Apr 9, 2024

Department of State Daily Press Briefing 4/08/24

Matthew Miller gives Pentagon Briefing
RevBlogTranscriptsMatthew MillerDepartment of State Daily Press Briefing 4/08/24

Spokesperson Matthew Miller leads the Department Press Briefing, at the Department of State, on April 8, 2024. Read the transcript here.

Matthew Miller (00:08):

Good afternoon, everyone.

Speaker 1 (00:11):


Matthew Miller (00:14):

Welcome back, Matt. And those of you who were traveling with the secretary, just pull up my opening comments here. All right. I’m going to start with an update on humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

Following President Biden’s call with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, in which he emphasized that Israel must take immediate action to protect civilians and get more aid into Gaza, we have seen a number of initial positive steps over the past few days. First, the Israeli cabinet has agreed to open a new northern crossing, which could be operational this week and would represent an important step in delivering assistance directly to Northern Gaza where we know the humanitarian situation is most severe. The Israeli cabinet also approved the use of Ashdod as a port of entry for relief, which, if implemented, could significantly facilitate the flow of assistance.

In addition, we have seen the initial implementation of a streamlined process for regular truck convoys. Moving from Jordan through Israel and into Gaza, carrying essential supplies to those in dire need. The government of Jordan has played an important role in facilitating humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and we commend them for being ready to step up and do even more.

Yesterday, 304 aid trucks entered Gaza, the highest number of trucks in any single day since the conflict began. That number represents a significant improvement, but it is important, not just that we see the daily number continue to grow, but that it be sustained over time. Our hope is that by later this week, 350 trucks will enter Gaza each day, and we are working hard across the United States government to make that happen.

We also welcome the announcement that the IDF is establishing a coordination unit for deconfliction as a direct contact point with the humanitarian community. More than 200 humanitarian workers have been killed during this conflict, and we have repeatedly pressed the Israeli government on the need to improve its deconfliction and coordination measures. The creation of this new unit, which is something President Biden raised directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu on their call last week, and which Secretary Blinken has raised in his meetings with Israeli officials, can contribute to the safety of those who are working tirelessly to bring relief to the Palestinian people. We’ll be observing closely its establishment, to verify that it operates as intended, to ensure humanitarian workers can do their jobs as safely as possible.

While we welcome these initial steps, it’s crucial to recognize that much more needs to be done. Many Palestinians in Gaza are at risk of famine, and every single man, woman, and child in Gaza is experiencing food insecurity. So these recent efforts must be just the starting point for a sustained Israeli commitment, to ensure that the people of Gaza have their basic needs met. We expect Israel to fully implement its commitments quickly, and we will be monitoring that implementation. As Secretary Blinken has said, ultimately it is the results that matter and we’ll be judging them on those results. And with that, Matt.

Matt (03:20):

Okay, great. But it is correct though, that you guys have not yet come to a determination as to whether this depth that Israel has undertaken now in the last couple of days, or is undertaking, meet your… I don’t want to say requirements, but meet criteria that you have laid out. You haven’t decided that yet?

Matthew Miller (03:42):

It’s something that we are going to assess over time because, as I was pointing out, it is not just important that they take initial steps to facilitate the increase of humanitarian assistance, but that increased flow of humanitarian assistance be sustained over time. We’ve had these moments before, most notably during the pause back in November when we saw humanitarian assistance increase and then come back down, and what we want to see is a sustained increase. So new entries open up and they stay open. More trucks go in and they keep going in.

Matt (04:13):

But you guys have been calling for these actions for months now. Why do you think that they’ve now started to… you can’t hazard a guess?

Matthew Miller (04:24):

So I can hazard a guess, but I’m not going to speak for the Israeli government.

Matt (04:27):

No, [inaudible 00:04:28]…

Matthew Miller (04:28):

Sure, I’m not.

Matt (04:30):

Since December, at least, even before, you guys have been saying you need to open a northern crossing. And then when they did open the one, you kept going on about Erez and that needs to be done. Ashdod, the Jordanian line, all of that stuff. In January, when we were there in Amman, you guys were talking about how important that was. And now it’s April and it’s just starting to happen now. So why?

Matthew Miller (05:03):

So I can’t speak for the Israeli government, but I can…

Matt (05:06):

Speak for the US government.

Matthew Miller (05:08):

I’m about to. What I can say is we have made clear over time the changes that we wanted to see implemented. We’ve seen some changes over time, but it has not been enough. And there has been an increasing sense of frustration inside the United States government that they have not taken some of these steps that we have been recommending and urging for some time. And the president last week made clear that ultimately their policy needed to change or ours would.

Matt (05:31):

Right. Okay. And in the meantime, since you’ve been calling for all this, what has happened on the ground?

Matthew Miller (05:36):

A number of things have happened on the ground, but the most important thing that we have seen is dramatically increased food insecurity inside Gaza.

Matt (05:43):

I’m not… No… Between let’s-

Matthew Miller (05:47):

That’s why I start with a number of things happen on the ground, I know which one you’re going for.

Matt (05:50):

Let’s just say… let’s just start from January 1st of this year, between January 1st and now, April, whatever it is, 8th, what has changed on the ground in Gaza?

Matthew Miller (06:02):

With respect, I was starting to answer with respect to foods. You seem to have an answer in mind.

Matt (06:06):

How many more dead people are there? How many more starving people are there? How many more civilian or facilities, infrastructure, how much more of that has been destroyed? How many more aid workers have been killed?

