Apr 19, 2022

State Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing 4/18/22 Transcript

State Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing 4/18/19 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsNed PriceState Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing 4/18/22 Transcript

State Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing 4/18/19. Read the transcript here.


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Ned Price: (00:00)
…And enduring US commitment to ASEAN, recognizing its central role in delivering sustainable solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges and commemorate 45 years of US-ASEAN relations.

Ned Price: (00:12)
The summit will build on President Biden’s participation in the October 2021 ASEAN-US summit where the president announced $102 million in new initiatives to expand US engagement with ASEAN and support a bright and prosperous future for our combined 1 billion people. One of this administration’s top priorities is to serve as a strong, reliable partner and to strengthen an empowered and unified ASEAN to address the challenges of our time. Our shared interests for the region will continue to underpin our common commitment to advance in Indo-Pacific that is free, open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient.

Ned Price: (00:50)
Next is the White House also announced this morning, assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink and National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator, Kurt Campbell, will lead a delegation of US government officials to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands this week.

Ned Price: (01:05)
Building on Secretary Blinken’s February 2022 visit to the region, the delegation will reaffirm the US commitment to a free and open and Indo-Pacific as we work together to tackle the most significance global challenges of the 21st century, including combating the climate crisis and ending the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The inter-agency delegation will also hold consultations with regional partners at the headquarters of US Indo-Pacific Command or Indo-PACOM in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Ned Price: (01:34)
And finally, today, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs is launching an online partnership with the Google Arts and Culture platform to showcase the Cultural Heritage Center’s work to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world. The partnership launches today in celebration of World Heritage Day. The Cultural Heritage Center’s first exhibition on the US platform features the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation program. Visitors can virtually tour multiple AFCP sites, such as Chankillo in Peru, the earliest known astronomical observatory in the Americas, or Wat Chaiwatthanaram, a 17th century Buddhist temple in Thailand.

Ned Price: (02:15)
The state department works with international partners to preserve heritage and protect culturally important sites, objects, and practices. This community engagement spurs economic development, cultivates respect for cultural diversity and further promotes US foreign policy objectives. Since 2001, the US Ambassadors Fund has worked with partners in over 130 countries to protect and preserve cultural heritage through more than 1,100 preservation projects.

Ned Price: (02:42)
So with all that at the top, happy to take your questions. [Sean 00:02:46], welcome back again.

Sean: (02:47)
Thank you, thanks. [inaudible 00:02:49] in Ukraine, the situation in Lviv. So these seven people were killed, Russia is saying that it was targeting arms there. Do you have any assessment about what the Russian aim was about and about what the effects were?

Ned Price: (03:03)
Well, I would in large part refer you to our Ukrainian partners and our Department of Defense to speak to Russia’s military activity. I know that our Department of Defense has said as of this morning, that many of the Russian strikes we’ve seen in recent days have targeted military installations, military-adjacent installations. But the fact is that Russia, more than just launching an invasion, more than just launching a war, is undertaking a campaign of terror, a campaign of brutality, a campaign of despicable aggression against the people of Ukraine. And so when it comes to what we’ve seen in recent hours, and in terms of the strikes against Lviv, in terms of the strikes in the outskirts of Kiev or what we’ve seen in towns like Mariupol’, towns like Kharkiv, what we’ve witnessed in Bucha. These are clear indications, they are a clear Testament to the campaign of brutality, the campaign of terror that the Russians are waging against the people of Ukraine.

Speaker 1: (04:13)
I wonder, just to follow up on that, does those attacks on Kiev and Lviv, do you see that as a kind of setback for these… It seemed like things had been improving in that part of the country and a lot of Ukrainians were crossing the border the other way, is that a setback to those people, those Ukrainians who might have been thinking, ‘It’s safe to go back if we’re from the west of the country.’ And also how does that factor into your considerations on whether to re-establish diplomatic presence in the country?

Ned Price: (04:51)
Well, at a strategic level, we, of course, will re-establish a diplomatic presence just as soon as we are able. When it comes to our calculus, you know that we have a high priority on the safety, security, the welfare, the well-being of American diplomats and our colleagues who are serving around the world. So we are continuing to assess the security situation and when the security situation allows it and not a second later, I can assure you that we will have a re-established diplomatic presence on the ground in Ukraine.

Ned Price: (05:24)
In the meantime, I wouldn’t want to offer the misimpression that the lack of a formal diplomatic presence, the lack of a diplomatic team on the ground has in any way encumbered our ability to coordinate, to consult with our Ukrainian partners. We do that at as a matter of course. As you know, we have a team, a diplomatic team stationed across the border in Poland. They have been engaging regularly with their Ukrainian counterparts at the highest levels. We have been engaging regularly with our diplomatic counterparts over the phone and even in person. President Biden spoke to President Zelenskyy last week, Secretary Blinken spoke to Foreign Minister Kuleba last week.

