Oct 26, 2021
State Department Ned Price Press Conference Transcript October 26: Sudan Coup
State Department Spokesman Ned Price held a press conference on October 26, 2021 to address the Sudan military coup. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Ned Price: (06:26)
Good afternoon. A few things at the top, and then I look forward to taking your questions. This morning at the US-ASEAN Summit, President Biden announced the US intent to provide up to $102 million in new initiatives to expand the US-ASEAN strategic partnership. As President Biden said, “The relationship between the United States and ASEAN is vital for the future of all one billion of our people. The US-ASEAN futures initiatives reflect this administration’s deep commitment to ASEAN’s central role in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.” This new funding includes the intent to provide up to $40 million in new efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of the US-ASEAN Health Futures initiative, up to $20.5 million for a new US-ASEAN Climate Futures initiative, up to $20 million to promote economic growth and opportunity through a new US-ASEAN Economic Futures initiative, and up to $21.5 million to support the Billion Futures initiatives, including programs that promote education, English language learning, and gender equality and equity.
Ned Price: (07:41)
In addition, President Biden expressed his commitment to expanding our formal engagement and cooperation with ASEAN via ministerial level meetings on health, energy, the environment and climate, transportation, gender equality, and women’s empowerment.
Ned Price: (07:57)
Next, today on Intersex Awareness Day, we recognize the voices and contributions of intersex communities in the United States and around the world. Too often, intersex persons are subjected to violence, to discrimination and abuse solely on the basis of their sex characteristics. We recognize these obstacles and are clear in our commitment to support intersex people. We further recognize the hard work of intersex activists, intersex human rights organizations, and allies who work to promote and to protect the human rights of intersex persons globally. As President Biden and Secretary Blinken have made clear, it is the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. The Department of State is committed to promoting the freedom, the dignity and equality of all persons, including, of course, intersex persons. And we will continue to do that.
Ned Price: (08:58)
And then finally, I want to share some news that is very exciting for one member of our team, but perhaps… Well, I’m confident, it is a much more bittersweet for the rest of us. This week will mark the last week in the office for [Gladys Bops 00:09:19]. Many of you know Gladys. She is a senior employee in our press office. She is retiring after 44 years of government service, 44. Having joined the State Department press office in 1986, Gladys is truly a walking embodiment of this institution. She is widely recognized for her deep experience and expertise, as well as her strong sense of professionalism and collegiality. And during her 35 years of press work, serving eight presidential administrations, 12 secretaries of state and 17 state department spokespeople… And I consider myself lucky to be included in that last category, Gladys has made her incredible contributions to this institution.
Ned Price: (10:04)
Across well over 2000 press engagements during her career, Gladys has played an integral part in promoting US foreign policy around the world and explaining these goals and why they matter to the American people. Her achievements are a testament to the value of our public servants, and we are grateful for Gladys and for her service. Gladys’ experience is truly irreplaceable. And while we will, of course, miss her, we also send her our best wishes for what is an indisputably, well earned retirement. Thank you very much, Gladys. Matt.
Here, here. Let me just say a couple of things. For those of us who’ve covered this building for a long time, Gladys has really been indispensable and also omnipresent figure, personality who’s been around and anyone who has gone up to the seventh floor, the eighth floor, the Ben Franklin room, or at the UN in the days when we were still at the Waldorf, spent hours of time in the service elevators with Gladys waiting to go up to various photo ops, knows how important a role she played. And so congratulations to her. Thank you for your kind words for her. And I’m sure that Sean and the association will have something more to say about her and her retirement. But she really was, is-
Ned Price: (11:35)
… still, an institution.
Ned Price: (11:38)
Yes. Always will be.
And has dealt with a variety of characters over the years, including myself, but also my predecessors. Anyway, so thanks again for your remarks about her. I wanted to start with Sudan because I understand, maybe other people understand it too, as well, that special envoy Feltman had a call Feltman had a call with the Egyptian foreign minister, either late yesterday or today. I’m just wondering if you can tell us what that was about. Did it involve any kind of questions that the US might have about General Burhans planned, or maybe planned visits to Cairo? What do you understand, if anything, about Egypt’s role and what happened in Khartoum?
Ned Price: (12:38)
Well, let me start by saying, Matt, that we have been entirely unequivocal in our condemnation of the events over the past 36 or so hours. We made very clear yesterday that the anti-democratic actions of the Sudanese military, it subverted the constitutional declaration of 2019, but in some ways more importantly, it has subverted the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people. And the Sudanese people have reaffirmed those democratic aspirations. Even in recent hours, we saw the Sudanese people peacefully take to the streets to make clear the fact that they seek a restoration of civilian led democratic leadership.