Matthew Miller (06:26):

So there have been 200 aid workers total that have been killed. That’s really been a constant since the beginning, and we have been making clear that there need to be better deconfliction and coordination measures. And I will tell you, that the step that they are taking now is important, but it’s overdue. It should have happened months ago. A lot of these steps should have been happening months ago, we’re happy that they’re happening now, but they need to be increased and they need to be sustained.

Matt (06:52):

So I’ll stop after this. But in recognizing that often hindsight is 20/20, shouldn’t you have put the ultimatum or shouldn’t the president have done that months ago?

Matthew Miller (07:06):

So we have made clear to them for months what we expect them to do and we have seen…

Matt (07:10):

Back up by what?

Matthew Miller (07:12):

… And we have seen them take steps at our urging and some of those steps have been important, but they haven’t been sufficient. And all I can say is that we welcome the initial steps they’ve taken over the past few days. They represent a dramatic improvement if fully implemented, but we’re going to judge them ultimately by the results.

Matt (07:32):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (07:33):


Speaker 2 (07:33):

I wonder if we could come to the hostage negotiations. One of the other things that the president said to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the call, according to the readout, was that the Israelis should empower, or Netanyahu should empower his negotiators to make a deal. Have you seen any evidence of a change in that regard?

Matthew Miller (07:53):

So I’m not going to speak in detail with respect to the hostage negotiations, other than to say that there is a deal that’s on the table for Hamas and we hope that they’ll accept it. We do believe that the Israeli government is ready to make a deal. They want to see their hostages returned, but we have to see Hamas being willing to accept such a deal.

Speaker 2 (08:13):

The implication of the way that came out in the readout was that, so far those negotiators hadn’t been fully empowered and there’s been criticism from the Israeli opposition that they haven’t sought a deal as hard as they could have done. Right? Is that not the case?

Matthew Miller (08:31):

We have seen Israel put a deal on the table in the past. And we wanted to make sure, and that’s what you saw us speak to in that readout, that as these new sets of negotiations unfold, that the negotiators there are fully empowered to make a deal. But it’s not true that Israel hasn’t been willing to make a deal in the past, because they have been, there have been deals on the table that Hamas has rejected and there’s now a deal on the table and we hope that Hamas won’t reject it. We believe, as we believed all along, that a ceasefire would be in the interest, not just of the hostages whose release it would enable, but also in the interest of the Palestinian people who are suffering greatly.

Speaker 2 (09:08):

Now there’s a deal which Hamas you hope they will accept. What is different about this deal from the previous ones that they’ve rejected?

Matthew Miller (09:16):

That I’m not going to get into just because I don’t think getting into the back and forth of negotiations is helpful from the podium.

Speaker 2 (09:24):


Kylie (09:24):

Just sticking in the region. The prime minister just said, in the last hour or so, that a date for the Rafah invasion has been set. Have the Israelis shared that date with the US?

Matthew Miller (09:34):

To my knowledge, we have not been briefed on that date.

Kylie (09:36):

And given what the Israelis have briefed US officials on to date, in terms of their plans for the operation, I assume that what you’ve seen thus far would not be something that the US would approve?

Matthew Miller (09:51):

So we have not yet seen them present a credible plan for dealing with the 1.4 million civilians who are in Rafah, some of whom have moved more than once, some of whom have moved more than twice. But even more than that, we have made clear to Israel that we think a full-scale military invasion of Rafah would have an enormously harmful effect on those civilians and that it would ultimately hurt Israel’s security. So it’s not just a question of Israel presenting a plan to us, we have made clear to them that we think that there is a better way to achieve what is a legitimate goal, which is to degrade and dismantle and defeat the Hamas battalions that still remain in Rafah.

So I think, as you obviously know, we had a conversation with them about it last week. Secretary Blinken participated in that conversation with leaders from the White House and other agencies of the United States government. There will be further conversations over the coming days, coming weeks, where we can continue to lay out our beliefs about this potential operation and how they could achieve it in a better way. And we’ll go from there. Yeah, Said.

Said (10:57):

Thank you. Just to follow up on the talks, so you’re saying that there is a deal on the table and it’s up to Hamas to accept it and so on. Now, would that deal include the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the whole of Gaza, do you think?

Matthew Miller (11:12):

So I’m going to maintain my rule of not commenting on negotiations or what the contours of any deal might look like from this podium.

Said (11:19):

Yeah, I fully understand. But is that something that the United States would consider, would support? I mean, I’m sure there’s some sort of conversation in this meeting.

Matthew Miller (11:28):

You fully understand and continue to ask me to violate that rule, which I’m going to refrain from doing. Said, I always say it with respect, just I don’t think it’s helpful for us to talk publicly about what are obviously very sensitive and delicate private negotiations.

Said (11:42):

Okay. Do you feel we’re closer to a deal today than we were let’s say a couple of days ago?

Matthew Miller (11:45):

I’m just not going to comment on the negotiations at all.

Said (11:48):

Let me ask you on Rafah. Now, the United States rejects any kind of plan that does not include the safe movement of 1.4 million Palestinians from Rafah, so-

Matthew Miller (12:01):

That’s not exactly it, Said. That’s not exactly it. As I was trying to say in response to Kylie’s question, we don’t think a full-scale operation in Rafah is something that we could support in any event because we think it would, number one, harm all the more than 1.4 million Palestinians that are there.

