Home Trends Daily Press Briefing – July 14, 2021

Daily Press Briefing – July 14, 2021

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MR PRICE: Good afternoon. QUESTION: Happy Bastille Day. Mr. Price: Happy Bastille Day. We can alwaysncount on you, Matt, to respond to the greeting. Just one element at the top. The United States is concerned by continuedndetentions, indictments, and harassment of Egyptian civil society leaders, academics,nand journalists, including the indictment of Director General of the Egyptian Initiativenfor Personal Rights (EIPR), Hossam Bahgat. Mr. Bahgat is a highly respected advocatenfor human rights, and EIPR works to strengthen and protect rights in Egypt. The targetingnand prosecution of the staff of EIPR and other NGOs, including those charged in Case 173,ndegrades the rights of all Egyptians to freedom of expression and association, and it threatensnthe stability and prosperity of Egypt. We have communicated to the Egyptian Governmentnour strong belief that individuals such as Hossam Bahgat should not be targeted for expressingntheir views peacefully. As Secretary Blinken said in April, the UnitednStates will stand with brave human rights defenders, journalists, and advocates aroundnthe world. We believe all people should be allowed to express their political views freely,nto assemble and associate peacefully. As a strategic partner, we have raised these concernsnwith the Egyptian Government, and we will continue to do so going forward. Matt. QUESTION: Thanks. Two extremely brief logisticalnthings before I get into – one, the International Religious Freedom summit was – is yesterday,ntoday, and tomorrow. This is something that the previous administration had made a bigndeal out of, and I noticed that the Secretary was invited to speak. But he was not – SamanthanPower did address it this morning, but the Secretary was invited. It’s not on his schedule.nDid he decide that this is not something that merits his time? MR PRICE: Well, as you know, Matt, the Secretarynbelieves deeply in international religious freedom. You’ve actually heard him speaknon the topic in this very room. QUESTION: I’m talking about the — MR PRICE: So when it comes to logistics ofnthe conference, we’ll have more for you on that. QUESTION: Okay. And so you’re suggestingnthat he might, in fact, accept the invitation? MR PRICE: We will have more for you on it. QUESTION: All right. And then secondly, therenwas a call this – or a meeting this morning between Jake Sullivan and the French foreignnminister. And I don’t expect you to talk about that, but there was also a call thatnthe Secretary had with the Canadian foreign minister today, and the Secretary will benmeeting with Foreign Minister Le Drian later today. But in the readouts of both Jake’snmeeting and the Secretary’s call with the Canadian, the word “Haiti” is not mentionednat all. And I am just wondering, did they discuss Haiti, at least from the Secretary’sn– in the Secretary’s call? MR PRICE: Matt, if I recall the readout, itndid make a reference to the Western Hemisphere and I think specifically a reference to — QUESTION: It’s a big hemisphere. MR PRICE: There is a lot going on in the hemisphere,ntoo. But of course, Haiti is top of mind for the Secretary in this hemisphere. There arenother countries as well that are top of mind, Cuba and Venezuela among them, that we talkednabout here yesterday alone. So I can assure you that issues — QUESTION: So they did talk about Haiti andnCuba? MR PRICE: I can assure you — QUESTION: Not just the Western Hemisphere? MR PRICE: — that issues of — QUESTION: And the Monroe Doctrine and — MR PRICE: — democracy and human rights andnworking together with our closest allies and partners in the world – and France wouldncertainly qualify as one of our closest allies – that issue did come up. QUESTION: On a more substantive matter, onnIran and this plot that was – came to light yesterday and the fact that you guys are continuing,naccording to what Rob Malley has said, I guess on the record and TV – I’m just curiousnas to – this is at least the second time that the Iranian Government has, quote/unquote,nbeen “caught” – these are allegations obviously – trying to commit nefarious actsnon U.S. soil while the administration at the time – this one and then the Obama administrationn– were pursuing negotiations on nuclear negotiations. And I’m just wondering why are you continuingnto do this if this government has shown no inclination that it’s willing to stop thisnkind of malign behavior that you and the previous administration and the administration priornto that and before that too have all called out? MR PRICE: Well, Matt, as you know, we arencareful not to weigh in on the specifics of law enforcement investigations and law enforcementnmatters, but obviously, as you know, the Department of Justice did release quite a detailed chargingndocument yesterday. And let me be very clear: We categorically condemn this reported plotnto kidnap a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. There should be no doubt about where this administration,nincluding the State Department, stands. We will, as we have, forcefully defend U.S.ncitizens and U.S. interests, and that includes in the context of law enforcement actionsnlike the one that the Department of Justice announced yesterday, as well as the actionsnthe President has taken to defend our interests in the region from Iranian-backed militantngroups. It also includes – and this is important – our ongoing diplomatic efforts to constrainnIran’s nuclear program. We’ve made this point before, but it isnan urgent concern: Every challenge we face with Iran is made more difficult, made morenintractable, when Iran’s nuclear program is uncontrolled, when it is unconstrained.nThe JCPOA, to be clear, when it was in full effect, was successful in permanently andnverifiably preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that’s why we’renseeking that return to mutual compliance. As the Justice Department’s actions prove,nwe will continue to address the other challenges that we have in our relationship with Irannor in the context of the challenges and threats that Iran poses to the region and beyond.nAs I said before, every single one of those is made more difficult, is more complex fornus to confront, when we have the potential threat of an uncontrolled Iranian nuclearnprogram on the horizon. Let me put that a slightly different way.nConstraining Iran’s nuclear program by returning to the JCPOA, by seeing to it once again thatnIran’s nuclear program is permanently and verifiably in a box, that will put us in anbetter position to address all of the other challenges that we have. The simple fact of the matter – and younreferred to the previous administration and the one before that. But ever since the