Jul 20, 2023

State Department Holds News Briefing as Russia Ends Deal to Export Ukraine Grain Transcript

State Department Holds News Briefing as Russia Ends Deal to Export Ukraine Grain Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsGrainState Department Holds News Briefing as Russia Ends Deal to Export Ukraine Grain Transcript

State Department Holds News Briefing as Russia Ends Deal to Export Ukraine Grain. Read the transcript here.

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Matthew Miller (00:07):

Strange. It’s like half the crowd that was here for the secretary yesterday. Try not to be offended.

Matt (00:14):

And you were the main show, he said. The main event.

Matthew Miller (00:18):

I think he was being a little facetious. Let me start with some brief remarks at the top. Yesterday, Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, its latest blow to the world supply of food. Just hours later, the Kremlin rained missiles and dispatched armed drones on Ukraine’s grain hub, the port of Odessa. And then today, President Putin’s spokesman threatened the safety of Ukrainian ships that would dare to carry food through international waters. It is clear that Russia continues to use food as a weapon of war. This time the impact is not only on the people of Ukraine, but also on global food supply and prices. 65% of these shipments have gone to some of the world’s most vulnerable countries and people. The world should not be fooled by Moscow’s latest lies. The impact of these actions is already being felt, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

Prior to the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, food commodity prices spiked nearly 22% due to Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine. As a result of Moscow’s inhumane and unilateral decisions over the past 24 hours, we are already seeing a spike in global wheat, corn, and soybean prices. Meanwhile, Russia continues to reap record profits from its grain exports. Despite Russia’s claims to the contrary, the UN has worked hard to facilitate Russian exports of food in coordination with the private sector, the United States, EU, and UK to clarify any concerns raised by Russia. As we have consistently made clear, no G7 sanctions are in place on Russian food and fertilizer exports. Since its implementation in August last year, the Black Sea Grain Initiative successfully stabilized food prices. Over 32 million metric tons of grain and food stuffs flowed to countries worldwide through the initiative, including the equivalent of nearly 18 billion loaves of bread, the majority of which has gone directly to developing countries and the most vulnerable populations, like the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

For the millions of people who depend on Ukrainian grain to feed their families, we urge the government of Russia to reverse its decision and to extend, expand, and fully implement the initiative immediately, and cease its attacks against infrastructure critical to global food security. We also hope that every country is watching, because they will see it is Russia who is responsible for blocking food from getting to those who need it and Russia who should change course immediately? Matt.

Matt (02:52):

Okay, I’m sure we’ll get back to Ukraine. I just want to start real quickly, and I know that you guys are not really the lead agency on this, but what is the State Department’s role in the situation with the North Korea and this service person who…

Matthew Miller (03:06):

Right now we are in touch with the Department of Defense. As you noted, it was a US Service member who willfully and without authorization crossed into North Korea. The Department of Defense is of course in the lead because it’s a member of their personnel and we are in touch with them to offer whatever assistance may be appropriate.

Matt (03:25):

Yeah, but have you been… Well, so you’re only in touch with the military. You’re not in touch with the South Koreans, you haven’t tried to get in touch with the North Koreans?

Matthew Miller (03:34):

At this point… I’m sure that we are in touch with the South Koreans. We have regular ongoing conversations with them. I’ll say at this point we have not reached out, the State Department has not reached out to the North Koreans or other governments. It is our understanding that the Pentagon has reached out to their counterparts in the DPRK. They’re the lead agency and I will defer to them to comment on the nature of those contacts.

Matt (03:54):

Who are the Pentagon’s counterparts.

Matthew Miller (03:56):

I will defer to the Pentagon to answer that question.

Matt (03:59):

Do they have any?

Matthew Miller (03:59):

I will refrain from speaking for the Pentagon from here.

Speaker 2 (04:05):

Just one quick one. You said at this point State hasn’t reached out to the North Koreans or other governments, though you guys have regular context with the South Koreans. Are you saying that the US hasn’t reached out to China regarding this incident specifically?

Matthew Miller (04:22):

I’m not aware of any such contacts at this point. Again, the Department of Defense is in the lead at this point because it is an active duty servicemen.

Matt (04:31):

And you haven’t reached out to the Swedes?

Matthew Miller (04:34):

Not that I’m aware of, no.