Welcome to the briefing, Hiba.

It would harm those Palestinians there. It would hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance. So we have made clear that we don’t want to see that full-scale invasion in any event.

Said (12:36):

Right. But is it feasible to really move 1.4 million Palestinians safely?

Matthew Miller (12:41):

I think it would be very difficult to do, which is why we have made clear that we cannot support that kind of operation.

Said (12:45):

All right. A couple more questions. The United Nations Secretary-General on Friday expressed concern that Israel is using artificial intelligence to target Palestinians. Are


Said (13:00):

Are you aware of that report?

Matthew Miller (13:01):

I’ve seen the reports. I don’t have any further information on it.

Said (13:03):

And lastly, I promise it’s lastly, on UNRWA, I mean, if the last couple of weeks taught us anything, it taught us that the only people that really can conduct the dispensing of aid and movement and so on are really UNRWA, effectively, simply by virtue of a very long experience. So I know that the United States, at least until next year, will not be funding UNRWA. But would you pressure the Israelis to allow UNRWA workers to conduct their operations in Gaza? Would you tell them that there seems to be no one else that can do this job as good as they can?

Matthew Miller (13:44):

We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli Government the important role that UNRWA plays in delivering humanitarian assistance and said that that work should go on unhindered.

Said (13:54):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (13:56):

Go ahead.

Speaker 3 (13:57):

I have two questions. So you expressed concern about the fate of 1.4 million civilians who are trapped in Rafah. As you said, these people moved twice or three times at least. Would you accept returning these IDPs to the north, especially women and children? Because the Israelis seem to be opposing that, and by moving people from harm’s way to an area that’s being cleared and declared by Netanyahu as normal military operations there and Hamas is not viable, so why not allowing these people to go back to their original homes, what’s left from them?

Matthew Miller (14:36):

So we have made clear… the Secretary has spoken to this on a number of occasions, that we do want to see the Palestinian people be able to return to their homes, whether they be in Khan Younis, whether they be in the north. Now, it needs to be safe for them to do so. They need to be able to return to homes that aren’t in the middle of ongoing military activity. If there is unexploded ordnance, that ordnance needs to be dealt with. If there are booby traps or other IEDs that Hamas has left, those need to be dealt with, so people aren’t returning to apartment buildings that are unsafe. But we do support the return of Palestinians to their homes and their neighborhoods and have made that clear on a number of occasions.

Matt (15:13):

Sorry. How many livable homes in the north do you think that there are in Khan Younis? You talk about it being safe, and all these kind of things. I mean the destruction is pretty massive.

Matthew Miller (15:23):

It is a great question.

Matt (15:25):

Where would they return to?

Matthew Miller (15:26):

A huge number of them have been destroyed. That is without a doubt. There are some homes that are still habitable. There are some apartment buildings that are still habitable. It is-

Matt (15:34):

And you know this, how?

Matthew Miller (15:36):

You can look and see that there are buildings that are still habitable. People report on the ground that there are buildings that are still habitable throughout Gaza. Now, a massive number have been destroyed, but we hear from people who want to return either to their homes or they want to return to their neighborhoods so they can start to rebuild their homes, and we support their right to do so, recognizing that there is a very difficult road ahead of them.

Matt, I will note you never apologized for interrupting me.

Matt (15:59):

Well, I’m not sure you deserve an apology.

Matthew Miller (16:06):

Fair. Fair enough.

Speaker 3 (16:08):

He followed up for me. The second question is Mr. Kirby said on Sunday that… and let me quote him, so I’ll be accurate. He said, “The U.S. has not found any evidence of Israel violating international law.” He refers to the State Department. He said the State Department have a normal process, where if there’s an incident reported, they will follow up. And you, the State Department concluded that Israel has not violated international law.

So my question to you is: In the face of all the humanitarian organizations working in Gaza, including MSF yesterday, that they said Israel has targeted not just aid workers but doctors and journalists, and Chef José Andrés said as well that Israel has committed crime against humanity. Why the U.S. is not conducting an investigation regardless of these incidents, a full investigation like you asked to be conducted in Ukraine after the Russian invasion?

Matthew Miller (17:06):

So we do have a number of ongoing assessments with respect to this very question. We have not yet-

Speaker 3 (17:10):

But assessment is different than investigation, right?

Matthew Miller (17:13):

That’s how we operate inside the State Department is we have a number of different bureaus, experts from across our bureaus that look at facts, apply them to international law, and make assessments. Those assessments are ongoing, and we have not yet at this time concluded that Israel has violated international humanitarian law, but we have ongoing assessments across a number of different fronts.

Speaker 3 (17:32):

So all these organizations are just wrong? They just see the law differently than you-

Matthew Miller (17:36):

I’m telling you that we have ongoing assessments, and we have not yet reached that conclusion.

Janney, go ahead.

Speaker 4 (17:41):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (17:45):

I’ll come to you next.

Speaker 5 (17:47):

All right. Yes, thank you. On South Korea’s military satellite launch, how does the United States view the successful launch of South Koreans’ military reconnaissance satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida yesterday?

Matthew Miller (18:04):

Let me take that back and get you an answer.

Speaker 5 (18:06):

Thank you. And second one. The Russian Government summoned the South Korean ambassador to Russia in retaliation for South Korea’s independent sanctions against Russia. A spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry denied any treaty, military supplies between North Korea and Russia, and criticized that South Korea should escape from the influence of the United States. What is your reaction on that?

