessments all the time about the situation on the ground.

So I’m not going to speak to the specific assessments that led to us to restrict our families – employees and family members’ personal travel, but clearly we are monitoring the threat environment in the Middle East, and specifically in Israel, and we – that’s what led us to make – give that warning to our employees and their family members, and to make it public so all U.S. citizens who either live in Israel or are traveling there are aware of it.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. President Biden said this week that the U.S. is considering Australia’s request that it drop its extradition attempt against Julian Assange and instead allow him to go back to Australia. Normally when we ask about Assange you say “refer you to the Department of Justice,” but now that the President has said that there’s a – there are diplomatic talks going on, that seems like it would be squarely in the State Department. So are – is the State Department involved in these conversations with Australia, and what can you tell us about these talks?

MR MILLER: That is a good way to try to get me to violate that rule about not commenting on extradition matters, but I am going to refrain from doing so. I don’t have any comment. I would refer to the Justice Department for comment on this.

QUESTION: Does it broadly raise concerns for you about free speech and free press? Because you often will see dictators say, why is the U.S. lecturing us about press freedoms when they are trying to extradite a foreign citizen to their own maximum security prison?

MR MILLER: So I will let the Justice Department largely speak to this issue. But as you’ve heard me say here before, one of the crimes that Julian Assange is charged with is helping Chelsea Manning hack into government systems – not receiving classified information, but helping her actually break into government systems to retrieve classified information, which as far as I’m aware has never been considered a legitimate journalistic practice, and is not the kind of practice that journalistic organizations typically engage in.

QUESTION: Well, technically he offered to help her cloak her identity so that she wouldn’t be discovered. We as journalists do that all the time with sources –

MR MILLER: I – you – so —

QUESTION: — talk with them on Signal and other devices to try to make sure that sources are protected. Is that considered helping steal information?

MR MILLER: So I am now a little bit probably further than I ought to go about facts that still are contained, or alleged facts that are contained in a pending indictment.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Two questions. Saudi Arabia joined Pakistan in addressing Jammu and Kashmir dispute while engaging with India to dialogue. Will United States encourage any mediation from Saudi Arabia between Pakistan and India? Because from very recent past, we see – we observed that United States encouraged all those engagements that goes according to the regional interest of U.S., including the Houthis and Saudis talks. After October 7th, U.S. stressed Saudi Arabia to halt their talks; before October 7th, U.S. was encouraging that. At first —

MR MILLER: Let me take you that – that one back and get a complete answer.

QUESTION: And number second —

QUESTION: National Security Advisor had scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia for talks on Israel normalization. Is it rescheduled, or with the ongoing circumstances in Middle East, there is some policy change expected from United States?

MR MILLER: So I will let the White House speak to the National Security Advisor’s travel, but I did see him at the White House podium two days ago saying that he does intend to reschedule that trip.

Go ahead, and then we’ll go here, and then wrap up for the day.

QUESTION: Thank you. What is the State Department’s position regarding Israel possibly conducting an offensive attack on Iran or Iranian interests, as Netanyahu today – he said they’re ready for a defensive or offensive attacks. Wouldn’t an offensive attack be part of that escalation that you say that we’re trying to prevent?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to hypotheticals, other than to say we don’t want to see this conflict escalated in any way.

QUESTION: Thank you. The Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said that he will recognize the state of Palestine before this summer, and that he wants other European countries to join him. Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER: Every country has to make its own decision with respect to when and where it recognizes entities in this regard. I will say on behalf of the United States, we have always believed – we have always strongly supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state, but we believe that that’s something that is best achieved through dialogue and negotiation between the two parties, as well as other countries in the region, and that’s something we’re actively pursuing.

And with that, wrap for —

MR MILLER: Do you have one more? Yeah, go ahead.

MR MILLER: I don’t have anything, other than what we’ve said previously, which is we have asked Ecuador to work with Mexico to find a resolution to this dispute.

And with that, wrap for today.

MR MILLER: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:15 p.m.)

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