Ned Price: (06:05)
And as you know, Secretary Blinken has had recent opportunities to meet with Foreign Minister Kuleba in person. We did. So in Brussels, on the margins of the NATO ministerial, just the other week, we did. So just before that, in Warsaw, when Secretary Blinken accompanied the president and he and Secretary Austin did a ‘two-plus-two’ with their Ukrainian counterparts, we did. So just before that, when we met with Foreign Minister Kuleba just inside Ukrainian territory, along the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Ned Price: (06:36)
So even as we don’t have a diplomatic presence on the ground at the moment, we are continuing to work closely with our Ukrainian counterparts to hear precisely what they need to determine how best we can continue to support them in terms of our security assistance, in terms of our humanitarian assistance, in terms of our economic support. And as we coordinate with 30 countries across four continents to hold the Russian Federation to account for this war of choice. Yes.

Speaker 2: (07:10)
Thank you. I have a question on North Korea and [inaudible 00:07:16]. North Korea testified [inaudible 00:07:21] had provided weapons yesterday, what is the US [inaudible 00:07:26] on that? Second one, Ukraine President Zelenskyy is reporting that you have asked President Biden to designate Russia as a state of terrorism, the US accepted it. So I will call the next-

Ned Price: (07:26)
Let me start with that question just because it’s adjacent to [Simon 00:07:49]’s question. As I mentioned just a moment ago, we have worked with some-30 countries across four continents to impose unprecedented costs on the Russian federation with our economic sanctions, other economic measures, including our export control measures. We are going to look at all potential options, options that are available to us under the law, options that would be effective in holding Russia to account. And if a tool is available and effective, we won’t hesitate to use it.

Ned Price: (08:23)
When it comes to the DPRK’s most recent provocations, I know that the Department of Defense issued a statement on this. They noted that the department was aware of the DPRK’s statement, that they conducted a test of a long-range artillery system, as you know, we’re closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula. And we have warned of the possibility of additional potential provocations from the DPRK.

Ned Price: (08:52)
It just so happens that our special envoy for the DPRK is currently in Seoul. He had a series of meetings in Seoul earlier today, he spoke publicly as well to make the point that his engagement with our ROK allies showcases the coordination and underscores our rock-solid commitment to the region. Ambassador Sung Kim went on to say that, “We’re determined to protect the security of the United States and that of our allies, the ROK, and Japan.” And he noted that our goal continues to be the complete de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Sung Kim, Deputy Secretary Sherman, Secretary Blinken have engaged regularly, bilaterally, with our ROK counterparts, bilaterally with our Japanese allies, tri-laterally with our ROK and Japanese allies together.

Ned Price: (09:47)
We have, in all of those engagements, sought to make very clear to the DPRK, that the door to diplomacy is not closed, that it does remain open, but that the DPRK needs to cease its destabilizing actions. And instead choose the path of engagement, something it has not yet done. We are willing to listen to the full range of the DPRK’s concerns, but this can only happen through dialogue. And the DPRK has not yet given any concrete indications that it is open to this dialogue. They have done this, not withstanding the fact that we’ve made clear on many occasions, including right here, that we harbor no hostile intent towards the DPRK. And we’ve also made clear that we are willing to meet without preconditions to engage in this dialogue.

Ned Price: (10:39)
Unfortunately, it is the DPRK that has failed to respond to our invitations. And instead they have engaged in this series of provocations, including the ICBM launches in recent weeks. We have worked with our allies in the region. We’ve worked with our allies well beyond the region, and we’ve worked in the UN context to make clear our condemnation of these recent ballistic missile tests, each of which was in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. These launches, these tests have demonstrated that the DPRK continues to prioritize its WMD and ballistic missile programs at the expense of regional and international security. And in response to these provocations in whole and in part, we have taken a series of diplomatic, economic, and military measures. We’ve detailed them in some depth, both from here and throughout this administration. Our actions are intended to make clear to the DPRK that its escalatory behavior has consequences. Those consequences will continue as long as the DPRK continues with its provocations.

Speaker 2: (11:58)
The last occasion, China is a special representative for North Korea’s nuclear program, opposed additional UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea and they retaliated that the US and North Korea should resume early dialogue. What is your comment? China always say that need the dialogue, resume the dialogue, but they not have, they not all over the-

Ned Price: (12:27)
Well, when it comes to the latter element, that’s also been our point. We have made very clear that the door to diplomacy, the door to dialogue remains open. We have signaled that publicly. We have signaled that privately, but as I just detailed, the DPRK has yet to engage on those suggestions. We have engaged not only with our close allies, Japan and the ROK, but also with other stakeholders, including regional stakeholders. And of course the PRC is an important regional stakeholder. We recently had a meeting with the PRC’s special envoy for the DPRK.