Matt (04:35):

So does that mean that this hasn’t gotten to the point where you think [inaudible 00:04:40]-

Matthew Miller (04:39):

It has not gotten to the point where… Let me go back and say the Department of Defense is in the lead at this point. We are in coordination with them. It has not yet gotten to the point where there is any step that is either appropriate or necessary for us to take. But we will stay in close coordination with them over the next hours, and if there are steps that would be useful for the State Department to take, we of course will not hesitate to take those.

Speaker 1 (05:06):

Have you gotten any confirmation that he is alive and well?

Matthew Miller (05:09):

It’s a matter that remains under investigation. I would refer to the Pentagon for comment on the exact details.

Speaker 2 (05:17):

Just one last question [inaudible 00:05:19]. Is the expectation or is there any reason to believe that this could be resolved quickly with the contacts that the Pentagon is taking the lead on right now?

Matthew Miller (05:30):

Again, I would defer to them, the contacts, that they’re taking the lead. I shouldn’t speak to them from here.

Speaker 3 (05:36):

The Pentagon has said that they believe that he’s in detention. Will the State Department attempt to provide cost of services through Sweden if that’s the case he’s in detention.

Matthew Miller (05:44):

I will just say that as always the safety and security of any American overseas remains the top priority for the United States. As I mentioned, the Pentagon is in the lead right now, are making the appropriate contacts. We are in close coordination with them. And whatever we can do to resolve this situation, we will of course not hesitate to take the appropriate step.

Matt (06:07):

[inaudible 00:06:08] nothing from the North Koreans.

Matthew Miller (06:10):

No. We at the State Department have not. I can’t speak for the Pentagon and their contacts.

Matt (06:15):

Given the status of the armistice, it is not out of the realm of possibility that they could claim that this guy is a prisoner of war or a defector, depending on whatever. But there hasn’t been any even acknowledgement from the North Koreans that you’re aware of that they have?

Matthew Miller (06:39):

We have had no contacts with him from the State Department and I’m not aware of the outcome of contacts at the Department of Defense.

Matt (06:46):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (06:49):

Let me finish up this topic first and then I’ll be happy.

Speaker 4 (06:52):

Do you have any indication that he was defecting or trying to defect?

Matthew Miller (06:56):

All I will say is that, as I said at the top, it’s clear that he willfully on his own volition crossed the border, and that the matter remains under investigation. Anything else on this? All right, Michel.

Michel (07:13):

On Iraq, do you have any reaction to the Iraqi president decision to revoke a decree recognizing Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, as head of the Christian Church in Iraq?

Matthew Miller (07:27):

Yes, I’ll say we are disturbed by the harassment of Cardinal Sako, the patriarch of the Chaldean Church, and troubled by the news that he has left Baghdad. We look forward to his safe return. The Iraqi Christian community is a vital part of Iraq’s identity and a central part of Iraq’s history of diversity and tolerance. I will say we are in continuous contact with Iraqi leaders on this matter. We are concerned that the Cardinal’s position as a respected leader of the church is under attack from a number of quarters, in particular a militia leader who is sanctioned

Matthew Miller (08:00):

… sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. Excuse me.

Speaker 5 (08:03):

And to what extent do you think this decision affects the religious freedom in Iraq?

Matthew Miller (08:09):

I would say certainly it is a blow to religious freedom, and that’s why we are so concerned and why we have engaged directly with the Iraqi government to make our concerns clear.

Speaker 5 (08:18):

And do you expect any change in their decision?

Matthew Miller (08:21):

I’ll say we have engaged with them. I think I just made our position quite clear. And we certainly hope that they will reverse that decision and the cardinal will be able to safely return to Baghdad.

Speaker 5 (08:31):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (08:33):


Michel (08:34):

Switching topics?

Matthew Miller (08:35):


Michel (08:36):

On the Palestinian-Israeli issue, couple of things. The Israeli government is said to be advancing a bill that once passed will criminalize Palestinian Arab activism in Israeli universities. Do you have any comment on that? I mean, you talk about shared values all the time, but if passed, that will not be a shared value.

Matthew Miller (08:56):

I won’t comment on that bill, which I understand is in draft form. I will say, as a general matter, the United States government strongly believes that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible, responsive and democratic governance.

Michel (09:17):

Apparently President Biden extended an invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We don’t know when or where. It could be on the sideline of the General Assembly, it could be. But I mean, this comes at a time when the overhaul is being advanced and of course, settlements have been advanced and so on. So, are you okay now with that advancement of the overhaul, the judicial overhaul?