Ned Price: (13:34)
But it has not only been the United States that has been unequivocal in our condemnation of these events. We’ve joined nations and organizations from across the world in expressing concern. That includes the African Union, it includes the UN, the Organization of Islamic Coordination, France, Germany, Canada, and the UK. Sudan’s neighbors as well, to get to your question. Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan have also called for deescalation and dialogue. Since the events of late Sunday night, our time, Monday in Khartoum, Secretary Blinken, the special envoy Jeffrey Feltman, our assistant secretary for our African affairs bureau, Molly Phee, and many others in this building and across this administration, they have been working the phones non-stop. They have been in touch with counterparts from the region, including Sudan’s neighbors. And you alluded to this, Matt, we have been in touch with governments in the broader Middle East. We have been in touch with our allies and partners all over the world, including Europe and elsewhere.
Ned Price: (14:52)
So the secretary has had calls. The special envoy has had a number of calls. Molly Phee has had a number of calls as well. When it comes to the secretary, we’ll be in a position to read out some of those engagements, but this has been a priority for the leadership in this building to see to it that we work with the international community to affect what it is that we are trying to see, an immediate release of all political actors detained in connection with these events, a full restoration of the civilian led transitional government, and a refraining from any violence against peaceful protestors, including the use of live ammunition.
Ned Price: (15:41)
We strongly condemn recent reports of violence against peaceful protestors. Our goal at this stage, Matt, in terms of all of these conversations, is to establish a common position with our allies and partners. And I think you’ve seen at least the initial iteration of a common position emerge, including from many of the countries and organizations that I just ran through. There has been a strong condemnation of the military takeover. There has been a call, a broad unified call, for restoration of the civilian led transitional government. There has been a call by many countries and international organizations for those detained, including Prime Minister Hamdok, Minister of Religious Affairs Mofreh and others from the civilian government who have been detained for them to be released. And of course, a strong universal call for the military to refrain from violence against peaceful protestors, seeking nothing more than the restoration of their democratic aspirations.
My question was about Feltman, special envoy Feltman’s call with the Egyptian Foreign Minister. Shoukry. Do you have anything specific to say about that call?
Ned Price: (17:03)
… Do you have anything specific to say about that call? Or anything specific to say about what role Egypt might have played in encouraging or discouraging General Burhan’s actions?
Ned Price: (17:15)
Look, we’re not going to be in a position to read out every call, but as I’ve said before, we have engaged with a number of our partners, including Sudan’s neighbors, to establish a common position and to make sure that the Sudanese military hears our collective voice very clearly.
Well, do you have a common position with Egypt right now?
Ned Price: (17:34)
Well, so Egypt, and I will just note here what Egypt has said publicly. I will leave it to our partners in Cairo to speak for their position. But what they’ve said publicly is they’re working to ensure stability, security. They are closely following these events. They are looking at the safety of the Sudanese people. So we are working closely with our Egyptian partners just as we are with other neighbors.
Well, that’s fine, but that is a far cry from your absolute condemnation, demand for the immediate release of all political actors, an end to repression, suppression of protests. So can you say at this point, honestly, can you say if the Egyptians are on board with your position?
Ned Price: (18:24)
Matt, I’m not going to speak for other countries. I will just speak for the United States, and we are speaking with partners, with allies around the world, including Sudan’s neighbors, to establish a common position and to do all we can to see to it that democracy is restored in Sudan.
Last one. In terms of consequences since yesterday, when you announced the suspension or the pause in the 700 million in ESF, has there been any movement on suspending or not suspending? I saw the USAID statement that their humanitarian assistance will continue, but, of course, humanitarian aid is not affected by any kind of restrictions. So has there been any movement or developments in terms of assistance?
Ned Price: (19:14)
Well, so I want to be very clear on that point, and we’ve had an occasion to speak to this other contexts recently, but we always differentiate between bilateral assistance and humanitarian assistance. The latter category, going to support the people, in this case, the Sudanese people. And State and USAID we maintain a significant humanitarian portfolio and a growing development portfolio when it comes to Sudan. In this past fiscal year, the fiscal year that ended at the end of last month, the United States provided $60 million in bilateral health and development assistance to Sudan, focused on supporting democracy, supporting human rights and governance, food security, civic engagement, conflict mitigation, and global health assistance.
Ned Price: (20:02)
In addition, we provided more than $400 million, $438 million to be precise, in life saving humanitarian assistance to Sudan in the last fiscal year. The $60 million of bilateral health and development assistance and all life saving humanitarian assistance, that is not subject to the current assistance pause. The assistance pause at the moment, as we evaluate the next steps for Sudan programming, implicates the $700 million in emergency economic support funds, or ESF funds that we spoke to yesterday. All of this assistance, and we spoke to this at some length yesterday, is of course provided consistent with the applicable restrictions, including those restrictions that have been in place on Sudan since the military coup, which was applied to Sudan in 1989, when the former Bashir regime rose to power.