Ned Price: (13:03)
Had a meeting with the PRCS Special Envoy for the DPRK. It’s important that we continue to engage partners like the PRC on this, given that the PRC does wield a good degree of leverage with the DPRK. Yes.

Speaker 3: (13:16)
Thank you. Surprised I have two question. One is regarding Pakistan attack, recent attack to Afghanistan. So many civilian has been killed, although we are during the Ramadan month, holy month, I don’t know a state department or United States still influences to Pakistan, especially the new government. What can the United States do to bring pressure to Pakistan regime to change their policy toward Afghanistan? And the second question about the SIV visa older; the people who approved already, but they said, “We don’t want our kids in Afghanistan to be with the Taliban and come to United States.”

Ned Price: (14:06)
So on your first question, we are aware of the reports of Pakistani airstrikes in Afghanistan, but we refer you to the Pakistani government for comment. We view Pakistan as an important stakeholder, an important partner with whom we are engaging, and have engaged as we work together to bring about an Afghanistan that is more stable, is more secure, is more prosperous and importantly, and Afghanistan that respects the basic and fundamental rights of its people. All of its people, including its minorities, its women, its girls. For almost 75 years, our relationship with Pakistan has been a vital one. We look forward to continuing that work with the new government in Pakistan, across regional and international issues. This is work that has the potential to promote peace and prosperity in Pakistan and throughout the region. We’ve already congratulated the new Pakistani prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on his election, and we look forward to working closely with his government.

Ned Price: (15:16)
When it comes to the SIV program, we’ve spoke to this, spoken to this in some length, but of course, in addition to US citizens, lawful permanent residents, we are prioritizing the relocation for those who have partnered with the United States over the course of the last 20 years, and SIV holders are certainly in that category. The SIV program is actually not a program that we ourselves designed, or we ourselves formulated. If we had, there would probably be some differences, and we’ve talked about the rather cumbersome process when it comes to the SIV program; more than a dozen steps involving different agencies within the US government, that ladders up to the application, and ultimately the selection of SIV applicants. So under the law, and this was a program that was designed by Congress, there are certain dependents who are able to travel and to relocate with an SIV holder. And so we are required to follow the law, and that does not afford us flexibility in terms of family members that might be able to travel with the SIV holder. The law clearly stipulates that it’s a spouse and children under the age of 21, as I recall. Sean? Let me move around a little bit, actually. Yes, sir?

Speaker 4: (16:47)
I have two question Russia and France. France removed their co-chairs from the OSCE Men’s Group, when will the US do the same and generally what we would [inaudible 00:17:05]? Second question: how can the United state contribute to the signing of peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia?

Ned Price: (17:14)
Well, we spoke about this a bit last week and Secretary Lincoln had an opportunity to speak respectively with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan a couple weeks ago now, but we remain committed to promoting a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for the south Caucus’s region. We urge Armenia and Azerbaijan to continue to intensify their diplomatic engagement and to make use of existing mechanisms for direct engagement, to find comprehensive solutions to all outstanding related to or resulting from Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and to normalize their relations through the conclusion of a comprehensive peace agreement. When it comes to our role, we do remain ready to assist Armenia and Azerbaijan with these efforts, including in our capacity as a co-chair of the OSCE Men’s Group. And so when we talk about existing mechanisms, of course, the OSCE’s Men’s Group is part of that. Yes, sure.

Speaker 4: (18:07)
Andy Shopper is in the region right now. And-

Ned Price: (18:09)
I’m sorry?

Speaker 4: (18:10)
So Andy Shopper is current in the region and he met with Armenian Foreign Affairs Minster. There was a confusion, I think in terms of what badge is he wearing today? The state department put a tweet out there and said he is a senior advisor for Caucus’s negotiations. And we know him in the region as a Men’s Group co-chair keeps clarify that, and also is he going to go to as Nagorno-Karabakh as well?

Ned Price: (18:37)
I don’t have the details on this individual’s traveler and what capacity he was acting at the time, but we’ll get back to you if we have anything more to add there. Yes?

Speaker 4: (18:47)
Follow up.

Ned Price: (18:48)
Yeah, on Bucha I wanted to follow up, Putin today awarded the brigade that committed a mass murder in Bucha with the title of guards. Is there any reaction from the state and also what is the state of us investigation on Bucha massacre? Thank you.