U.S.nwithdrew from the JCPOA, none of the challenges we have with Iran – and again, they arenmany – have gotten better. And in fact, most of them have gotten worse. That startsnwith the unconstrained activities in the nuclear program. We’ve talked a great deal aboutnthe attacks by these Iran-backed militias. DOJ has spoken to this alleged plot. So yes, to be clear, we intend to continuenour effort to limit Iran’s nuclear program through a mutual return to compliance, justnas we continue to go about actively confronting the range of threats we see from Iran, toninclude those that maybe targeting or in some ways implicating American citizens and Americanninterests. We demonstrated that yesterday. The President has demonstrated it in the past.nAnd this department will continue to demonstrate that through our principled, clear-eyed diplomacynto seek to effect a mutual return to the JCPOA. QUESTION: But literally, like less than annhour or less than two hours before the DOJ announced this indictment, you were up therenright where you’re standing right now saying that you’re in indirect but active discussionsnwith the Iranians on prisoners while, in fact, someone should have known in this buildingnthat DOJ was about to unveil, unseal an indictment saying that the Iranians were plotting tondo the same thing again. MR PRICE: So is the implication that we shouldn— QUESTION: No. The – there’s no implication.nI’m just, I mean, this part of it, quite apart from the nuclear issue, is continuingnand getting worse, and yet there doesn’t seem to be any impact – it doesn’t seemnto have any impact — MR PRICE: No, well, in — QUESTION: — or make any – or make anyndifference — MR PRICE: In some ways you’re not wrong,nand I think we’re making the same point that many of the challenges we face with Irannhave become more pointed, more complex, more intractable since the previous administrationnleft the nuclear deal. But if the implication is that because we face a range of threatsnfrom Iran, that we shouldn’t seek to effect the return of Americans who are unjustly heldnoverseas or that we shouldn’t seek to verifiably and permanently prevent Iran from obtainingna nuclear weapon, that’s not a logic that this administration buys into at least. QUESTION: No, I’m not implying anythingnof the sort. But I’m just asking you how it makes sense, because if you look at itnfrom the outside it seems a bit ridiculous that you guys are talking, continuing to talknto them, apart from the nuclear issue, about prisoners when they’re plotting to kidnapn– they’re plotting to take more. MR PRICE: This – Matt, you’ve heard thisnany number of occasions, but we don’t negotiate with our closest friends. We negotiate tonsolve the most difficult challenges we face and Iran’s nuclear program is certainlynone of them. QUESTION: The last one – last one on — QUESTION: Stay on Iran? QUESTION: The – yeah, it’s on this. Younsaid that it’s gotten worse, the situation has gotten worse since the previous administrationnpulled out. And yet, since this administration took office, while it’s been getting worsenand while the Iranian violations of the JCPOA are becoming more profound, you guys havennot imposed any additional penalties on Iran. In fact, you’ve removed some, and I’mnnot talking about yesterday and the money the South Korean – I’m not talking aboutnthat. I’m talking about Treasury removing specific people that you called good sanctionsnhygiene – remember – so in fact, the amount of pressure that this administration is puttingnon is less than what it was before. How does that – how do you square that? MR PRICE: Matt, I think you are overlookingnsome of the activity that we have taken, including taken action against Iran with sanctions fornsome of the egregious human rights abuses that we’ve seen in Iran. In the course ofnthis administration, we have enacted additional sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses.nOf course, recently we sanctioned a network of Qods Force operatives who were fundingnthe Houthis in Yemen. We have continued to pursue through sanctions and other tools Iran’snproxies in the region, militant groups. So — QUESTION: Yeah, but none of those are nuclear-related,nand what you’re talking about and what you just — MR PRICE: Oh, I’m sorry. I — QUESTION: What you just acknowledged at thentop is that it’s gotten worse. MR PRICE: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought – Inthought you were talking about – no, we are in – we are in complete agreement thatnever since the United States left the nuclear deal that – the JCPOA, that the challengenposed by Iran’s nuclear program has grown more pronounced. QUESTION: Right. Okay. MR PRICE: Iran has continued to distance itselfn— QUESTION: So what have you – and what havenyou done about it? MR PRICE: I’ll tell you what we’ve donenabout it. We have engaged now in six rounds of principled, clear-eyed negotiations, indirect,nin an effort to return to a state where Iran is permanently and verifiably prevented fromnobtaining a nuclear weapon. We continue to believe, and successive administrations hadnbelieved, that through diplomacy – diplomacy presents the best means to control verifiablynand permanently Iran’s nuclear program. We still — QUESTION: Okay, but having six rounds of talksnis not actually doing anything other than talking. So is that – that’s your responsento Iran’s increasingly – increasing violations of its own commitments to the JCPOA? The administrationnthinks that going to Vienna and talking with them is — MR PRICE: We continue to think — QUESTION: — is the – is the appropriatenresponse? MR PRICE: We continue to think that the bestnoutcome — QUESTION: Okay. MR PRICE: — would be an Iran that is verifiablynand permanently barred from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. That’s correct. Nick. Yep. QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that question?nDoes there come to be a point at which the administration decides that Iran’s behaviornor malign behavior or this attempted kidnapping, whatever it may be, in other areas are sonegregious that it means you can no longer negotiate in good faith with them in Viennanon the nuclear issue? MR PRICE: Well, there are two separate issuesnhere, and one of which we’ve spoken to in recent days. As I’ve made very clear, thenUnited States is prepared to resume indirect talks with Iran, to resume that seventh roundnof negotiations. We are ready to go if and when the Iranians signal they are as well.nAnd that’s precisely because we want to see Iran’s nuclear program once again verifiablynand permanently constrained and Iran permanently barred from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. Now, on the question of – on that front,nthis process is not indefinite, as the Secretary has said, as you’ve heard me