Could I ask a follow up on that?
Ned Price: (21:02)
Prime Minister Hamdok, has the United States had any contact with him since the takeover?
Ned Price: (21:10)
We are pressing for the prime minister’s release. We are pressing for the release of other civilian leaders who have been detained since the start of the military’s takeover. Communications, I should say, in Sudan have been difficult, especially in Khartoum. There have been internet blackouts. There have been restrictions when it comes to phone usage, so communications have been difficult. We don’t have any discussions with Prime Minister Hamdok or other members of the civilian government to read out, but we are continuing to press every appropriate lever for their release.
General Burhan was saying that he’s been well treated. That he is at home. Do you have any indication of whether the prime minister has been treated well?
Ned Price: (22:01)
I will say what I said yesterday, and that is now that the prime minister, now that other members of the civilian led transitional government, remain in military custody, it is the military’s responsibility to ensure that they are treated well, to ensure their safety, to ensure their security, to ensure their health. I don’t have any updates to provide, but we are watching very closely to see to it that the military does just that.
Speaker 2: (22:30)
Ned Price: (22:30)
We’ll finish out with Shawn.
Sorry, just one briefly. The rule of Omar Bashir, the idea of handing him over on the charges that he’s been accused of, is United States hopeful that he’ll still be handed over? Is that something that’s coming to doubt because of this?
Ned Price: (22:47)
Look, we are in the very early hours of this. It’s just been over a day, so these are questions that will have to be decided in the coming days. Certainly, we look to, and we have supported, holding members of the former regime, including Omar al-Bashir accountable for past wrongs. [Inaudible 00:23:10].
Speaker 3: (23:10)
On Shawn’s point, I mean, do you know where his whereabouts?
Ned Price: (23:13)
Do we know where Omar al-Bashir is?
Speaker 3: (23:14)
Ned Price: (23:17)
Hamdok. Look it is-
Speaker 3: (23:19)
Whether he really is in good health and alive.
Ned Price: (23:23)
It is not for us to speak to these questions publicly. It is for us to underscore the point that the military has a responsibility now that he remains in their custody, now that the minister of religious affairs, Mofarih, and others remain in their custody, the military has a responsibility to ensure they’re treated well, to ensure they remain in good health, and to ensure their security.
Ned Price: (23:46)
Speaker 4: (23:47)
The UN Security General Guterres, in response to the situation in Sudan, talked about an epidemic of Coup d’etats. He’s talking about this border situation. Obviously this is happening in the time since the Biden administration took power with a focus on democracy and human rights. So, I wonder if you wanted to respond to his appeal to big powers, including the United States, for unity of the security council to have more effective deterrence? And do you agree that there is a lack of deterrence that seems to be leading to countries, militaries like Sudan, Myanmar, other countries as well, to take these kind of actions?
Ned Price: (24:31)
Well, I am not aware, and in fact, I’m very confident that the secretary general was making any sort of causal link between this administration and some of the anti-democratic actions that we’ve seen. I think the-
Speaker 4: (24:44)
Are you sure?
Ned Price: (24:47)
The secretary general, I think the international community, our allies and partners in the international community would recognize that the United States and the United States under this administration, we have been a forceful and powerful advocate for democracy, for human rights, for universal rights. We have made clear where we stand and with whom we stand in many different fora, including at the UN. As you know, we will be pulling together an unprecedented event in the coming weeks, the summit for democracy, where we’ll have a chance, together with many of our democratic partners from around the world, to share experiences, to learn from one another and to do what we can to beat back the tide of authoritarianism, of repression, wherever it exists. You are right that we have seen setbacks in countries, in certain countries. Sudan is the latest of that.
Ned Price: (26:01)
But when it comes to Sudan, when it comes to Burma, when it comes to other countries where we have seen worrying trends, no country has done more, no country has said more, no country has afforded more to the people in terms of humanitarian assistance and humanitarian aid, than the United States. And so whether it’s Sudan, whether it’s Burma, whether it is countries where anti-democratic forces may be gaining more influence, we will continue to lead that charge. We will continue to work to galvanize our allies and our partners around the world to make very clear where the United States and where those with whom we share interests and values, and that is a large part of the world, where we stand.
Ned Price: (26:56)
Speaker 5: (26:56)
Is the US going to impose sanctions on those individuals from the military forces in Sudan? And why don’t you call it or consider it a coup?