Matthew Miller (09:45):

I will say, as we have made clear repeatedly, as the White House made clear yesterday, I believe, in reading out the call that the president had with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that we continue to believe that those fundamental reforms need to be made with the broadest consensus possible.

Michel (10:01):

Okay. And last I want to ask you about Israel recognizing the Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Do you have any comment on that? I know that the last administration did recognize that in the lead up to the normalization between Morocco and Israel. Do you have any comment on this? If Israel had recognized this, how do you stand on this issue?

Matthew Miller (10:24):

I would just say, as a general matter, the resumption of relations between Morocco and Israel has been an unequivocal positive for the region. And we look forward to working with these close US partners to expand the circle of peace further.

Michel (10:38):

But you have no position on recognizing Western Sahara as part of Morocco?

Matthew Miller (10:43):

I don’t have a comment on the Israeli government’s decision to do that, no.

Michel (10:47):

Okay. Do you have a comment on the position of the United States of America?

Matthew Miller (10:49):

Well, obviously, the United States took that step in December of 2020 and it has not been changed.

Michel (10:55):

It has not been changed, so it stands. The Western Sahara, as far as you’re concerned, is part of Morocco.

Matthew Miller (10:59):

I would say that the policy was announced in December of 2020. It has not changed. I will say, at the same time, we fully support the UN Personal Envoy of the Secretary General, Staffan de Mistura, as he intensifies efforts to achieve an enduring and dignified political solution for Western Sahara.

Matt (11:16):

Back in December 2020 when that was announced, there was also a big announcement with a great amount of fanfare that the US was going to construct and open a consulate in Western Sahara. That appears to have fallen by the wayside as you guys are going full bore on opening new embassies and consulates around the Indo-Pacific. So, not to suggest that the Western Sahara consulate, that delays in that are related to what’s going on in the Indo-Pacific, but is it still on hold? Are you still planning to build one, or is this the beginning of the walking away from what the Trump administration did?

Matthew Miller (12:02):

I will have to get back to you on the construction of the consulate. I’m just not following the construction.

Matt (12:08):

Well, it should be in there.

Matthew Miller (12:08):

It’s not an issue I’m following, the construction of the consulate.

Matt (12:11):

Well, it should be right there. Under the actual talking points and the little background bit, it should say-

Matthew Miller (12:17):

I will tell you the issues I’m following and the issues I’m not, and that is not one I’m following. But I’m happy to look into it.

Matt (12:23):

Please do. And then one other on Israel, because President Herzog is here today and tomorrow and then in New York. There’s been a lot of speculation about the visa waiver program and this pilot program. I know Sayeed has asked about it over the course of the last couple days. Well, years, basically, months. But is there any chance that even a pilot program could be agreed to, until and unless the Israelis actually take steps to treat Palestinian and Arab Americans the same as they treat Jewish and other Americans?

Matthew Miller (13:11):

I will say, as I’ve said from here before, first of all, I’m not going to comment on the reports of a pilot program. But it is an issue in which we remain in dialogue with the Israeli government, but we have made clear what the positions are for entry into the visa waiver program. At this point, Israel does not comply with those conditions, but we are hopeful that they will come in compliance with them.

Matt (13:33):

Well, yeah, but successive administrations have been hopeful for that for the last decade.

Matthew Miller (13:38):

And we remain hopeful.

Matt (13:41):

Okay. Well, I suppose you have to be optimistic if you’re a diplomat, but there isn’t any indication that something is coming soon on this?

Matthew Miller (13:52):

Soon is always a relative term. I don’t expect any announcement today or tomorrow, I’ll put it that way, if that’s what you mean by soon.

Matt (14:01):


Speaker 6 (14:03):

[inaudible 00:14:03] here. Whatever comes up in the next few weeks and so on, it will not be segmented according to geography. The Gaza will not be treated differently than West Bank American citizens are, correct?

Matthew Miller (14:17):

Let me not try to speculate about the shape of announcements that have not yet been made.

Speaker 6 (14:24):

All Americans will be treated equally.

Matthew Miller (14:26):

I have made very clear what the requirements are for entry into the visa waiver program, and I don’t want to speculate on what any future announcements might look like. Janet, go ahead.

Speaker 7 (14:36):

Thank you, Matt. I think you already have these issues. The US soldier defected to North Korea through the DMZ yesterday, but there’s no diplomatic relationship between the US and North Korea. How does the State Department contact about these issues?