reiterate.nThere will come a point where our calculus will change, where the gains that Iran isnable to make in its nuclear program, the benefits it accrues might one day outweigh the benefitnthat the international community would accrue from a mutual return to compliance with thenJCPOA. We’re not there yet, but that is why we believe we should – the internationalncommunity, the United States together with our closest allies and some of our partnersnin the form of the P5+1, should return to Vienna for these talks just as soon as wencan. Now, there’s a broader issue that you raisenthat suggests that because Iran is engaging in this behavior in other realms, does thatnimplicate our view of nuclear negotiations. Our view continues to be that every singlenchallenge that Iran poses in the non-nuclear realm is made more difficult when Iran’snnuclear program is unconstrained, when it is potentially uncontrolled. So to us, ifnwe are able to control and see Iran’s nuclear program once again permanently and verifiablynconstrained, that will enable us to better in some cases diplomatically take on, in otherncases confront in other ways, the challenges that – the broader set of challenges thatnIran poses. It may not be a coincidence that, as I said before to Matt, the challenges thatnIran has posed to us in the non-nuclear realm have not gotten better since the United Statesnleft the JCPOA. In fact, in most cases, they’ve gotten far worse. Yes. Will. QUESTION: Just staying on this, on the plot,nthe four that – the four Iranian officials that were indicted are never likely to seenthe inside of a U.S. courtroom. So I know you’ll say that that’s a law enforcementnmatter, but what more is the administration willing to do to respond to the Iranian Governmentnbecause of this plot, for this plot? MR PRICE: Well, you saw DOJ make light ofnthis. You have seen them unveil these charges. You’ve also seen this administration makenvery clear that we will always take action when it’s in our interests and when it’snappropriate to do so. We have used the tools available to us, from sanctions to, in a couplencases, military force. So again, we don’t preview any steps that we may take, but wendo have a pretty expansive toolkit and we have made no secret of the fact that we’renprepared to use it. QUESTION: This administration launched a policynspecifically for this kind of activity. The Khashoggi Ban is for — MR PRICE: That’s right. QUESTION: — counter-dissident, extraterritorialn– why wouldn’t this warrant sanctions, then? MR PRICE: I’m not ruling anything in, I’mnnot ruling anything out, but you’re exactly right that we do have a number of tools atnour disposal, including the Khashoggi Ban. We have just announced the Khashoggi Ban innFebruary, I believe it was. It’s already been used in – applied in dozens of cases.nBut we are always reviewing cases that may implicate the Khashoggi Ban and may be appropriatento use it. Shaun. QUESTION: Are we done with the Iran portion? MR PRICE: Anything else on Iran? Yeah. Sure,nplease. QUESTION: One real quick on Iran. The presidentntoday – Rouhani – more or less acknowledged that negotiations will go to his successor,nthat they won’t be able to finalize a deal on the JCPOA in the next few weeks. Is thatnthe U.S. assessment as well? MR PRICE: These questions are best addressedntowards Iran. As we’ve made very clear, we are prepared to return to Vienna for anseventh round of talks. We understand that the Iranians are still undergoing consultations.nAs we’ve always said, Iran will have to make tough political decisions, includingnthe strategic decision of whether it’s willing to entertain a mutual return to compliance.nOnly Iran can tell us that. I understand Rouhani also said that the collective approach tonnegotiations has been serious and businesslike. We wouldn’t take issue with that, but again,nif and when there’s a seventh round – and we certainly hope there is one – that isna question that is best addressed to Tehran. QUESTION: Could I just follow up on your remarksnat the beginning? MR PRICE: Was this Iran? No, one more questionnon Iran. Yeah. QUESTION: I just – thank you, I just hadnone more quick follow-up on your exchange with Matt about the kidnapping plot specifically.nDo you think that this is a matter – there was – you made a comment about how we don’tnnegotiate with our friends as a rule. Is this a – is this kidnapping issue a matter wherenyou think some kind of negotiation needs to take place to put the Iranian habit of – penchantnfor kidnapping in a box? Or is that something where more punitive action would have to takenplace to change their calculus on that file? MR PRICE: As we’ve said, we’re engagednin indirect discussions with the Iranians on an urgent basis to try to secure the releasenof the Americans who are unjustly and outrageously held against their will in Tehran. But look,nwe don’t think, as – taking a step back, that this is something as a broader issuenor tactic that we should be negotiating over. This is a practice that is abhorrent. It isna practice that the United States, together with many of our closest allies, have condemnednin the strongest possible terms. The Canadians, our Canadian partners – ournfriends and neighbors – have put together an effective campaign to put attention onnthe practice of some nation-states for hostage taking, kidnapping, abductions, whatever younwant to call it for political leverage. We are working concertedly with the internationalncommunity to do all we can to see to it that this is a practice that is relegated to thendustbin of history and that doesn’t continue to occur. The fact that Iran has done thisnis something that is deeply abhorrent and outrageous, and as we work on the broadernchallenge, we are working on what we hope is the nearer-term challenge of seeking toneffect the return, the release of these Americans who are unjustly detained in Iran. Shaun. QUESTION: Can I just follow up on your commentsnat the beginning on Egypt? You voiced the concern about detentions of civil societynleaders. What effect will that have on U.S. policy? It’s been widely reported the administrationnis considering further arms sales to Egypt. Are those – do you see a linkage with that?nIs that – are those in jeopardy if there isn’t action on human rights? MR PRICE: Well, human rights is an issue thatnwe have consistently and very clearly raised repeatedly with our Egyptian partners. Innhis first phone call with Egyptian President Sisi, President Biden raised the issue ofnhuman rights. As you know, Secretary Blinken has spoken with his Egyptian counterpart onna number of occasions; human rights have featured in those discussions. Secretary Blinken metnwith President Sisi in Cairo; human rights were on the agenda in that discussion as well.nThe United States signed on to a