Ned Price: (19:05)
What is the status of the US investigation-

Speaker 4: (19:05)
Investigation on Bucha massacre?

Ned Price: (19:06)
So on your first question, the question was, do we have a reaction to President Putin reportedly heralding, one of the architects of the massacre, what has transpired in Bucha, we don’t have a specific reaction to that, but what I can tell you is that it would not be surprising to see the Russian Federation heralding honor on those who may have been involved in some of the worst atrocities of this conflict, because the point we have made is that the atrocities to include war crimes that Russia’s forces have committed, these are not the rogue acts of a single Russian service member, or even a small group. This was a premeditated, preconceived campaign of brutality targeting, not only the government of Ukraine, the territorial integrity of the state of Ukraine, but also the people of Ukraine. And that is why we are so focused on accountability, not only on those who are responsible through their own hands and their own work, through the deaths and the destruction in Ukraine’s towns and cities, but also all of those up the ladder who were part and sanctioned this effort of brutality against the people of Ukraine. Yes?

Speaker 5: (20:37)
Last week, the CIA director called China, “A silent partner in Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine.” Is the US giving any consideration to increasing the nature of its diplomatic pressure on China, changing its tactics in order to bring the Chinese around ending their tacit support of Russia?

Ned Price: (20:54)
Well, the PRC is going to make its own decisions about how its supports Russia’s brutality against the people of Ukraine. The PRC is going to make its own decisions about whether everything that it has purported to stand for in the international system in recent decades, including an emphasis on state sovereignty and viability of borders, or whether all of that was just a show, just bluster. And to the director’s point, not only have we not seen the PRC condemn, as every country around the world should, the brutality that Russia’s forces are carrying out against the Ukrainian people. We’ve actually heard senior PRC officials parrot some of the worst, some of the most dangerous propaganda that is and has emanated from the Kremlin. So this is a choice for the PRC to make the point that the United States and our European allies and our partners around the world have made to the PRC. Number one, we are going to continue to keep a care eye, a careful watch on the level of support for the PRC exhibits towards Russia. Of course, if the PRC were to provide weapons, supplies or seek to help Russia of aid sanctions. There would be strong consequences for that, not only on our part, but also on the part of our allies and partners.

Ned Price: (22:41)
But number two, this is a moment when every responsible country around the world has an obligation to its people and to the international community, to make clear where it stands on questions that are fundamental, and questions on which there should be no nuance. Questions about whether this type of brutality, these wanton human rights abuses the massacring of civilians, the ability of a state to pretend that international borders don’t exist, and the ability of leaders to declare, as President Putin seemingly has, that another country doesn’t have a right to exist. These are fundamental questions we’ve heard from the PRC, its desire over the course of many decades to be a responsible stakeholder. Well, now is the time to answer that question. And now is the time to show up

Speaker 5: (23:48)
[inaudible 00:23:48], because you mentioned some of the other ways that China could be providing material support has the US to date seen any evidence that support has been anything but rhetorical? Have there been weapons support provided, has there been sanctions support provided?

Ned Price: (24:02)
We’re going to continue to watch very closely. We offered an assessment a couple weeks ago now that we had not seen the provision of weapons of supplies and that assessment has not changed. Sean?

Sean: (24:13)
[inaudible 00:24:13] to the Middle East?

Ned Price: (24:14)

Sean: (24:14)
Just as you’re walking in, the is Israeli military so that they intercepted a rocket from Gaza. I know you put out a statement on Jerusalem, I believe it was on Friday. What’s your assessment of the situation? How worried is the United States that this could flare up the way it did last year?

Ned Price: (24:33)
Well, I did see that report just before we walked in. To answer your question, in short, we are deeply concerned. We are deeply concerned by the recent violence in Jerusalem, on the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mounts and across the West Bank. We, as we did on Friday, continue to call on all to exercise restraint, to avoid provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mounts. We also continue to urge Israeli and Palestinian officials to work cooperatively to lower tensions, and ensure the safety of everyone. This department continues to closely follow the situation, and continues to be close contact with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, to seek to deescalate tensions. What I can tell you is that a number of senior officials across this government, and certainly a number of individuals across this building, and our ambassadors, and capitals across the Middle East were engaged in a series of phone calls, including at very high levels over the weekends, again, with our Israeli partners, with our Palestinian counterparts, with other Arab representatives in the region, including our Jordanian partners, the custodian of the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mounts, in an effort to see to it that these tension do not escalate.

Sean: (25:55)
Could I just follow up? You mentioned Jordan, the Jordanian [inaudible 00:25:58] the Israeli ambassador, [inaudible 00:26:01], and said that it was, calling it, “Heavy handed”-

Sean: (26:03)
[inaudible 00:26:00] right there and said that it was … Calling it heavy-handed, the treatment that the Israelis had with the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Do you share the assessment of the Jordanians that things could have been handled differently?