Matthew Miller (14:58):

I did speak to this, I think before you came in. And as I said then, this is an active member of the United States military. The Pentagon is in the lead. They’re making appropriate contacts with officials from the DPRK. We stand ready to support that effort however we can.

Speaker 7 (15:18):

So, you don’t have any detail why he defect or did he go to voluntary defect to, or not?

Matthew Miller (15:28):

I would defer to the Pentagon. It’s a matter that remains under investigation.

Speaker 7 (15:31):

Okay. Another issues are NCG issues, Nuclear Conservative Group meeting yesterday in South Korea. Does State Department officers attend this meeting? Who is he [inaudible 00:15:48] attended this meeting?

Matthew Miller (15:49):

I’ll have to take that one and get back to you. I just don’t know.

Speaker 7 (15:50):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (15:51):

Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 8 (15:53):

On Syria, Russia has increased their activity in the skies over Syria and this has distracted

Speaker 8 (16:00):

Your strike is against ISIS. How do you address this issue in Syria and do you have any connection links with the Russian forces in Syria?

Matthew Miller (16:11):

I will say that the United States and the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS continue to work with our local partners in Syria to maintain constant pressure on ISIS remnants and to ensure ISIS’s lasting defeat. The Department of Defense has spoken to this on a number of issues, and I’ll reiterate the statements they have made, which is we strongly urge Russian forces in Syria to stop reckless and threatening behavior that could result in an accident and loss of life and adhere to the standards of behavior expected of a professional force, and I would refer to the Pentagon for any specific contacts that they might have in that regard.

Speaker 8 (16:45):

Why is Russia doing this at this time, do you think? Is there any relations between Russian War and Ukraine?

Matthew Miller (16:51):

I certainly wouldn’t want to speak to Russian motivations, but I would say it’s extremely reckless behavior and from our perspective, it should stop immediately.

Speaker 8 (16:59):

And one question on Iran. Yesterday, Washington said that they are deploying fighter jets to the Middle East to deter the Iranian activity in the region, but at the same time, the Iranian foreign Minister spokesperson, they warned Washington and said that Washington’s decision to boost up its presence that the Gulf could cause insecurity and instability. And he said that the Shahran maintains its right to defend itself against American provocative and illegal actions near its borders. My question is that how do you deal with this Iranian warning to you, and then if Iran keeps its behavior in the region, which there is no sign to stop it, then are you going to use these military equipments against Iran?

Matthew Miller (17:45):

What I’ll say about that, is that in light of this continued threat and in coordination with our partners and allies, the Department of Defense is increasing its presence and ability to monitor the strait and the surrounding waters. And we call upon Iran to immediately cease these destabilizing actions that threaten the free flow of commerce through the strategic waterway upon which the world depends for one fifth of the world’s oil supply.

Speaker 8 (18:08):

Is there a sign to preparing a war with Iran in the Gulf?

Matthew Miller (18:12):


Speaker 9 (18:17):

Since US States of Ohio officials visited to Bangladesh, the violation and attack on oppositions has been increased highly. Do you have any comment on that?

Matthew Miller (18:27):

I’m sorry? Since what visit?

Speaker 9 (18:28):

Since the high officials from US State Department.

Matthew Miller (18:31):

Oh, the undersecretary. I would say that Undersecretary Zeya and other officials visited Bangladesh and met with the Prime Minister and other officials last week. She also met with labor activists, civil society leaders and human rights defenders. During these meetings, the undersecretary emphasized the importance of working together to achieve Bangladesh’s goal of free and fair elections, the crucial role of civil society, human rights defenders, journalists and labor activists, accountability for human rights abuses, and the need to continue to support Rohingya refugees. She also visited Rohingya refugees as well as humanitarian partners and Bangladesh senior government officials in Cox’s Bazar and announced $74 million in additional humanitarian assistance to support Burma and Bangladesh response efforts. I’ll just say finally that the United States is dedicated to partnering with the government and civil society to address the scourge of human trafficking in the region.

Shuvo (19:31):

Follow-up question on that.