statement at HRC 46 calling for Egypt to improve itsnhuman rights record. And President Biden even before he assumed office was very clear asna candidate that even when it comes to our closest security partners, we wouldn’t overlooknhuman rights in the name of security, stability, any other interests that we might have. Ournvalues and our interests are both of tremendous importance to us, and this administrationnis not prepared to sacrifice one for the other. So, of course, I’m not going to get aheadnof where we are in terms of any bilateral relationship or any funding or assistancenannouncements, but human rights across the board is something we look at very closelynin making those decisions. QUESTION: Sure. Could I switch to Afghanistan? MR PRICE: Anything? Sure, Afghanistan. QUESTION: The operation that’s been announcedntoday – I realize it’s probably more of a Pentagon issue in terms of logistics. Butnfirst of all, in terms of Ambassador Khalilzad, he said in May when he was testifying on thenHill that – he didn’t oppose this, but he said one of the – one of the – I’mnparaphrasing him – says one of the concerns was that this would set off potentially anpanic, that people will be flooding out, et cetera. What has changed since then? Is therena sense that the situation has deteriorated to the point that this became necessary? Whyn– is there a concern that this will affect the stability of Afghanistan in terms of peoplencoming out? MR PRICE: Well, I think what you heard todaynfrom the White House is reflective of the priority that the entire administration placesnon fulfilling what we’ve called a special responsibility. It’s a special responsibilitynthat we have and that we owe to the many brave Afghans who, oftentimes at great personalnrisk and sometimes at great risk to their families, have assisted the United Statesnin different ways over the course of some two decades. So in announcing some of the details behindnOperation Allies Refuge, today you heard from the White House how we are organized to tacklenthis effort, and it is something that the State Department has long been working urgentlynon, and the SIV program, of course, well predates the President’s announcement of the militarynwithdrawal from Afghanistan. In recent months, the State Department – and we’ve talkednabout this in recent days – has added additional resources to that effort, again, to move asnurgently as we can to process as many of those who are eligible for this program as we can. Even when we announced a change in staffingnat our embassy in Kabul earlier this year, we made the point that we would be in a positionnto send additional individuals to help with the SIV processing, and that’s preciselynwhat we did. And even in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak in Kabul that affected ournpost there, in-person interviews were suspended for a time, as we said, but the processingncontinued. And I can say that because of those increased resources, we managed to increasenthe pace of that processing over time. As you may know, we issue quarterly reportsnthat detail our ability to process SIV applicants. And just to give you a snapshot of that, thenembassy in Kabul issued 299 special immigrant visas in March, 299. Three hundred and fifty-sixnwere issued in April, and 619 in May, the most recent month for which data is available.nAnd now I know relationships are not always causal, but in this case we are confidentnthat it is. We are confident that the additional resources that we have put towards this issuenhas resulted in the increased pace of this processing. We will continue to do all wencan consistent with this program that is enshrined in legislation and that involves more thanna dozen steps to continue to accelerate the processing time. And as you heard, the WhitenHouse again today reiterated that flights from Afghanistan will begin later this monthnfor a group of these SIV applicants if they so choose to be relocated outside of Afghanistan. QUESTION: And just briefly, the – do younhave numbers on how many people will be potentially affected by this, how many people will bentaken out, and on where they would be temporarily living, housed, until – as their applicationsnare being processed? MR PRICE: So as we’ve said, we have identifiedna group of SIV applicants who have served in any number of roles – translators, interpreters,nas well as other individuals who have assisted us who may be at some risk. These are individualsnwho at the moment have the option to be relocated outside of Afghanistan before we completenthat military drawdown in order to complete their special immigrant visa processing. Importantly,nthese are individuals who are already in that SIV processing pipeline. You’ve heard usnsay that our top priority in all of this is the safety and security of these SIV applicants.nThey have already – in many cases at great risk to themselves – assisted the UnitednStates over the years. And so we don’t want to do anything that might potentially jeopardizentheir safety and security going forward. And so there are going to be some details thatnwe may not be able to provide. And so right now we don’t have anythingnto offer in terms of the size of that group, areas to where they may be relocated, butnit is safe to say that we are planning for a range of contingencies. We are moving asnswiftly as we can in the processing, and you heard from the White House again today thatnthose flights will begin later this month. Kylie. QUESTION: Can I ask you a kind of logisticalnquestion? That quarterly report that you were referencing, my understanding was that thatnwas months late giving it to Congress. So when is the last time that you provided thatnreport to Congress, and when can we expect the next report? MR PRICE: These – the numbers that I citednare available online. So they’re available publicly. When the next report may come out,nwe’ll see if we can get that information for you. QUESTION: Okay. And then just following upnon CNN’s reporting and video of the Taliban fighters executing 22 unarmed Afghan commandosnas they tried to surrender – what is your response to that, and has the State Departmentndirectly been in contact with the Taliban about this? MR PRICE: Well, the video – which I shouldnsay we don’t have any reason to doubt – depicts horrifying scenes. The killing – in thisncase, the slaughter – of unarmed individuals is – it’s an atrocious act, it’s annoutrageous sight, and of course we condemn it. We have been very clear about this, thatnwe continue to believe the Islamic Republic – that is to say, the Afghan Governmentncontinues to believe that diplomacy is the only durable and just way to reach a politicalnsettlement here. I won’t speak for the Taliban, but they continue to engage in that diplomacynin Doha. The Islamic Republic, the