Matthew Miller (18:40):

So South Korea has been an important partner not just of the United States but of others in the international community in helping hold Russia accountable for its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. They have been with the United States and our international partners since the beginning, and we look forward to continue to work with them to hold Russia accountable.

Go ahead.

Speaker 6 (19:00):

I want to follow in Matt’s line of questions regarding the steps that have been taken by Israel to elevate and ease these humanitarian situation. And I cannot but think that this because of what’s been reported the threat of change of U.S. policy toward Israel during the call between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu. You’ve been pressed here by press and by humanitarian organizations to do that early, few weeks early, maybe couple of months early. Don’t you think that you were several steps behind, and if you acted this way by waving this wand toward Israel, then they took the steps earlier, so many lives would be saved?

Matthew Miller (19:51):

I can only answer that by pointing again to how much we have worked on this question. And it hasn’t just been a question of working on it over the first few months of 2024. It’s something that we have been engaged in since day one. And if you look at the Secretary’s very first trip to the region just a week after October 7th, one of his top priorities was to open Rafah back then, which was closed, for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. And you saw President Biden on his first trip when he came to Israel pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu to open Rafah to allow humanitarian assistance to get in. We have consistently pushed to do that, and we have delivered results time and again in getting new crossings open and getting an increase in humanitarian assistance.

Now, I think what you have heard from a lot of us inside the United States Government is that there has been a growing sense of frustration that Israel hadn’t done enough and that their policy needed to change, and that they needed to allow more humanitarian assistance in.

So all I can say is when you look at where we are today, we welcome the steps that they have taken. What I’m trying to get at in response to your question, this is not an end of the process. We’ve seen them take initial steps here over the past few days, but we want to see much more. And so we are going to be watching them over the coming days, the coming weeks, to see that the steps they have announced actually lead to improved results, and we will make assessments and make determinations of our policy based on those results.

Speaker 6 (21:32):

But my question was: Don’t you think the process is slow? If you push harder by threatening earlier, you will get better results, because it seems that the Israelis are susceptible to you when you wave this wand?

Matthew Miller (21:46):

And what I’m saying is we have pushed them on a number of things over time and seen them take results. We have seen the impact of American diplomacy. We have seen them open three crossings before the past few days to get humanitarian assistance in. We have seen them work with Jordan to allow convoys. And ultimately, what we determined is that the steps they had taken didn’t deliver to what we thought they ought to. So we had seen them promise to let more trucks come in, and the delivery trucks increases, but not enough.

And so ultimately, when you look at the past few months where we have seen them make commitments, and they deliver on those commitments, maybe partially or maybe because of logistic reasons or bureaucratic reasons, the steps that we thought would be fully implemented end up being partially implemented. Ultimately, that’s where you see this sense of frustration in the United States Government where we tell them that ultimately, if your policy doesn’t change, ours will have to.

Now, again, the point I was trying to make a minute ago when I responded to your question is I don’t want to stand here today and say that everything has been solved, because we’re not ready to say that. We have seen good initial steps, but we want to see how they’re actually implemented to make sure that there is no Palestinian in Gaza who is going hungry. And until we get to that point, we’re not going to be satisfied.

Speaker 6 (23:07):

My last question is about the Iranians threatening to retaliate on the airstrike that struck their consulate in Damascus by attacking Israel directly. The Israelis says that they put steps to ready themselves for such a strike. Are you worried that this will ignite the whole region if that happened?

Matthew Miller (23:31):

We have been concerned about the risk of escalation since October 7th, and one of the things you have seen us consistently engage in is diplomacy to try to lower that risk of escalation. We have made clear directly to the Iranian Government that it should not use this incident as a pretext to attack American troops or American facilities in the region, and we will continue to make clear to them that they should not take any escalatory actions.

Matt (24:01):

So just on that in reference to the Mexico-Ecuador situation, which you have a problem with the Ecuadorians going into the Mexican embassy. Is it still the U.S. position that what happened in Damascus did not involve a legitimately protected diplomatic facility as covered by the convention?

Matthew Miller (24:22):

It is our position that we are still attempting to answer that question, whether it was a consular facility or not.

Matt (24:28):

And if it was?

Matthew Miller (24:29):

I don’t want to deal with hypotheticals. We’re trying to determine the facts of the situation.

Matt (24:33):

Well, I’m not sure… I mean, this is now several days old. What exactly is it that you’re waiting for?

Matthew Miller (24:40):

We are waiting on a final determination. It’s something we’re looking into.

Matt (24:43):

From whom?

Matthew Miller (24:43):

We’re making our own assessment based on the facts and the facts that we continue to gather.

Matt (24:49):

From the people that you have on the ground in Damascus?

Matthew Miller (24:51):

We have a variety of ways to gather information.

Matt (24:54):

Oh? Okay. What are they?

Matthew Miller (24:56):

I’m not going to get into them here, but we obviously have intelligence capabilities and the ability to-

Matt (25:03):

Well, the Israelis say that it wasn’t a legitimate diplomatic facility.

Matthew Miller (25:04):

I understand that, and we’re gathering our-

Matt (25:04):

You don’t agree with that, at least not yet?

Matthew Miller (25:06):

No, what I said is we’re gathering our own facts and making our own determination.

Matt (25:10):

Well, okay. How?