Matthew Miller (19:33):


Shuvo (19:33):

I want to tell you that you were masquerading for us in every single outfit of Bangladesh while you were addressing yesterday’s response, that what my colleague were asking. But I beg to differ, Matt. As I understand, the Honorable Undersecretary Zeya and Assistant Secretary Donald Lu, visited that region and I’m so glad that we are rightful eyes of Zeya who has a very strong connection to that region who understand the social fabrics. But from this very room, I hear my colleagues asking question about Bangladesh. I just want to tell you, during this visit, I met a former Ambassador Musina, who traveled 64 district of Bangladesh who have extensive 38 years of foreign relationship in respect to also Bangladesh. And he said to me, “Shuvo, Bangladesh matters. Bangladesh is the eighth-largest country and it matters to Bangladesh.” While he was there, he has dedicated his time and United States help to reduce the poverty, the mortality rate-

Matthew Miller (20:52):

I don’t mean to cut you off. But can you get to the question.

Shuvo (20:53):

The reason I’m saying is that when you speak, Matt, it matters to Bangladesh. As I was listening, as my colleague was just saying, I’ll just give you one example. Yesterday you have said-

Matthew Miller (21:07):

If there’s a question coming, I would love to get to it.

Shuvo (21:09):

Yes, Matt. We have to have the integrity when we ask questions, isn’t it? During the visit, Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary have witnessed two large gathering in capital city of Bangladesh. I didn’t see any sort of issues. As soon as they left, there is an issues, and we live in United States, as my colleague yesterday was saying, there was an issue in Jackson Heights, New York, and you respond to that and you arched Prime Minister Hasina to have and look into this matters. But the fact of the matter is-

Matthew Miller (21:50):

Again, for the fourth time, there’s got to be a question at the end of this somewhere.

Shuvo (21:54):

Yes, Matt.

Matthew Miller (21:55):

This has been going on for a while without a question.

Shuvo (21:58):

I just wanted to say, how do you assess the current relationship between United States and Bangladesh, considering the recent developments expressed from this various podium recently?

Matthew Miller (22:10):

I will say that first of all, with respect to the point you made about Bangladesh being an important country, I would say the fact that I speak about it in this briefing room almost every day and the fact that senior officials from the United States regularly traveled to Bangladesh, would show that we share that assessment. And I would say that one of the things I have emphasized from this podium that the undersecretary emphasized in her trip is the importance of the United States and Bangladesh working together to achieve Bangladesh’s goal of free and fair elections, as well as the crucial role of civil society, human rights defenders, journalists and labor activists, accountability for human rights abuses. These are important issues in our bilateral relationship. So to your question about the relationship, it is why we engage so directly with Bangladeshi officials. Why we talk about this from this podium is because we believe these should be shared priorities for our two countries.

Speaker 9 (23:06):

Sanction is working well. I asked you two things. [inaudible 00:23:11] some incident, attack, violation, but the sanction is working. Thank you so much.

Matthew Miller (23:17):

Okay. I didn’t hear a question, so go ahead.

Speaker 10 (23:21):

Can I pull up on your topper on the Green Deal?

Matthew Miller (23:23):

Yes, please.

Speaker 10 (23:24):

What are the next steps on this from the State Department’s perspective, and is the US looking at other routes to get grain out and what are those routes?

Matthew Miller (23:34):

I will say yes, we are looking at other ways to get grain out of Ukraine. We’re discussing options with our allies and partners, including the EU solidarity lanes and the Danube ports. I will say these are not perfect solutions. In fact, they’re far from perfect. Just as an example, during the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, there were 15 metric tons of food that were being shipped outside

Matthew Miller (24:00):

… Out of Ukraine every month. The EU solidarity lanes and the Danube ports can only handle the shipping of six metric tons. So you would see the production of grain from Ukraine cut by over half. In addition, those are more expensive modes of transportation. So in addition to the price going up because there’s less supply, price would go up because these are such expensive routes. So we are going to continue to explore those options. President Zelenskyy has a proposal that he has made to the UN. We’re in discussions with our Ukrainian counterparts about that, and we are going to do everything we can to help Ukraine find a resolution to restore grain shipments.

But again, while we look for other ways to try and circumvent Russia’s decision to continue to use food as a weapon of war, we would urge Russia to make this unnecessary tomorrow by reentering the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And we would urge all the countries of the world to be very clear about the role Russia is playing in the increase in global food prices and the withdrawal of food from the global market and to urge Russia to reenter this initiative because it’s important not just to Ukraine, but to the entire world. Yeah.

Michel (25:18):

I know you alluded to it in your opening statement, but President Putin said that they will give grain free to needy countries and so on. Do you put a lot of stock in that?