Afghan Government is sending a senior delegationnto Doha. The special envoy and his team are engaged, supporting these intra-Afghan discussionsnin Doha. We continue to believe – and the international community continues to believe,nincluding, if you look at recent statements from some of our closest allies, but alsonfrom countries with whom we share little else – that this diplomatic path is the mostneffective, and certainly the best path to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan,nto afford and offer the Afghan people what has eluded them over the course of not onlynthe past 20 years, since 9/11, but really the past 40 with the violence they’ve endurednin their own country. QUESTION: And can I just follow up? Last weeknyou said, however, that you – it’s the United States position that the Taliban, theirnefforts to engage in Doha demonstrate that they understand that diplomacy is the pathnforward here to gaining legitimacy. Do you still believe that, and are you on the samenpage as the Pentagon who has said some different things about the intentions of the Taliban? MR PRICE: Well, on your second question, Indon’t believe we said – we have said different things at all. What I said the other day isnthat, quote, “The Taliban too understands that only through diplomacy can they garnernany sort of legitimacy.” My Pentagon colleague certainly didn’t say anything differentnfrom that. And it is the opinion of this government, it is the opinion of the international communitynthat any government – the international community broadly I should say – that anyngovernment that comes to power through the barrel of a gun, that comes to power throughnforce in Afghanistan, any government that doesn’t respect fundamental and universalnrights is not one that will have legitimacy in the eyes of the broad international community.nIt is not one that will have the support of the Afghan people. And now I’ve heard quite a few of you ask,n“Well, so what?” Well, it’s very important because any government, future governmentnof Afghanistan that wants durability will have to be one that governs justly, and whatnwe seek is a just and durable outcome. And only through diplomacy, only through the Afghannpeople having a say will any future government be able to accrue that legitimacy, will benable to accrue assistance from the international community, which has been vital – indispensable,nI would say, to the Afghan Government. And that’s why only through that process willnany future government be able to achieve that durability. QUESTION: Let me ask again, “So what,”nthat same question, because I’ve been harping on this for days now and I just – what doesnit say? How do you square your idea that they might care about international legitimacynwith the idea, one, of what Kylie asked about, slaughter of these commandos who were tryingnto surrender, the fact that the Indians have closed their consulate in Kandahar, the Frenchnare organizing – are basically telling all French citizens to get the hell out and organizingna evacuation flight, and you are sending these visa seekers to other places because, preciselynbecause you know that it’s not safe for them and your allies know it’s not safenfor their people. So I just don’t understand how you can get up here with a straight facenand try and say, oh, well, it’s all going to be okay because the Taliban want internationalnlegitimacy, when there’s no indication even within this government you don’t reallynbelieve that. MR PRICE: Matt, to be clear, it’s a tremendouslynchallenging set of circumstances, but a couple points, and this is important, President Bidennhas emphasized this ever since he announced the military withdrawal, the United Statesnis not abandoning Afghanistan. QUESTION: Yeah, you are. You basically saidn– he said, as it had been for ages and ages, for 20 years it was a condition – it wasnsupposed to be conditions-based withdrawal. The White House got up and said when he madenthe announcement that it no longer — MR PRICE: I – I would – I will have ton— QUESTION: — the conditions-based – itnno longer mattered what the conditions — MR PRICE: — stop you right there. QUESTION: — were and that you guys werengoing. MR PRICE: I will have to stop you right therenbecause — QUESTION: Is that not correct? MR PRICE: That is not correct. That — QUESTION: Did Jake Sullivan not say that thenPresident had decided that it would – that the withdrawal did not have to be conditions-basednand would not be – and that it didn’t matter what happened afterwards? MR PRICE: Matt. Matt, as you know the previousnadministration signed an agreement with the Taliban. That – well, am I wrong? So thatn— QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry, who is doingnthe withdrawal right now? It’s not the previous administration. MR PRICE: That – that agreement – thatnagreement dictated that should our military personnel remain in Afghanistan past May 1stnof this year, the status quo would have been eradicated. Our forces, American servicemembers,nwould have starting – could have starting that very day come under dire threat fromna Taliban that would once again start targeting Americans. This President, this administrationnhas no higher priority than the safety, the well-being of Americans around the world,nand that certainly includes our service members. So the idea that we could have ignored annagreement that the previous administration arrived at, even if, as the President said,nit may not have been the agreement that this administration would have made, it would havenhad dire implications for American service members. So the idea that the status quo couldnhave endured until now, that’s just wrong. Again, we intend to maintain a partnershipnwith the Afghan Government, with the people of Afghanistan. It’s certainly our intentnto maintain a diplomatic presence so we can carry out that partnership. And beyond that,nwe will remain focused, just as this administration has since the earliest days, on the diplomaticnprocess that currently is ongoing in Doha right now. QUESTION: Ned. MR PRICE: Yes. QUESTION: I have two questions, one on DASnHady’s meetings, if you have any readout for his meetings in Israel and Palestiniannterritories. And can you confirm the reports that the U.S. consulate will be reopened innSeptember in Jerusalem? MR PRICE: I’m not in a position to confirmnany reports of that nature at the moment. When it comes to Deputy Assistant SecretarynAmr, as you know, he’s in the region. He’s meeting with Israeli officials, with officialsnfrom the Palestinian Authority, but he is also meeting with elements of civil society. And as we talked about the other day, it’snthat element of his engagements that is also quite important to him, it’s quite importantnto us, making clear that the United States is engaging broadly