Ned Price: (26:14)
I’m not in the position to offer a detailed assessment of operations on the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif. What I can say is that we have urged all sides to preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif, Temple Mount, both in word and in practice, and to avoid steps that may be provocative and that may seek to or that may inflame tensions even further.

Sean: (26:40)
If nobody has a follow up on that specific-

Ned Price: (26:43)
Anything else on this specifically? Okay.

Sean: (26:44)

Ned Price: (26:45)

Sean: (26:46)
Your counterpart in Tehran said today that the United States is behind the holdup in coming to a revival of the JCPOA, a reentry of the United States into the JCPOA. Do you have any response directly or indirectly to that? Do you agree with the assessment that it’s the US that’s holding up restoring this?

Ned Price: (27:04)
We have said this consistently since the beginning, we are prepared for a return to full JCPOA implementation. We are also prepared for broader diplomatic efforts to resolve issues outside of the JCPOA and this specific nuclear file. Deputy Secretary General Mora of the EU’s External Action Service continues to convey messages and is working to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Ned Price: (27:39)
We’re not going to negotiate in public. But what we can say is that if Iran wants sanctions lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they’ll need to address concerns of ours that go beyond the JCPOA. If they do not want to use these talks to resolve other bilateral issues, then we are confident we can very quickly reach an understanding on the JCPOA and begin to re-implement the deal itself.

Ned Price: (28:04)
It is Iran that needs to make this decision. Any party, everyone who has been directly engaged in these talks, knows which side has put constructive proposals on the table, knows which side has negotiated and engaged in good faith, and knows which side has not.

Sean: (28:21)
Can I just follow up on the Revolutionary Guards issue? I know you said you’re not going to negotiate publicly, but is this something in which the United States has made a firm decision on the FTO status?

Ned Price: (28:31)
Again, we’re not going to negotiate in public. The Iranians know where we stand on the various issues at play. They also know that we are seeking a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA. If they want to negotiate issues that fall outside the purview of the JCPOA, then we’ll do that. But they will need to negotiate those issues in good faith with reciprocity. Yes?

Speaker 6: (28:57)
Following up John’s questions, your Iranian counterpart also said that the environment or atmosphere of the “talks” is not negative. Do you see that as a positive assessment? Do you share at least that assessment?

Ned Price: (29:18)
I don’t think it’s helpful for us to characterize the environment of the talks. There is really only one element that matters, and that is whether or not we’re able to achieve a mutual return to compliance, whether we’re able to get across the finish line or not.

Ned Price: (29:31)
At this point, it is unclear to us whether we will be able to get there. We’ve spoken to the significant progress that had been achieved in recent weeks. Obviously, we’ve been in a different position now for several weeks.

Ned Price: (29:45)
That is why we’re preparing equally for scenarios in which there is a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and scenarios in which there’s not a mutual return to compliance for the JCPOA. We would greatly prefer the former, to have the JCPOA and the verifiable, the permanent limits that it would again impose on Iran’s nuclear program. Whether we are able to get there or not, that is a question for Iran.

Speaker 6: (30:09)
One question on the Iranian president’s comment today. He threatened Israel and he said that if Israel makes a move against Iran, that it would retaliate. Any comments on that?

Ned Price: (30:23)
Well, Iran, we know, is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Its support for terrorism threatens international security and our partners throughout the region and elsewhere. Of course, that includes Israel.

Ned Price: (30:36)
This administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct. We have demonstrated that in a number of ways. In cooperation with our allies and regional partners, including Israel, we will use every appropriate tool to confront the IRGCs destabilizing role in the region, including working closely with our partners in Israel. Yes?

Speaker 7: (30:58)
Two on Ukraine, if I may. The first is on James Hill, the US citizen killed roughly a month ago in Kharkiv. His family says his remains are in Brussels and they’ve not been notified when they will be returned to the US. Is the State Department aware of this? Are they helping? What kind of assistance is being provided to them, including the return of his remains?

Ned Price: (31:17)
So I’m not able to comment on specific cases, but I can tell you that our Bureau of Consular Affairs routinely and regularly interacts with Americans, with their families, including cases of illness or, unfortunately, in cases of death. But I just don’t have any additional details on this.

Speaker 7: (31:36)
Secondly, can you please provide the latest on the State Department’s role in planning for a senior-level visit to Ukraine and how the recent strikes in Lviv and Kyiv affected that planning process?