Matthew Miller (25:29):

I put zero stock in that, especially when you look at the facts of Russia’s grain exports over the last year under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. First of all, I’ll say Russian food exports are at an all-time high despite their complaints and that the majority of Russian grain does not go to developing countries but to the developed world. It is in fact the grain that’s coming from Ukraine that has been going to developing countries who need it most. So I would put that statement from President Putin in the category of a lot of the statements that he’s made about this war.

Michel (26:02):

So why are they doing this? You think just to gain profit? Why the crisis, in your view?

Matthew Miller (26:08):

They are doing this, I believe, for two reasons. One, to attempt to further choke off the… Actually, two reasons. One, to further choke off the Ukrainian economy, to try to hurt the Ukrainian economy. Two, to use food as leverage with other countries to try to bring countries around to their side. And three, because they profit from it. When the global price of grain increases, as it has already done in the last 24 hours since they announced the end of this initiative, Russia profits from that because Russia’s grain exports can continue to move. We have made clear we will not sanction Russian food because we don’t believe it’s appropriate to deny food supplies to people around the world who need it. But Russia is profiting from the expiration of this initiative, and that’s why we believe they took this step.

Michel (26:52):

And lastly, yesterday, Ambassador Antonov accused the United States of America of being involved in the bombing of the Crimea Bridge. Do you have any comment on that?

Matthew Miller (27:01):

It’s absolutely not true. Yeah, Michelle.

Michel (27:04):

Do you have any comments on the Wall Street Journal story about the clash between MBS and MBZ?

Matthew Miller (27:11):

I do not. Kylie, do you have your hand up?

Michel (27:16):

But is it accurate?

Matthew Miller (27:16):

I would refer to those two countries to speak to the accuracy or inaccuracy of that story.

Speaker 2 (27:22):

A different topic on Henry Kissinger, according to the Chinese Ministry of Defense, meeting with the Chinese defense minister who’s sanctioned by the US. Did the State Department know about this meeting before it occurred, and what’s your response to the fact that it even happened?

Matthew Miller (27:39):

We were aware that Henry Kissinger was traveling to China. It actually came up in the meetings that Secretary Blinken had when we were in China. The Chinese officials mentioned that he was planning to come, as he has done a number of times over the years as a private citizen. I will say he was there under his own volition, not acting on behalf of the United States government. And I don’t have any further updates on his trip.

Speaker 2 (28:02):

And do you guys expect to get a readout from Kissinger?

Matthew Miller (28:06):

I don’t know of any conversations planned with him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point, he briefs officials here on his conversations. He’s done that a number of times, dating back decades is my understanding, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he does so at some point, but I’m not aware of any planned conversations.

Speaker 2 (28:20):

Is it at all problematic though for a US citizen, not a diplomat, not a formal US official, to be meeting with a Chinese official who’s under sanctions? Is that problematic?

Matthew Miller (28:35):

We would object to anyone violating our sanctions, but it is not my understanding that a meeting violates those sanctions. In fact, we have said that we believe our own Secretary of Defense could meet with the sanctioned defense minister, and that would be appropriate to do so, it would be appropriate to do, excuse me. Yeah.

Speaker 11 (28:52):

On Sudan, the talks over the city’s conflict, I just wanted to ask if the State Department has any updates, any conversations with Saudi Arabia on this? If you have anything you’re able to share.

Matthew Miller (29:06):

I don’t have any updates other than to say that Secretary Blinken spoke with the Saudi Foreign Minister, I believe it was Friday or Saturday, to discuss the conflict in Sudan, among other topics. We continue to engage with a number of partners in the region. Assistant Secretary Phee was in the region last week, as she has been almost continuously. Ambassador Godfrey remains engaged, both with members of Sudanese civil society and other countries in the region. It continues to be a very difficult situation and we’ll continue to work to try to reach some resolution, but I don’t have any specific updates.

Speaker 11 (29:40):

So the State Department hasn’t been able to glean anything from those talks that have been occurring in the past few days?

Matthew Miller (29:46):

Not that I am at liberty to share publicly. Anything else? We’ll do one more.

Speaker 12 (29:52):

Cambodia’s national election is coming up this Sunday and yesterday they blocked access to Radio Free Asia’s website, both in English and the Cambodian language. Radio Free Asia’s funded by the US government. Do you have a comment about this and have you reached out to the Cambodian government to ask why they did this?

Matthew Miller (30:09):

I won’t speak to any diplomatic conversations, but I will say we always support freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and the free exercise of journalism around the world. Thank you.

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