with our Israeli partners.nAnd we are re-engaging and building back that partnership with the Palestinian people, again,nknowing that at the end of the day, our policy is one that seeks to achieve equal measuresnof safety, of security, of prosperity, and, importantly, of dignity for Israelis and Palestiniansnalike. If we have a fuller readout of DAS Amr’s trip, we’ll be sure to provide it. QUESTION: One more on Lebanon. Will Lebanonnbe a topic of discussion between Secretary Blinken and his French counterpart this afternoon?nAnd does the U.S. support the EU sanctions on Lebanese political leaders? MR PRICE: I have every expectation that Lebanonnwill, in fact, be a topic of conversation between Secretary Blinken and Foreign MinisternLe Drian later today at the French embassy. As you know, earlier this month, the – ornlate last month in Matera, the Secretary had an opportunity to meet with Foreign MinisternLe Drian and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan to discuss this subsequent to that.nOur ambassador to Lebanon, Ambassador Shea, French Ambassador Anne Grillo, they met withnthe Saudi Ambassador Walid Bukhari in Beirut for diplomatic consultations as part of andna follow-on to that trilateral engagement on the dire economic situation currently innplace in Lebanon, and to discuss how together we can most effectively support the needsnof the Lebanese people. QUESTION: And on the sanctions, EU sanctionsnon political leaders? MR PRICE: I don’t have anything for younthere. QUESTION: Thank you. QUESTION: (Off-mike.) MR PRICE: Quickly back on Afghanistan. QUESTION: Who will care for the Afghans oncenthey are removed from Afghanistan? Will it be State or DHS? And how many flights willnthis involve? How much will this operation cost? And then it appears that many of the Taliban’snfighters have been allowed by Pakistan to cross into Afghanistan to join the fighting.nPakistan reportedly also is allowing Taliban fighters to be treated in Pakistani hospitals.nIt also continues to provide sanctuary for the Taliban’s political and military committeesnand leaders. Is this acceptable to the United States? While Pakistan has facilitated thenpeace process, does the U.S. believe it continues to provide any form of military support fornthe Taliban offensives? MR PRICE: Well, we have said before that thisnconflict is not one that the United States alone either can or should solve. This isna conflict that the international community needs to be engaged on. For many years, theninternational community – some corners of it, at least – were content to let the UnitednStates and our NATO allies take the burden in Afghanistan. Now, however, is the timenfor the international community to show support for the people of Afghanistan, to be constructivelynengaged in the diplomatic process. When it comes to Pakistan, we know that Pakistan hasnmuch to gain from an Afghanistan that is peaceful, that is stable, that’s secure. And Pakistannhas the potential to have a critical role in enabling that outcome. We do appreciatenPakistan’s efforts to advance the peace process and stability in South Asia, includingnby encouraging, as Pakistan has done, the Taliban to engage in substantive negotiations. When it comes to various details of the SIVnapplicants, where they will go as they await their processing, who will care for them,nwe don’t have any further details for you at the moment. Again, some of those detailsnmay be ones that we won’t be in a position to share given operational security concerns. Yes. QUESTION: Thanks so much. Jahanzaib Ali fromnARY News TV, Pakistan. Sir, I hope you have seen some recent interviews of Prime MinisternImran Khan and his articles in American media. He said that Pakistan will not allow any Americannbase in Pakistan to carry out counterterrorism operations. So I just wanted to request younto clarify: Has the United States asked Pakistan to provide any military base? MR PRICE: Well, again, the United States andnPakistan share any number of interests. We have interests in the realm of counterterrorism;nwe have interests in the region. And those regional interests certainly include an Afghanistannthat is stable, that is peaceful, that is secure. We have worked very closely with Pakistannover the course of many years in pursuit of some of those mutual interests, and I thinknI would leave it at that. QUESTION: Just a couple of days ago you saidnthat legitimacy and assistance for any Afghan government can only be possible if that governmentnhas the consent of the Afghan people. So we all know that Taliban has no democratic system;nthey just hand-pick their leaders. There is no voting; there is nothing. So is the worldnready to accept any hard-core, nondemocratic Islamic state in that part of the world now? MR PRICE: Well, I will tell you what the worldnis not ready to accept, and it is not ready to accept a government that comes to powernonly by force, that has no respect for the human rights of the Afghan people, for thenuniversal rights of the Afghan people. And this gets back to the point before. That isnnot a government that will have legitimacy in the eyes of much of the international community,nand importantly, it’s not a government that I would suspect will have the assistance ofnthe international community. And any government that has a concern for its own durabilitynwould obviously do well to keep that in mind. QUESTION: Ned, is anyone from State goingnto this conference in Uzbekistan, other than Zal? MR PRICE: Special Envoy Khalilzad — QUESTION: Khalilzad. MR PRICE: — is there. They’re travelingnthere tomorrow, I believe. QUESTION: Right, but is anyone – are younaware of anyone else going? And is there any – I mean, this is obviously focused on onenissue, but clearly the Afghanistan withdrawal looms large, in the background. Is there anconcern here within the administration or in this building – which I guess would benthe same thing – that the Central Asian nations might not be so receptive to U.S.nentreaties or appeals for help in stabilizing Afghanistan given the fact that you are leaving?nI stopped myself from saying “cutting and running.” So since you’re withdrawing,nis there a concern? And – but also, I – a logistical point on anyone other than Zalngoing? MR PRICE: Well, Special Envoy Khalilzad isnour senior — QUESTION: Yeah. MR PRICE: — department official responsiblenfor certainly diplomacy towards what we seek in Afghanistan. So he will be there with,nas the NSC announced, Liz Sherwood-Randall. Together they will represent the United Statesnin a conference hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan. It will discuss a number of issues,nbut include – that includes regional cooperation and regional connectivity. As you know, the Secretary has had an occasionnnow to meet both in person with some of