Ned Price: (31:47)
Well, again, we don’t have any travel to confirm, we don’t have any travel to announce, or even to preview at this point, but the fact remains that our coordination and our consultation with our Ukrainian partners and our European allies, as well as partners and allies around the world, remains ongoing. It is continuous. It is daily.

Ned Price: (32:09)
What I can say is that tomorrow, in fact, you will see Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman travel to Brussels. She’ll be there from April 19th to April 22nd. She is going for the third high-level meeting of the US-EU dialogue on China that will take place on April 21st. She’ll also go for consultations with our European allies and partners on the Indo-Pacific on April 22nd. But she will also, while there, engage in Brussels with our NATO allies and EU partners, discuss our continued close coordination on President Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine.

Ned Price: (32:47)
So Secretary Blinken has spent more time in Brussels than any other city on the face of the Earth, with the exception of Washington, DC. Deputy Secretary Sherman has spent a good deal of time there herself. She’ll be returning tomorrow where she will remain for several days, including by being engaged with our European allies on the question of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Yes, sir?

Speaker 8: (33:13)
Yes. Is the secretary tomorrow going to make that visit? It’s been reported lately many times that the administration is considering sending high officials to Kyiv. Is it in the book and if not, why?

Ned Price: (33:27)
Well, the secretary will make an important visit tomorrow. He will lead a US delegation to Panama City to lead a ministerial conference on migration and protection, co-hosted with the government of Panama. We’ll depart tomorrow morning. We will return tomorrow evening.

Ned Price: (33:42)
While in Panama, our delegation will join senior representatives from more than 20 other countries in the western hemisphere at the ministerial conference. Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security will be in attendance and helping to co-host this as well.

Ned Price: (33:58)
This is part of our effort with countries from across the region, in recognition of our shared responsibility to address forced displacement and to manage a regular migration. As we’ve discussed since the beginning of this administration, our migration management strategy is a regional one, addressing the root causes, the drivers of migration from within the region.

Ned Price: (34:22)
This will be an important follow on to the discussions we had in Colombia last October, an important follow on to discussions we had in Costa Rica last year as well as we develop and implement with our partners in the region this migration management strategy. Sir?

Speaker 8: (34:37)
I mentioned a visit to Kyiv, to Ukraine. It’s been reported lately that you’re considering sending a higher official to Kyiv. Is it-

Ned Price: (34:48)
As I’ve said a number of times already today, we don’t have any travel to announce, but we regularly engage with our Ukrainian partners on our diplomacy, on their needs, on the ways we can continue to support the government and the people of Ukraine. Yes?

Speaker 9: (35:03)
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will pay a visit to the United States on May 18. What would be the main issues in the discussions? Can Turkey be part of the F-35 program again?

Ned Price: (35:19)
Well, Turkey, of course, is an important NATO ally. We’ve had many occasions in recent weeks to consult with our Turkish allies, including with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, Secretary Blinken regularly discusses a range of issues with him, including, of course, Turkey’s important role in holding Russia to account for its war against the people, the government, the state of Ukraine. I imagine this upcoming opportunity would be an important element as part of that.

Ned Price: (35:53)
But, together, as NATO allies and important bilateral partners, there are a range of shared interests that we have with our Turkish partners. So this is still a ways away, but I imagine there will be a very full agenda.

Ned Price: (36:07)
When it comes to the F-35 program, we’ve made our concerns with Turkey’s possession of the S-400 system very clear. We do not believe the S-400 system is consistent with the F-35 program. Yes?

Speaker 10: (36:22)
Let’s go back to Iran. As part of the indirect talks over the detainees, is the administration also seeking the release of US legal permanent residents like Shahab Dalili, whose family has now gone public with his case?

Ned Price: (36:36)
We have a number of concerns with the Iranian regime. At the top of that list, of course, is its nuclear program and the challenge that its nuclear program, which has been able to gallop forward since 2018, poses to regional and international peace and security.

Ned Price: (36:55)
But beyond that, of course, we are focused on the release of US citizens. There are four US citizens who remain unjustly detained in Iran. We are continuing to do everything we can to see to it that these individuals are returned to their families just as soon as is possible. There may be other cases that we are prioritizing as well, but in the first instance, we’re always going to prioritize the safety, the security, the welfare, the wellbeing of American citizens, of US citizens. Yes?

Speaker 10: (37:31)
Just to stay in the region, is the US concerned by reports that four Uyghur Muslims held in Saudi Arabia risk deportation to China? Has this been discussed with Saudi counterparts?

Ned Price: (37:46)
Across the world, we advocate against the involuntary return of predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups to the PRC. We know that if returned, these individuals are at risk of detention, potentially even torture. We will continue to urge partners to abide by their obligations under international law, including non-refoulement and not return individuals from vulnerable populations to the PRC where they face genocide and crimes against humanity. John?