Ned Price: (27:10)
So in terms of holding accountable, those responsible for what we have seen, what we may yet see, look, we have been very clear that the United States and our allies and partners will use every appropriate tool to see to it that we can help Sudan reemerge on the path to democracy. To put a finer point on it, we will do everything we can to support the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and to see to it that we can do everything to help them achieve and to realize those as aspirations which have been set back, of course, by what we have seen the military do over the course of the past 36 or so hours. When it comes to what we call this, this is very clearly a military takeover.
Ned Price: (28:14)
Yesterday, we spoke about the historical context here. What is true is that we are closely monitoring the events in Sudan. We know that the military has hijacked the democratic transition. These actions to seize power are unacceptable. They are a contravention of Sudan’s constitutional declaration, which along with the Juba Peace Agreement, is the agreed framework for the democratic transition. These are the documents that embody the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people. And that’s why we are standing by them.
Ned Price: (28:53)
Now, when it comes to this particular term, the coup, Sudan has been subject to the military coup restriction in section 7,008 of the department’s annual appropriations act. And it has been subject to those restrictions, as I mentioned yesterday, since the Bashir regime came to power undemocratically in 1989. Sudan will be subject, continue to be subject, to those restrictions until the secretary determines that a democratically elected government has taken office and that’s what’ll continue to support.
Ned Price: (29:25)
Speaker 5: (29:25)
Ned Price: (29:26)
Speaker 5: (29:26)
When do you think the USAID is going to be returned to Sudan?
Ned Price: (29:31)
I’m sorry. When did I… When do we think-
Speaker 5: (29:32)
The assistance that you mentioned, when do you think it will be returned to them?
Ned Price: (29:38)
Well, to be very clear and to go back to Matt’s question, our humanitarian assistance-
Speaker 5: (29:43)
Ned Price: (29:43)
is ongoing. And even in countries where we have profound, violent disagreements with the government, we continue to support the basic humanitarian needs of a country’s people. What we have paused, as we are continuing to assess and to determine our next steps, is the $700 million in bilateral assistance.
Speaker 5: (30:14)
I should know this, but the problem is that it changes, or the interpretation changes from administration to administration. Is it your understanding that this administration’s legal determination is that it can’t be a coup, or it isn’t a coup, if the government ousted was not an elected one? Or can it be a coup if what happens replaces a government that came to power in a coup?
Ned Price: (30:51)
I am always loathe to weigh in on legal questions from the podium, but the shorthand answer, Matt, as I understand it is that according to our analysis, the first iteration of what you said is accurate. Because the Bashir regime-
I don’t remember what my first iteration was.
Ned Price: (31:09)
Because the Bashir regime did not come to power democratically.
And it’s replacement led by Hamdok was not democratically elected.
Ned Price: (31:18)
So a coup determination is moot.
Ned Price: (31:22)
But so in Burma, you had a situation where Suu Kyi herself was not elected, by anyone. So although the government had been, the state counselor or whatever her title was exactly, she was not elected. She was chosen by them, by her party.
Ned Price: (31:50)
By a party that was brought to power democratically.
So the legal determination is that in that case, even if the figure head leader is… So in other words, if it was just Suu Kyi who had been removed then it wouldn’t have been a coup?
Ned Price: (32:12)
These sort of expos facto hypotheticals are look…
I mean, I just want to know if this administration’s rationale for determining whether something is a coup or not has changed from the previous administration or if it’s constant?
Ned Price: (32:30)
What I will say is there was a coup determination that was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the early February, 2021 coup in Burma.
Ned Price: (32:40)
This department determined in short order, given the circumstances, the facts and the analysis of them on the ground, that what had transpired in Burma was a coup. In the case of Sudan, of course, these are apples and oranges. We have a very different situation with the military overthrowing a regime that was not democratically put in place.
Ned Price: (33:02)
Speaker 6: (33:03)
There are reports now coming Sudan [inaudible 00:33:06] house. I cannot confirm this, but if it is true, how do you comment on that?
Ned Price: (33:11)
I haven’t seen these reports. It sounds like they’re just emerging.
Speaker 6: (33:14)
Ned Price: (33:15)
We have been calling for the military to release the prime minister, to release the minister of religious affairs, to release other members of the civilian government. I don’t want to weigh in until I’ve seen confirmation of that.
Speaker 6: (33:27)
Yes. Now many officials and a lot of people said it is not too late to reverse the course of events in Sudan, but after yesterday’s event, do you foresee an active role for al-Burhan in a democratic Sudan? And I want to follow up on that.
Ned Price: (33:46)
Look, right now we are focused on helping the Sudanese people achieve a restoration of their democratic aspirations. That is what we are focused on right now. We can tackle questions of what that might look like, what the implications…
Ned Price: (34:03)
.. Of what that might look like, what the implications of this are in the days ahead. Right now, we, and our allies and our partners, we’re focused on, as I said before, a few things. That is, an immediate release of all political actors detained in connection with these events. A full restoration of the civilian led government, ensuring doing all we can to protect peaceful protestors, ensuring they’re not subject to violence, including the use of life, fire and ammunition. That is our focus right now. Yes? Sure.