Matthew Miller (25:12):

By looking at the facts and making a determination. I’m not going to take you inside the process, but we’re gathering as much-

Matt (25:19):

Well, I mean, what? You’re looking at satellite imagery or something like that?

Matthew Miller (25:22):

I’m not going to get into the exact facts that we are gathering, but I can tell you we are looking-

Matt (25:25):

Well, how are you so sure that the Mexican embassy in Quito is a diplomatic facility?

Matthew Miller (25:29):

Because it is a long-established Mexican embassy.

Matt (25:32):

And this wasn’t long-established?

Matthew Miller (25:33):

That is ultimately the question that we are trying to determine.

Kylie (25:36):

Even if it was an established, though, a diplomatic facility and there were also IRGC folks in there, would that justify an attack?

Matthew Miller (25:46):

Again, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. We want to answer the factual question before moving on to that second order one.

Kylie (25:51):

And just one more question on this Iran threat that has been discussed by U.S. officials. There are some reports that the expectation is that

Kylie (26:00):

… the target is expected to be in Israel. Is that accurate?

Matthew Miller (26:04):

I am not going to speak for the Iranian Government, obviously. I think we would send a loud and clear message to them that they should not escalate in any event, whether that means inside Israel or elsewhere in the region.

Kylie (26:18):

But I’m not asking you to speak for the Iranian Government. I’m asking you to speak for what the expectation of where that threat-

Matthew Miller (26:24):

Right. And I’m not going to speak to any expectation. To the extent that we have an expectation, it is that Iran not escalate this conflict any further, and we have made that clear to them.

Kylie (26:36):

Why don’t you want to publicly speak about where that threat is if you guys are saying it’s in the region and obviously the hope is to prevent it from happening?

Matthew Miller (26:42):

I think you might understand why I don’t want to speak to intelligence matters from this podium.

Speaker 7 (26:46):

Matt, follow up?

Matthew Miller (26:47):

Stay in the region? Yeah, Guita, go.

Speaker 7 (26:49):

Thanks. You just said that you have had direct communication with the Iranian Government. Yeah. Has there been any communications during the past few days specifically? Since apparently reports out of Tehran are saying that they have set conditions for them not to retaliate, that they’ve sent messages to the U.S., some reports say via Oman even, and their foreign minister was in Oman on Sunday.

Matthew Miller (27:28):

Are you referring to the reports that they wouldn’t retaliate if there was a ceasefire in Gaza?

Speaker 7 (27:32):

Correct. Yes.

Matthew Miller (27:33):

I can tell you that those reports are not true. They have not sent that message. But if Iran wants a ceasefire in Gaza, that ought to be something they can accomplish, because they have long supported Hamas and they could press Hamas that they should accept the deal that is on the table that would achieve a ceasefire.

Speaker 7 (27:53):

Okay. Another Iran question.

Matthew Miller (27:54):


Speaker 7 (27:56):

The U.S. has consistently said that it coordinates with the European Union on actions it takes against Iran, specifically, or one example is sanctions. Now the European Union has lifted its sanctions on a certain company, ArvanCloud, which both the U.S. and, again, EU said that it was complicit in disconnecting people’s access to the internet. Was the administration advised of the EU’s decision to rescind those sanctions on this company?

Matthew Miller (28:32):

So our position on ArvanCloud is clear. ArvanCloud is a key player in the Iranian regime’s project to cut off the Iranian people from the global internet and surveil them, as we said when we designated them in June. ArvanCloud maintains a close relationship to Iran’s ministry of intelligence and security, and senior managers of ArvanCloud are either current or former affiliates of the ministry of intelligence and security. So ArvanCloud remains sanctioned by the United States. Ultimately, the EU’s decisions are up to the EU, but ArvanCloud will remain sanctioned by the United States for its clear role in facilitating censorship to the detriment of the people of Iran.

Speaker 7 (29:10):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (29:11):

Go ahead. Next. I’ll come to you next, sorry. Next to you.

Speaker 8 (29:13):

Hi, about Ecuador’s situation. The U.S. already condemned Ecuador’s violation of international law at the embassy of Mexico in Quito, but what’s next? Is the U.S. considering sanctions? And if so, what kind?

Matthew Miller (29:30):

Well, let me say that first of all we condemn any violations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. We take seriously the obligation of host countries under international law to respect the inviolability of diplomatic missions. Mexico and Ecuador are crucial partners of the United States, and we place a high value on relations with both countries. And then finally, we welcome the convening of the OAS Permanent Council this week to address ongoing developments, and we encourage both countries to resolve their differences cooperatively.

Speaker 8 (30:00):

Considering sanctions?

Matthew Miller (30:01):

I don’t have any announcement with respect to our actions. I think the next step in this matter is for the OAS Permanent Council to meet this week and address the ongoing developments. We’re monitoring that closely, and we’ll look to see what outcomes they produce.


Speaker 9 (30:15):

Could you talk a little bit about how China’s support for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine has evolved, and also the Secretary’s efforts to communicate that and talk about that with allies?

Matthew Miller (30:27):

So we have been concerned really since the outset of that conflict about the PRC’s support for Russia’s war against Ukraine and have been especially concerned over recent months about its efforts to help Russia reconstitute its defense industrial base. We have raised that with a number of our allies and partners across the world.