our Central Asian partners and virtually withnthe C5. It is – these are countries, again, with whom we share any number of interests.nWe have sought to engage them to deepen that cooperation, and importantly, to deepen thatnregional connectivity that is so important to many of our shared mutual interests. QUESTION: But is there a concern that theynmight not be so receptive now — MR PRICE: These — QUESTION: — now that you’re pulling out? MR PRICE: These are countries that will makensovereign decisions about what and how – about their level of cooperation with the UnitednStates, what they are prepared to do vis-a-vis support for a stable and secure and peacefulnAfghanistan. I think what I said before applies across the board, that the international communitynhas a constructive role to play to support that goal. It’s not only in our interests,nand in fact, it is much more – it is certainly in the immediate interests of Afghanistan’snneighbors that Afghanistan see a future that one day is stable, peaceful, and secure. Conor. Sorry, let me – I’ve – let mencome back to – yeah. Sorry. QUESTION: Cuba and Haiti? MR PRICE: Yep, yep. QUESTION: The Department of Homeland Security’snSecretary said today that Haitians and Cubans fleeing political violence and arriving onnU.S. shores will not be permitted to enter the United States and instead will be sentnto a third country. Given the State Department is responsible for third-country referrals,nare you in discussions with third countries? Has a third country agreed to take in Haitiansnand Cubans who are seeking refuge in that instance? MR PRICE: Well, what Secretary Mayorkas wasnillustrating yesterday was our sincere concern with the reality, and that is that anyonenwho takes to the seas to seek refuge in the United States, be it from Cuba or from Haiti,nwould put their life at own risk – at their own risk and would not gain entry to the UnitednStates. This is a journey that is dangerous and not one that would allow them to securenentry. That was really the humanitarian concern that Secretary Mayorkas was voicing yesterday.nI don’t have anything for you on third countries. Obviously, we work very closely with DHS whennit comes to issues of asylum, but I wouldn’t want to comment beyond that. QUESTION: Can I have one more on Haiti? Younsaid, I believe, the other day – it might have been yesterday – that you were waitingnfor consular access to all three Americans who’d been arrested in Haiti. Have you sincenhad consular access to all three Americans? MR PRICE: We have continued to have consularnaccess to detained Americans. I confirmed the other day that we’re aware of threenAmericans who have been detained as part of the investigation. I’m not able to providenadditional details given privacy considerations. QUESTION: Follow-up on Cuba? MR PRICE: Sure. QUESTION: (Inaudible.) This gets to what younwere discussing yesterday, but reportedly Cuba, the internet restrictions have beenneased slightly. But there – the Cuban foreign minister yesterday accused the United Statesnof orchestrating the protests again through Twitter campaigns, through social media campaigns.nDo you have any further comment on the situation there with the internet, and also about thendetention of a journalists for the Spanish newspaper ABC, ABC? MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to the detentionnof Camila Acosta of ABC, we know that the world is watching as Cuban authorities arrestnand beat dozens of their own citizens, and that includes journalists and independentnvoices. We know that many remain missing. We join their families, Cuban human rightsndefenders, and people around the world in calling for the immediate release of thosendetained or missing for merely demanding freedom by exercising what is a universal right tonfree assembly and free expression. Violence and detentions of Cuban protesters and disappearancesnof independent activists remind us, constantly remind us that many Cubans pay very dearlynfor exercising rights that should be universal. And universal means everywhere around thenworld and anyone. When it comes to the internet shutdowns, wenspoke about this yesterday indeed, but we do condemn the use of partial or completengovernment-imposed internet shutdowns. We call on Cuba’s leaders to demonstrate restraintnand urge respect for the voice of the people by opening all means of communication, bothnonline and offline. The abuse of journalists, of independent voices, the attempted suppression,nincluding through technological means, of the voice of the Cuban people, this is notnsomething that could ever silence or quell the legitimate aspirations of the Cuban peoplenfor freedom, for human rights, for what their own government has denied to them for farntoo long. Let me – everyone – yes, I don’t thinknI’ve called on you. QUESTION: This is going back again to Afghanistan.nWhat kind of role do you anticipate China to play, especially now after the withdrawal?nAre you worried about – at all about what China might do after the troop withdrawalnfrom Afghanistan? MR PRICE: Well, our relationship with China,nas we say, is multifaceted. It is in some areas adversarial. It is in many, if not most,nareas competitive. It is in some areas – there are some areas in which our interests alignnand where there is the potential for cooperation. We’ve talked about that in the context ofnclimate, of course; in the context of Iran’s nuclear program, China – the – China beingna member of the P5+1. But there is the potential for constructivenengagement on Afghanistan, and this goes back to the prior point, that an Afghanistan thatnis more secure, that’s more stable, that is peaceful – that is not only in the interestsnof the United States of America. It is certainly in the interests of Afghanistan’s neighbors.nIt is in the interests of the broader international community as well. So we look to China, asnwe do other regional countries, to play a role that is constructive and that helps bringnabout that outcome that is in our collective interests. QUESTION: Follow-up on that. So are you sayingnthat you’re not worried at all about China working exclusively with Taliban? Not – you’rennot necessarily worried about other countries or governments in that area trying to basicallynfurther destabilize that area or that region? MR PRICE: I’m saying that China – as donother countries, but China being, of course, an important country in the region – hasnthe potential to be a constructive force when it comes to the cause of an Afghanistan thatnis more secure, that is more stable, that ultimately is peaceful. This has the potentialnto be one of those areas because it is an area where our interests do align, where thenUnited States and the PRC can find some area of agreement and can work together constructively.nThe ability to do