Speaker 6: (34:37)
Just to follow up please, I will follow up on the question asked before. What happened in Sudan took place the minute US special envoy left the country, and that says something about your influence. The US ability to influence the event. This is not reassuring to your friends. What implication of that on the US role and influence around the world?
Ned Price: (35:05)
So I want to be clear on a couple points here. Number one, Ambassador Feltman was in Sudan, had been in Sudan in recent days. We were, of course, not given any pre-notification by the military or others that they planned these anti-democratic actions. Had we, we would have made very clear where the United States would, and now does, stand in response to any such plants. But there’s something of a chicken and an egg issue here. Ambassador Feltman was in the region. He had been in contact over the course of the previous weeks with many in the region, precisely because we had seen indications that Sudan’s democratic transition was potentially running into trouble, that there were individuals who might seek to subvert that democratic path. So these were conversations that had been going on for some time. We had emphasized that the actions to any actions to subvert the democratic transition are unacceptable, are a contravention of the constitutional declaration, which again, along with the Juba Peace Agreement, is the agreed framework for a democratic transition. Yes?
Speaker 7: (36:31)
Ned Price: (36:31)
Anything else on Sudan before we move on, quickly? Sure.
Speaker 8: (36:36)
You mentioned the department had conversations with allies in the region and around the world on Sudan. I’m just wondering what direct engagement you’ve had with the military leadership since the takeover? Obviously, Ambassador Feltman was there just before.
Ned Price: (36:47)
So of course in the days, weeks, months leading up to this, we had engaged with the full range of political society in Sudan, including the civilian and the military leadership. Since then, we have been focused on discussing, comparing notes, achieving a unified position with our partners and allies in the region in the broader middle east and around the world. I am not aware of any conversations that have taken place with the military leadership since the actions of late Sunday, our time Monday, in Khartoum. If we feel that it would be constructive, that if it would be useful to help achieve the objective that we and our partners have set out and that is a restoration of the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people, a restoration of the civilian led transitional government, if we feel that engagement, direct engagement with a military leader would be useful, we wouldn’t shy away from doing that. But at this point, we haven’t done that yet. Yes? Iran, sure.
Speaker 7: (37:54)
On Iran. The process of refueling gas stations in Iran was disrupted by what the government says is a cyber attack. Was the US in any way associated with this attack or were they where this attack is going to take place? And if so, is this any sort of warning about returning to the talks in Vienna?
Ned Price: (38:12)
What I will say on returning to the talks in Vienna, is that we’ve been very clear that the path for diplomacy remains open. We continue to believe our partners in the P5 plus one, continue to believe that diplomacy constitutes the most effective means to once again ensure that Iran is verifiably and permanently prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I don’t have any response to the first part of your question. Yes, Ben?
I have a question on Taiwan and then on North Korea. The first is regarding the press release today from the secretary regarding Taiwan’s participation in the UN system. I was just wondering about the timing of the release and whether it coincided with this 50th anniversary of the UN resolution?
Ned Price: (39:04)
So yesterday, as I believe was the 50th anniversary of the UN resolution, but the statement made a broader point. And the statement made a point that we support Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN, and to contribute its valuable expertise to address many of the global challenges we face. That includes global public health, the environment, climate change, development assistance, technical standards, and economic cooperation as well. We reiterated our commitment to Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the World Health Organization, and the UN framework convention on climate change. And we will continue to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in such forum.
But, was there a specific reason why you decided to put that out today?
Ned Price: (40:00)
Why we decided to put it out today? It is a statement of our support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in these institutions and as you noted, there was an important anniversary.
Then on North-
Meaningful is getting a lot of use here. Does that mean, and I realize that you want to go back to strategic ambiguity after the president’s comments last week, but when you say meaningful, does that mean independent of Beijing?
Ned Price: (40:25)
It means meaningful. It means substantive.
Well you know what means meaningful and substantive doesn’t really, that’s useless. That doesn’t mean anything.
Ned Price: (40:35)
What it means-
Meaningful means nothing in this case if you don’t explain what it is you mean by meaningful.
Ned Price: (40:43)
What it means is that Taiwan, as a leading democracy-
Yes, but does that mean, in your view, does that mean that they should participate in a UN fora or other international fora as Taiwan, as Chinese Taipei, or as some adjunct to whatever delegation, Beijing, sentence to these meetings?
Ned Price: (41:08)
What it means is that we believe that Taiwan has important knowledge, expertise, insight, and perspective to lend within these institutions in a way that is appropriate and meaningful and will continue.