We have seen in recent months that the PRC has started to rebuild that industrial base. Essentially, they’ve been backfilling the trade from European partners that was suspended after the invasion and sanctioned, and that they have been helping provide the components that increase Russia’s capabilities to attack Ukraine.

That of course has long-term security impacts on Europe as well as the entire world, and so the Secretary has raised in a number of his meetings with allies and partners around the world the need to monitor those results and ultimately take actions to prevent them.


Speaker 10 (31:27):

On Ukraine, last week, the Secretary said Ukraine’s future is in NATO. We’ve heard that before, but was there any discussion while he was there about a timeline for that or is it still dependent on the end of the war?

Matthew Miller (31:38):

So nothing has changed with respect to a timeline. Obviously, there were discussions while the Secretary was at NATO about Ukraine. Foreign Minister Kuleba was there, and the Secretary met with him, but we have made clear for some time that ultimately that’s a process that moves forward at the end of this conflict.


Speaker 11 (31:56):

Matt, thanks so much. I do want to stay on Ukraine, but before that very quickly, to go back to what you just told Guita about Iran. If those reports are not true, your expectations are Iran will not escalate is based on purely your own observation or-

Matthew Miller (32:07):

I said the report. I was referring to the reports about Iran presenting-

Speaker 11 (32:11):

The Iran condition-

Matthew Miller (32:11):

… to us the condition for a ceasefire. Those reports are not true.

Speaker 11 (32:16):


Matthew Miller (32:16):

I’m not going to speak to what Iran may or may not do.

Speaker 11 (32:19):

Got it. Thanks so much.

And moving to Ukraine, any comment on the last weekend’s attacks on Europe’s largest nuclear plant? How alarmed are you and what do you know for sure about what’s going on? Because we have seen increasing disinformation campaign launched by Russia.

Matthew Miller (32:34):

So we are aware of the reports of a drone attack at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. We are continuing to monitor the conditions at the plant, including through official reporting from the IAEA, which fortunately notes that the damage resulting from that drone strike has not compromised nuclear safety.

You have heard from us before our belief that Russia is playing a very dangerous game with its military seizure of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe. It’s dangerous that they’ve done that and we continue to call on Russia to withdraw its military and civilian personnel from the plant, to return full control of the plant to the competent Ukrainian authorities, and refrain from taking any actions that could result in a nuclear incident at the plant.

Speaker 11 (33:16):

Thanks so much. President Zelenskyy called for increasing defense aid, defense support ahead of his meeting with UK foreign minister. The secretary agreed with, I mean there was a call between the two, Zelenskyy and UK minister, with foreign minister’s article today, in which he called-

Matthew Miller (33:31):

What was the last part?

Speaker 11 (33:32):

The foreign minister wrote an article and he called for …

Matthew Miller (33:35):

So we absolutely want to see assistance increased to Ukraine, and that starts here in the United States, where you have heard this administration make very clear that we want to see Congress pass the President’s supplemental request, which would provide much-needed defense assistance to Ukraine.

Speaker 11 (33:49):

Thank you. Want to move to the South Caucasus, if I may. Following last week’s meetings, we have seen clashes reported between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Is there any active let’s say process going on in this town in terms of relaunching Washington meetings? You guys had a series of meetings last year; you stopped it. [inaudible 00:34:07]

Matthew Miller (34:07):

We have made very clear that the path forward for resolving this conflict is ultimately at the bargaining table. I don’t want to speak to any upcoming meetings, but we have always made clear that we welcome dialogue. When the Secretary has communicated with the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, he has made clear that there needs to be dialogue between the two parties. We are happy to play whatever role we can to facilitate that dialogue and will continue to do so, but I don’t want to preview any specific upcoming meetings.

Speaker 11 (34:33):

Any reaction to the clashes itself last …

Matthew Miller (34:36):

Let me take that back and get at you.

Speaker 11 (34:37):

Thank you. And finally, if I may, I know my Georgian colleagues will also press you on that. You guys have put out a statement over the weekend. You said that you reached out to Georgian government and conveyed your concern about the Russian law, yet they moved on. As you know, they submitted a draft today. What is your policy here other than just wait and see?

Matthew Miller (34:58):

What is our …

Speaker 11 (34:59):

Just policy here other than just wait and see. Last year you guys-

Matthew Miller (35:01):

The policy is the policy that we made clear in the statement that we put out, which is that we are deeply concerned that, if it is enacted, this draft legislation would harm civil society organizations working to improve the lives of Georgian citizens. It would derail Georgia from its European path, and we are concerned that the legislation would impede independent media organizations working to provide access for Georgian citizens to high-quality information.

Now, this is still a draft piece of legislation. It has not been enacted into law, so with respect to any potential outcomes or any potential steps that we might take, I certainly wouldn’t want to preview them today.

Speaker 11 (35:34):

I mean, last year you guys were clear that if any MP votes for that, they would be sanctioned. Why are you refraining from conveying the same message?

Matthew Miller (35:42):

Right now we are making clear that we are concerned with this draft legislation. With respect to what we might do if it moves forward, stay tuned. I don’t have anything to announce today.

Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 12 (35:55):

Thank you, sir. Secretary Blinken had a phone call with Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday. Could you share some details, like what are the key points?

Matthew Miller (36:01):

So the Secretary did speak with the foreign minister of Pakistan on Friday to reaffirm our robust partnership, which advances the prosperity of Pakistan and the United States. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Dar discussed the importance of continued cooperation on counterterrorism, expanding our trade and investment partnership, and advancing women’s economic security and empowerment.