Sean: (38:16)
Any comment on the reports that Saudi Arabia pushed Yemen’s elected president to step aside?

Ned Price: (38:22)
John, I don’t have a specific reaction to that report. But, as you know, the special envoy has recently been in the region. He spent three weeks in the region. Over the past year, he has pressed for transparence, inclusive Yemeni-led efforts to reform the government of Yemen, to ensure it meets the needs of all of its citizens, and to address their calls for justice, accountability, and redress for human rights violations and abuses.

Ned Price: (38:52)
On April 7th earlier this month, we welcomed Yemen’s establishment of a presidential leadership council. We urged that council to advance these goals in partnership with Yemeni civil society and members of …

Ned Price: (39:03)
Advance these goals in partnership with Yemeni Civil Society and members of marginalized communities. We also urge the leadership council to work closely with the Prime Minister to strengthen basic services and economic stability as soon as possible so that Yemenis across the country can receive tangible benefits from these recent reforms.

Speaker 11: (39:18)
Is representation important when it comes to leadership in Yemen?

Ned Price: (39:22)
Well, a representative government, a government that represents the people and serves it effectively, of course, is important, both in Yemen and around the world.

Speaker 12: (39:30)
Hello. John.

Ned Price: (39:31)

Speaker 12: (39:31)
Quick. One of the things the Journal also reported was that former President Hadi has had his communication shut off and he’s in a Riyadh hotel. Does indices have any information or, for that matter, concerns about how he’s being treated?

Ned Price: (39:42)
I don’t have anything to share on that, would refer you to the former president or to the Saudi government. Yes.

Speaker 1: (39:49)
I just wanted to follow up on something you mentioned at the top, the trip involving Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink to the Pacific. Is there anything more concrete that that delegation is going to be trying to get out of those visits? I don’t think the announcement mentioned China, which is obviously the backdrop to these visits, how much does this trip, this visit reflect a concern that China is growing and influence in that region?

Ned Price: (40:24)
Well, these are three important Pacific partners of the United States, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. It’s precisely why the Secretary met with the Pacific Island Forum earlier this year when we were in the region. And you’re right, the announcement doesn’t mention China because at the end of the day, our policy is not about China or any other country. It’s about the partnership that the United States can bring. And part of our engagement, including in this upcoming context, is to ensure that our partners in the Indo-Pacific and around the world understand what the United States brings to the table, understands what partnership can bring. And we’ll leave it to them to contrast what we offer from what other countries, including rather large countries in the region might offer. Yes.

Speaker 5: (41:16)
So both Russia and Ukraine have issued videos of prisoners apparently appealing for a prisoner swap. In Russia’s case, it’s two British nationals. In Ukraine’s case, it’s Viktor Medvedchuk. Is the US at all facilitating or engaged in conversations regarding a potential swap?

Ned Price: (41:32)
I’m not aware of any role there. Our Ukrainian partners have spoken to their level of engagement with Russia. You heard from Foreign Minister Kuleba yesterday that these engagements have been rather low level, they’ve been at the expert level. And we can all see very clearly that they have not demonstrated much promise just yet. That is not because both parties are not prioritizing diplomacy are not prioritizing dialogue. There is one party that has consistently gone to the table in good faith. One party that consistently has sought to bring an end to this conflict. And another that has engaged in those diplomatic endeavors as little more than a pretense. Another party, this being of course, Russia, that has continued to reign down missiles and bombs and artillery against civilian populations, even as representatives of that government has continued to sit down with their Ukrainian partners.

Ned Price: (42:34)
So this is a question that we will leave to our Ukrainian partners to discuss with their Russian counterparts. Our goal is to see to it that we are doing everything we potentially can to strengthen Ukraine’s hand at the negotiating table and we’re doing that in two principle ways. Number one, we’re continuing to provide massive amounts of security assistance, $3.2 billion over the course of this administration, more than $2.5 billion since Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine began. And at the same time to hold Russia to account with this set of economic sanctions, export controls, other measures that we’ve imposed with dozens of countries around the world to put Ukraine in a position to succeed and to induce Russia, to engage in a way they have not yet, at least and that is in good faith in an effort to bring an end to this conflict.

Speaker 5: (43:33)
One quick follow up. Is the US aware of any US citizens in Russian custody on Ukrainian soil currently?

Ned Price: (43:39)
I am not at the moments. Yes.

Speaker 13: (43:43)
[inaudible 00:43:43] diplomacy. President Zelenskyy said over the weekend that if the remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol are destroyed, as Russia has threatened to do, that it could put an end to all negotiations. You’ve obviously said that diplomacy is the only way ahead here. Would you support Ukraine if they withdrew from talks because of what the Russians do in Mariupol?