The problem with that is, is that no one knows what that means, and it just creates more confusion and makes the situation-
Ned Price: (41:31)
… Do you not get that?
Ned Price: (41:33)
We put out an entire statement in the secretary’s name on this yesterday. I think that statement was-
Today. This morning.
Ned Price: (41:38)
… This morning. You’re right. That was abundantly clear. Sayed?
North Korea, Ned?
Ned Price: (41:41)
Sure. Yes, go ahead.
There’ve been some press reports that North Korea would send a delegation to COP26 later this week. Does the state department plan to have any meetings with any North Korean delegation, or are you open to meeting with them, if they’re there?
Ned Price: (41:57)
I am not aware. First of all, I would have to refer you to [Pyong Yun 00:08:03] to speak to any plans they may have to participate in Glasgow next week. Certainly, I’m not aware of any plans that we have at the moment to engage with any delegation from the DPRK. What we have said broadly when it comes to the DPRK, is that we believe diplomacy is the most effective means by which to achieve what it is that our policy review identified as that overarching goal and that’s a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We are open to diplomacy. We are ready for diplomacy. We have made clear to the DPRK that we have no hostile intent towards the country, that we are prepared to engage diplomatically with them. We’ve made that very clear in a series of messages and we await a response. Yes, Sayed?
[inaudible 00:43:02] But before I do that, I want to add my name in acknowledging Gladys and what she’s done over the years. And I want to wish her Godspeed and the best luck on the road ahead. She will definitely be missed.
Ned Price: (43:13)
Thank you, Sayed, yes.
On the settlements, the Israeli’s announced on Sunday that they, in fact, they showed tenders to build 1300 settlements in seven different settlements and so on. I know in the past, you have expressed your views and you’ve told us in this room… I know each of us have asked so many times about your position on the settlement is well known. But what message are you sending the Israelis, because I think that Israel feels emboldened by your lack of resolve on this issue?
Ned Price: (43:49)
By, sorry, could you repeat the last part of the question?
Israel is emboldened by, they keep doing things, you express that you disagree with this action, then they go on. They are emboldened by your lack of action.
Ned Price: (44:02)
Sayed, we’ve had an opportunity to discuss our position on this, in this room, and in any number of other occasions. When it comes to what we’ve heard recently, we are deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s plan to advance thousands of settlement units tomorrow, Wednesday, many of them deep in the West Bank. In addition, we’re concerned about the publication of tenders on Sunday for 1300 settlement units, 1300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements. We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution. We have been consistent, as I said, and clear in our statements to this effect. We also view plans for the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts as unacceptable. We continue to raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions. Yes?
I have a couple more questions on the path in Asia. I wanted to ask you, are you engaging with the Israelis as the secretary of state talking to Mr. [LePeach 00:45:18] in one instance? Is Michael Ratner, was I think was in charge of affairs. Was he talking to anyone?
Ned Price: (45:23)
We are engaging with our Israeli partners at very senior levels, conveying this message.
Now on the issue of the human rights organization-
Hold on a second. Sorry, just on settlements, you said that you’ve been clear and consistent in your view, but you in fact, haven’t. This is the strongest statement that you guys have made about settlements, directly about settlements, since I think, well, that I’ve been around, that I’ve heard. Prior to today, you have only said that you oppose any unilateral measures that could damage the prospects for two-state solution.
Ned Price: (45:57)
And that statement always ended, and that includes settlement activity.
Including settlement… But you have not said we strongly oppose the expansion of settlements and this is the strongest that you have been. Was there a decision made that you had to start getting tougher on this?
Ned Price: (46:15)
Matt, our messaging on this is-
Not your public messaging.
Ned Price: (46:19)
Our public messaging on this is consistent with what we are seeing transpire, so it only stands to reason that our public messaging may shift over time. Sayed?
Yes, going back to the six human rights organization. Now I know that you issued a statement last Friday and you responded to the issue last Friday, but then you also said that we have to go, if we have further questions, we have to go to the Israelis. Is that it? I mean, just is that the end of it? Is that, you’re just asking journalists and inquirers to go back to the Israelis and have them explain? Are you convinced that the Israelis have a reason that these organizations are tied to terrorism? Or in fact, are they telling the truth when they say, and I know Matt asked this question yesterday, are they telling the truth when they say they shared that information with you? And do you have any plans to meet with this organization, like the European Union did?
Ned Price: (47:21)
So Sayed, we remain in close touch with our Israeli partners on this. As you may know, there is an Israeli delegation that we’ll be meeting with to discuss this set of issues. Broadly speaking, we believe that respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong, independent civil society are critically important to democracy and to responsible and responsive government. And these are conversations that we look forward to having with our Israeli partners.