Speaker 12 (36:24):

Sir, is there any discussion on Pakistan-India tensions? Because Pakistan says that Indian Government assassinated dozens of individuals in Pakistan, while the Indian defense minister appeared to confirm that the Indian Government carried out extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. How do you see this situation?

Matthew Miller (36:43):

So we have been following the media reports about this issue. We don’t have any comment on the underlying allegations, but of course, while we’re not going to get in the middle of this situation, we encourage both sides to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue.

Speaker 13 (36:57):

Thank you, Matt. As you are going to host the Iraqi prime minister next week here in Washington, D.C., do you have any comments on the recent agreements between Erbil and Baghdad and also the meetings between the IKR president with the Iraqi leaders and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq? And have you urged the Iraqi prime minister to settle down these disputes with Erbil before coming to Washington, D.C., as some reports suggesting that?

Matthew Miller (37:20):

So I’m not going to get into those reports, but I will say that the upcoming U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee meeting next week, next Monday, will highlight our shared bilateral priorities and the broad relationship between our two countries, including energy independence, financial reform, services for the Iraqi people, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and enhancing educational and cultural relations.

Representatives from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government will participate in these discussions. The United States supports a strong, resilient Iraqi Kurdistan Region within a sovereign, stable, and secure federal Iraq. And we encourage the Government of Iraq and the KRG to redouble efforts to resolve longstanding issues, bringing economic benefits to all Iraqis.

You watching a movie, Matt?

Speaker 14 (38:05):

No. I don’t know what happened.

Matthew Miller (38:07):

It’s like the second …

Speaker 14 (38:09):

It just started talking.

Matthew Miller (38:09):

This is phone go off in the briefing day.

Go ahead.

Speaker 15 (38:12):

Thank you so much, Matt. I just wanted to follow up on Gaza humanitarian aid issue. You said that these steps by Israel should have happened months ago. So I’m wondering if those steps could have been taken months ago but Israel did not take them, does that mean Israel was blocking the aid? Because we had this discussion before in this room, and you said you didn’t think that they were blocking.

Matthew Miller (38:37):

No, what it means is that there’s more that they could have done. We have seen them, as I said in response to one of the earlier questions, we have seen them take some of these steps. And then what has happened on a number of occasions is that, ultimately, some of the ways that you could increase the delivery of humanitarian assistance break down for a variety of different reasons. And I think that’s why you’ve seen senior officials

Matthew Miller (39:00):

… inside this government get incredibly frustrated that the steps towards improvement we thought we were going to be taking ultimately didn’t materialize. And it’s why you heard me say in my opening comments that, when we look at the actions over the past three days, ultimately we’re going to judge them by the results. So they absolutely could have done more. We’re glad that they’re doing steps now, but I’m not ready to stand here and make a definitive determination because we want to see humanitarian assistance increase, we want to see it sustained, and we don’t want to see any of the problems that have marked the delivery of humanitarian assistance over the past few months reappear. We want to see them resolved, and that’s what we’re going to continue pushing for.

Speaker 16 (39:43):

[inaudible 00:39:44].

Matthew Miller (39:45):

Go ahead.

Speaker 16 (39:46):

Good afternoon.

Matthew Miller (39:46):


Speaker 16 (39:47):

Matthew, good to see you. I’d like to ask you about religious, or a question on it. My question concerns religious liberty. I want to ask you about the State Department’s proposed rules concerning non-discrimination in foreign assistance. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. The comment period just wrapped up. Catholic leaders recently stated some concerns. One is, “We respectfully urge State, the State Department, to ensure that NPRM’s, notice of proposed rulemakings, honor religious liberty.” My question: will the State Department honor religious liberty?

Matthew Miller (40:23):

Of course we will honor religious liberty.

Speaker 16 (40:26):

Moving on. Wait, wait. One more here.

Matthew Miller (40:27):

Yeah. All right.

Speaker 16 (40:27):

The Catholic leaders also say the NPRM’s, the rulemaking, could chill… quote here, “Could chill Catholic entities’ participation in foreign aid programs.” What’s your reaction to those concerns?

Matthew Miller (40:42):

I’m not going to speak with respect to ultimately how we will decide on a specific rulemaking. There’s a process that we go through here when it comes to any rulemaking. That includes the solicitation of comments from outside groups and outside individuals. We take all of those seriously and ultimately take it into our decision-making process. Yeah. Go ahead. All the way in the back.

Speaker 17 (41:04):

Thank you, Matt. I’m wondering if there is a new dimension emerging in the Indo-Pacific strategy given the United States constructive engagement with Chinese authority, and including President Biden’s 105 minutes phone call with the Chinese President Xi in recent days.

Matthew Miller (41:23):

Our policy with respect to engagement in the Indo-Pacific has been consistent since the outset of this administration, and that is we make clear when it comes to China specifically, which you raised in that call, that there are areas where we have concern with actions that China has taken. There are areas where we want to work together with China to address mutual concerns, for example with the trafficking of fentanyl, which has impacted millions and millions of Americans.

And ultimately it is our job to manage the relationship responsibly to prevent any unintended escalation. At the same time, we are going to work with our allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific region on our broad vision of a region that is safe and secure and democratic.