that would certainly be not only in our national interest but alsonthe collective interest as well. Conor. QUESTION: Can I just ask you one questionnon passports? I know we had the briefing this morning, but the State Department says thatnover 150 staffers are returning to the office this summer. But given the interest in traveln– the rise in vaccination rates, the reopenings around the world – why wasn’t the StatenDepartment more prepared to deal with this rush of passport applications? MR PRICE: Well, as you know, Conor, we arenweighing our important mission sets and also the safety, health, security of our personnel.nAnd the department is still, in Washington here, we are still subject to occupancy restrictionsnowing to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. We have been able both here at main State andnaround the world to gradually resume operations, some operations that had been slowed overnthe course of the pandemic, and we certainly expect to be able to do more of that as conditionsnhere in this country continue to improve. And it’s certainly our hope that we’llnbe able to do more of that in our overseas installations as well. QUESTION: What’s your message to Americans,nthen, whose passports are expired and had anticipated traveling this summer or evennin the fall, given the fact that they wouldn’t be able to have their passport renewed? MR PRICE: Well, our message is that — QUESTION: Sorry. MR PRICE: Our – do you want to come up here? QUESTION: I don’t envy you. MR PRICE: Our message, Conor, is that we arenworking just as expeditiously as we possibly can, knowing that the traveling public hasnlegitimate interests in travel. We are gratified to see travel become possible once again givennthat the pandemic is easing, certainly in this country and in other countries – somenother countries around the world. We will continue to contribute resources to this verynimportant mission set. QUESTION: Can I just ask one follow-up onnEurope travel? Do you have any indication of when the travel restrictions against thenSchengen Area might be lifted? And can you also just give a little of the logic behindnwhy the Schengen Area continues to be listed on the travel ban but other countries withnhigher infection rates – Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, Russian– are not on the banned list? MR PRICE: The various travel restrictionsnwill be lifted as soon as we safely and responsibly can. The broader point here is that this isnnot a political decision. These are decisions that are informed by public health, that informednby the science, that are going to be and at the moment are being weighed by our publicnhealth professionals, including at the CDC. So as soon as those who are expert in thenfield determine that it is safe to repeal the various travel restrictions, I assurenyou there will be no delay in doing so. We understand the importance to the travelingnpublic, to trade, to our relations and people-to-people ties with some of our closest allies and partnersnaround the world. Quick final question, (Inaudible.). QUESTION: On security assistance to Haiti,nis the U.S. still considering sending – sorry, considering the request to send troops tonprotect key infrastructure? If so, what size of force, how many soldiers is being analyzed?nAre there discussions about a UN-led or multilateral force? And if so, what countries are you talkingnto about this with? MR PRICE: Well, we continue to evaluate thenHaitians’ – the Haitian Government’s request for assistance to determine how bestnthe United States can address them. After close consultations, including in the contextnof the interagency delegation that was in Port-au-Prince on Sunday, we believe our focusnshould be assisting the Haitian Government with navigating the investigation into thenassassination of President Moise, determining who is culpable, supporting the Haitian Governmentnas it seeks justice in this case. Of course, the situation on the ground is evolving rapidly,nand we continue to be in close contact with our Haitian partners about how we can bestnassist. I should also add that the Department of Justice,ntogether with the Department of Homeland Security, is providing assistance to Haitian authorities.nThe Department of Justice will continue to support Haitian authorities in their reviewnof the facts and the circumstances surrounding this attack. We are also taking a close looknat the Haitian Government’s needs in the context of critical infrastructure and hownthe United States might be able to assist the Haitian Government in protecting thatncritical infrastructure. Just a moment to spend on the State Department.nIn response to a request from the Haitian Government and building on longstanding cooperation,nthe Department of State is deploying an advisor to the Haitian National Police Judicial Policenand bringing on board an advisor to the Haitian National Police Inspector General. The advisornto the Haitian National Police Judicial Police will provide technical assistance to buildnthe capacity of the Haitian National Police to investigate and to address serious crimes.nThe advisor to the police’s inspector general will help the HNP improve its capacity tonaddress allegations of corruption, of human rights abuses, police misconduct. We also currently support seven subject matternexperts who advise the Haitian National Police on topics such as counternarcotics and communitynpolicing as well. We are also supporting training and procuring vehicles, radios, protectivenequipment to build the capacity of the Haitian National Police to protect Haitians from violence. And then finally, in addition to the StatenDepartment support I just mentioned, as I alluded to before, DHS is sending expertsnfrom the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, and the Cybersecurity and InfrastructurenSecurity Agency, or CISA, to work with their Haitian counterparts in improving aviationnand, as I mentioned before, critical infrastructure security as well. Joel, quick final question. QUESTION: Yeah, just – if I can, just onenfollow-up on Cuba, your comments about the internet, matter of internet access there.nSenator Rubio has called for the U.S. to use satellite-based technology to provide internetnaccess to overcome Cuban Government efforts to cut that. Is that something that the administrationnis considering? MR PRICE: We are considering any number ofnways and we have considered any number of ways to support the Cuban people – thatnis, to support them, their humanitarian needs; it is to support them in their broader effortsnto secure greater degrees of liberty and freedom and human rights. But I don’t have anythingnspecific to offer at this time. Thank you all very much.

Daily Press Briefing - July 14, 2021

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