Do you have any plans to meet with any of those six organizations, any American officials, whether in the West Bank or anywhere?
Ned Price: (48:00)
I’m not aware of any plans. We don’t have any meetings to preview in Jerusalem at this time. Sure.
Speaker 9: (48:08)
Do you see any impact on the US relationship with Israel? Would there be any repercussions if the Israelis go ahead with this, despite the concerns?
Ned Price: (48:16)
Look, these are concerns that we have discussed at very senior levels, at the most senior levels, with our Israeli partners. Our Israeli partners know where we stand and will continue to engage with them in our diplomacy on this. Yes?
Speaker 10: (48:34)
Ned Price: (48:35)
Speaker 10: (48:38)
[inaudible 00:48:38] That the US is fermenting for mid-November. Mr. Canal said this behavior by the US is not new. What’s your comment on it and how is it affecting the review of the Cuba policy by the administration?
Ned Price: (48:54)
Look, the Cuban peoples protests, peaceful protests, on and after July 11th and with the upcoming plans for November 15th, the Cuban people are voicing their concerns about freedom, about democracy and the failures of that very regime, the Cuban regime, to meet their own needs, the needs of the Cuban people. We support, as we have said, the rights of the Cuban people and people everywhere to exercise their freedoms of expression, their ability to assemble peacefully. We call on the Cuban government to respect these rights and to see this not as an attack, but as an opportunity to listen. To listen to their own people and to do what is right for Cubans and for Cuba.
Ned Price: (49:47)
The Cuban regime is failing to meet the people’s most basic needs. That includes food. That includes medicine. Now is a chance to listen to the Cuban people and to make a positive change. Again, we commend the people of Cuba for peacefully showing the strength of their will and the power of their voice, which after the protest of July 11th, the government has consistently attempted to silence, including through violent oppression, including through unjust detentions of hundreds of protesters, including through the detention of journalists, of activists, internet censorship, and other tactics that we reject. We stand with every Cuban seeking a government that respects their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Speaker 10: (50:36)
So the US is not behind, it’s not supporting this kind of protest?
Ned Price: (50:39)
We stand with the right of the Cuban people and the right of people everywhere to assemble peacefully, to have their voices heard. But what we have seen in Cuba since July 11th, what I suspect we will see mid next month in Cuba, is a demonstration not of the desires of the United States government. What we have seen, what we will say, what we will see is a manifest-
Ned Price: (51:03)
We have seen, what we will see, is a manifestation of the unmet needs of the unmet aspirations of the Cuban people and the Cuban people’s clear attribution of responsibility for those unmet needs and unmet aspirations to the Cuban government. Let me go to the back. Abby.
Speaker 11: (51:20)
26 families of U.S. hostages and American detainees published a letter yesterday saying that they believe the Biden administration is not prioritizing securing the release of their family members. I wondered if you had a general response. And two, they’re calling for action. Is there anything within this building that is being done to address their concerns and frustrations?
Ned Price: (51:39)
Well, we work tirelessly to secure the release of Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained overseas, so that these hostages and wrongful detainees can be safely reunited with their families. The State Department, our partners across the government, we work closely together on these cases to ensure a focused and coordinated effort that draws on all available government resources and expertise. The families of Americans who are held captive abroad, we know that they also face incredible hardship as they tirelessly, as they too tirelessly advocate for their loved ones who have been taken away from them. We remain in regular contact with these families. We are grateful for their partnership. We are grateful for their feedback. We continue to work to ensure we are communicating and sharing information with them in a way that is useful for these families.
Ned Price: (52:34)
As you may recall, Secretary Blinken had an opportunity, together with Ambassador Carstens, our Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, to meet with the families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. And he reaffirmed during that session earlier this year that the United States is committed to seeking the release of their loved ones. Ambassador Carstens leads the diplomatic strategy for the return for the release of Americans held captive abroad. That includes any number of tactics, including in some cases direct talks. Of course, any negotiations are coordinated throughout the government at very senior levels as well. And of course our Bureau of Consular Affairs here at the Department of State also provides support to all U.S. Citizens detained abroad. Yes, Sean.
To the issue of climate change, Australia overnight unveiled a plan to limit, to zero out carbon emissions by 2050, but not with any near-term goals. Does [inaudible 00:53:35] have any reaction to this? Australia has been seen as one of the holdouts ahead of COP26.