Ned Price: (44:02)
At the end of the day, this is about Ukraine’s independence. It’s about Ukraine’s sovereignty. It’s about Ukraine’s territorial integrity. There is no other country in the world, not Russia, not the United States, not any of our European allies or partners, who can make these decisions for Ukraine. This is a question for the people of Ukraine and their opinion will be expressed by the government of Ukraine.

Speaker 14: (44:27)
[inaudible 00:44:27].

Ned Price: (44:27)

Speaker 14: (44:28)
[inaudible 00:44:28] this question earlier about the state sponsored terrorism designation. You said the administration will look at all potential options available to us under the law. Do you consider this designation as available to you given the way that it’s written in statute, the requirements in it?

Ned Price: (44:43)
So I’m not in a position to offer an assessment of its applicability in this particular case, but there are certain authorities that are available to us under the law. We are going to evaluate the criteria that is defined by statute against the evidence and the facts. And if those evidence and the facts present an opportunity to use any particular authority and if that authority will prove effective, we won’t hesitate to do it. Yeah.

Speaker 13: (45:07)
Yeah. Just one more on TPS. There’s some reporting, senior Ukrainian officials saying that the date the TPS will be, I guess the cutoff point, is being moved to April from March 1st. Can you confirm whether or not that’s the case?

Ned Price: (45:22)
We don’t have any update. As you know, we recently did grant TPS to Ukrainians temporarily in the United States. That cutoff date was as of a particular date. If there is an extension, or if that date changes, we will let you know together with the DHS. Yes.

Speaker 15: (45:37)
It was resorted today that Ukraine’s most likely use cluster munitions. Is this something that the state department is looking at? Can confirm or deny? And what’s the level of concern there?

Ned Price: (45:45)
I’ve seen those reports. I’m not in a position to speak to them. I might refer you to the Department of Defense if they have any additional context to offer. And of course, our Ukrainian partners would be in the best position to speak to this.

Ned Price: (45:59)
What we can say is that Russia’s war against Ukraine has brought untold brutality, has brought untold despair to the people of Ukraine. Our Ukrainian partners, their service members have fought valiantly, have fought effectively. They have done so with grit and determination. And they’ve also done so with an amount of support from the United States and the international community that is nearly unprecedented. Not in a generation has so much security assistance flowed from the United States to any other country. And that is because our support to our Ukrainian partners is ironclad. It is unwavering. We’ll continue to provide them with what they need to effectively take on the challenge from Russia, Russia’s service members and Russia’s aggression, but I just don’t have anything for you on that particular report. Yes.

Speaker 6: (46:58)
On the Indo-Pacific trip of the US delegation, is the Solomon Islands intent to sign a security pact with China a concern? And is it going to be brought up on that trip? Is the US delegation going to possibly ask the Solomon Islands not to sign that pact like Australia?

Ned Price: (47:24)
Well, we understand that the Solomon Islands and the PRC are discussing a broad security related agreement building on recently signed police cooperation. Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC military forces to the Solomon Islands. We believe that signing such an agreement could increase destabilization within the Solomon Islands and will set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific Island region.

Ned Price: (47:52)
We note that Australia and New Zealand have had long standing law enforcement and security ties with the Solomon Islands at the request of Prime Minister Sogavare. An Australia led multinational peacekeeping force from Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea effectively restored calm to Honiara following the outbreak of violence and rioting in November of last year. This multinational group quickly aided Solomon Islands and effectively supported a rapid return to peace. We’ve communicated with our allies and partners in the region, including of course, with Australia and New Zealand, which have expressed concerns about how this agreement may threaten the current regional security paradigm. Part of the task of the upcoming visit will be to share perspectives, to share interest, to share concerns. And I do expect the full range of all of those will be on the docket. And as you know, earlier this year, we also did announce our intent to reestablish an embassy in Honiara on the Solomon Islands as part of that show of engagement, part of that show of US support for the Solomon Islands. And so I do expect when our delegation travels there, they will continue and bring that message with them. Okay. Final question. Yes.

Speaker 6: (49:09)
Yeah. On sanctions, EU is planning to issue its next package of sanctions this week. Should we expect the same from Washington this week as well? And also, is there an idea or is right now on the review, any unturned stone that we are considering right now to try and issue this week against Russia?

Ned Price: (49:29)
I think you can expect that we will continue to escalate our financial sanctions and other economic measures against the Russian Federation until and unless Moscow relents in its campaign against Ukraine. We have not yet seen that and will continue to raise the costs. Thank you. I’m sorry. I don’t have any timing to add. Thank you all very much.

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