Speaker 17 (42:12):

Is that true that the US ambassador in Dhaka, Peter Haas was in hiding just before Bangladesh’s one-sided election due to alleged Indian pressure? The accusation was reportedly made by a senior Indian diplomat and former ambassador to Bangladesh during a book-launching ceremony in New Delhi.

Matthew Miller (42:31):

I haven’t been following every book-launch ceremony in New Delhi, but no, that is not accurate.

Speaker 18 (42:36):

Why not?

Matthew Miller (42:37):

I have a few other things on my plate, as much as I would like to. Go ahead, in the back.

Speaker 19 (42:40):

Thank you, Matt. Netanyahu said the Military is preparing to move more than million Palestinian civilians out of Rafah and then carry out and attack. Would you please clarify? You repeated many times, confirmed that the Palestinians will not be evacuated. Also, how and where will they evacuate? To Cyprus, to Egypt? Where?

Matthew Miller (43:08):

I don’t have anything to add to what I said earlier in the briefing about this very question, which is we don’t think that Israel can effectively evacuate 1.4 million people, that a full-scale invasion into Rafah would have an enormously harmful effect or impact on the civilians who are there. That it would hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance. That it would actually hurt Israel’s national security. And that’s something, it’s the kind of operation that we can’t support. And that’s what we remain in conversation with them about.

Speaker 19 (43:39):

Excuse me. Regarding the humanitarian assistance, in fact the Muslim citizens of Gaza and Christian citizens of Gaza are not protected, and even the animals are not protected. How many Palestinian citizens should be killed, whether by fire or starvation, so you can seriously intervene? Why United States could not link the providing of military aid to IDF with allowing humanitarian aid enter Gaza?

Matthew Miller (44:12):

We do not want to see a single Palestinian civilian killed, and that is why we have made clear that Israel needs to do more to improve its de-confliction and coordination measures. That’s why we welcomed the initial step they took over the weekend to establish a coordination center. Ultimately, that coordination center has to work. It has to have aid groups represented inside it to ensure that incidents like the World Central Kitchen strike and so many previous strikes that killed humanitarian workers are not repeated. And that’s what we’re going to continue to press them for.

Speaker 19 (44:42):

But you could put conditions. Put conditions in-

Matthew Miller (44:47):

I’ve spoken to that already. Go ahead.

Speaker 20 (44:48):

Thanks, Matthew. News just broke that Hamas has rejected the latest ceasefire proposal from Israel. Any reaction?

Matthew Miller (44:56):

I have made it a rule since my first day here not to react to things that happen after I walk out to the podium or while I’m out at the podium that I haven’t had a chance to see in full context, and I will largely stick to that rule. But of course we have seen them reject a number of proposals before that we have thought would deliver incredible benefits to the Palestinian people that they claim to represent, most notably cessation of hostilities, but also conditions on the ground that would allow the delivery of much, much more humanitarian assistance.

Speaker 20 (45:33):

And while the administration has pressed Israel to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, isn’t the famine and food insecurity ultimately Hamas’s fault?

Matthew Miller (45:44):

Certainly we have seen Hamas hide behind human shields, we’ve seen Hamas start this conflict in the first place, and we have seen Hamas refuse to agree to a ceasefire that would enable the delivery of increased humanitarian assistance.

Speaker 20 (46:05):

And finally, with Congress back in session, Ukraine funding is a top agenda item. Reportedly the house version’s going to consist of the REPO Act, which would allow seized Russian assets to be sent as assistance to Ukraine. And it’ll consist of reversing the administration’s LNG ban to non-FTA countries. Does the administration support this?

Matthew Miller (46:28):

I would refer to the White House for a comment on that legislation.

Speaker 20 (46:30):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (46:31):

Hiba, go ahead and then we’re going to wrap for today.

Hiba (46:33):

Okay. Just I want to follow up on the strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus. You’ve been saying that you didn’t want to expand the war, and you conveyed message to the Iranians that you don’t want the escalation. But what about your conversation with the Israelis? Did you tell them on whether this was an escalation? Or what’s your position?

Matthew Miller (46:58):

We have always made clear that we don’t want to see Israel escalate this conflict in any way either. Now again, we recognize that Israel is the victim of terrorism that is sponsored by Iran. Hamas principally has been sponsored by Iran, but Hezbollah, which sits to the north of Israel of course and continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilian targets, is principally sponsored by Iran. And the Houthis, which have been significantly involved in terrorism, especially over the past few months, are sponsored by Iran. So we recognize that Israel is the victim of terrorism, has been the victim of terrorism repeatedly that is sponsored by Iran. But no, of course we don’t want to see this conflict escalate in any way.

Hiba (47:37):

So you don’t support that? You consider this an escalation?

Matthew Miller (47:41):

I’m not going to speak to this specific strike, but I’ll say we do not want to see the conflict escalate in any way. And with that-

Speaker 21 (47:45):

Can you one more on China?

Matthew Miller (47:47):

I’ll take one more and then we’ll wrap.

Speaker 21 (47:49):

Thank you. I just wonder if you could shed some lights on Secretary Blinken’s trip to China. What’s the difference between this trip and the one he had last year? Does he have different message and different mission this time?

Matthew Miller (48:01):

We have said that the secretary will be traveling in the coming weeks. We have not announced an exact date for that trip, let alone who the secretary will be meeting with, so I think I will refrain from comment until we’ve moved a little closer to that trip. And with that I’ll wrap because I think a number of you probably want to go out and see the eclipse. Everyone remember to wear your glasses.

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