Ned Price: (53:39)
Well, the point we have made since the very earliest days of this administration when we rejoined the Paris climate agreement, shortly after that, when this administration announced our ambitious climate targets of emissions reductions between 50 and 52% in the coming years, we have made clear that every country around the world, but especially industrialized countries that are major sources of greenhouse gases, have a special responsibility and a special obligation to the current generation and to future generations to raise our collective climate ambition. That is what we have done. We’ve been heartened to see, including in the context of and the aftermath of the summit on climate that the president pulled together, the White House pulled together in recent weeks. We’ve been heartened to see additional commitments. And of course, we’re on a very short runway to a COP26 in Glasgow starting… We’ll be heading there next week.
Ned Price: (54:46)
And we know that, the window for limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, we know it’s narrowing. We expect countries that have not already done so to arrive in Glasgow with ambitious commitments that bring us closer to that goal. We believe that all countries should collectively commit in Glasgow to continue strengthening ambition toward a 1.5 degree Celsius limit now, and throughout this decade. We have made this point before, but this is the decisive decade. We think about climate change in terms of years, in terms of decades ahead and its implications. But now is the moment where that if we miss, the window may well close. So again, many countries have put forward ambitious climate targets. That includes the United States. We have put forward a bold, ambitious plan, not only because it is the right thing to do for our future, not only because it is the right thing to do for our economy, but also because by demonstrating American leadership, we have the potential to galvanize our allies, partners, and countries around the world as well.
Do you think Australia’s plan is ambitious enough? You said that this decade is crucial.
Ned Price: (56:01)
This decade is crucial. Look, I’m not going to weigh in from the podium on any country’s specific commitments. What we know is that what we need to achieve is that collective goal of doing all we can to ensure that we don’t exceed that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius given the dates.
I have a quick question on Iran.
Ned Price: (56:22)
Just to follow through with what Mr. [inaudible 00:56:24] said. He said that… Basically he was saying the window was closing. What does that mean? I mean, will there come a point, maybe next week, the week after, the Iranians are not on board that you say, okay, no more, no deal?
Ned Price: (56:38)
Well, look, we have been very clear, and I had an opportunity to reiterate this in the briefing earlier today, that we continue to believe the window for diplomacy remains open. But that is not a window that will be open indefinitely. And it cannot be open indefinitely because as Iran continues to advance its nuclear program, as it has distanced itself from the commitments it made in the JCPOA context, eventually the advantages that the JCPOA in its original form in 2015 and implemented in 2016, will be negated by the advances that Iran will have made in its nuclear program. So that is why we continue to believe that negotiations, indirect even as they are, need to resume in Vienna as soon as possible. This is not just the position of the United States. This is the position of the full P5+1.
Ned Price: (57:47)
We have heard this in public. We have heard this in private, from our Russian counterparts, from the PRC, from the Germans, the Brits, in the French as well, in the EU of course, which is playing a coordinating role in much of this. So we continue to believe that a return to Vienna as soon as possible, again, affords the best chance of securing a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, which we still think remains possible and we still think remains the most effective means to ensure that Iran is permanently and verifiably prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
But you’re not putting an expire date or a set date that they have to return by such and such date or it’s off the table.
Ned Price: (58:38)
I’m not in a position to offer that from the podium. Yes.
Speaker 6: (58:40)
How long are you going to wait?
Ned Price: (58:42)
Again, we think that the window is closing. Every day that goes by is another day that Iran is in a position to advance its nuclear program in ways that are concerning. These are not just concerns on the part of the United States. We have heard similar concerns from our partner the IAEA. We have heard similar concerns from our European allies as well. So we’re not putting a specific timeframe on it, but we are making the point that this is not a process that can go on indefinitely. The window has been open for months now, but it has also been months since the Iranian government withdrew from the sixth round of talks and has, for reasons that you’ll have to ask them about, they have not been willing to resume a seventh round. We think the seventh round in Vienna should resume immediately if we are going to make swift progress towards a mutual return to compliance.
Speaker 6: (59:45)
Just to follow up on Sudan, because everybody now is talking that Prime Minister Hamdok is out. Do we expect a call between Secretary Blinken and the prime minister today if he’s confirmed out?
Ned Price: (59:56)
Again, you’re citing reports I haven’t seen. I wouldn’t want to speak to them before I’m in a position to confirm them. The secretary, the special envoy, our assistant secretary, others in this building, others in this administration are prepared to engage, are prepared to communicate in ways that we feel has the potential to help advance our goal, and that is a swift restoration of the civilian-led democratic transitional government, a release of political prisoners, seeing to it that those who are peacefully assembling in the streets are not subject to violence.
Speaker 6: (01:00:35)
If you weren’t able to reach out to him, that means that he’s not free. In your opinion, if you weren’t able to reach out to him or being in contact with him, how do you define that?
Ned Price: (01:00:50)
He should be… We have been very clear that should be released from military custody.
Speaker 12: (01:00:55)
Ned Price: (01:00:57)