Jul 6, 2022

State Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing on 7/05/22 Transcript

State Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing on 7/05/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsNed PriceState Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing on 7/05/22 Transcript

State Department spokesperson Ned Price holds news briefing on 7/05/22. Read the transcript here.

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Ned Price: (00:01)
– no, and I wish there were a more interesting explanation for it, but the technology just decided to fail us, but that is neither here nor there.

Ned Price: (00:11)
We’ll start with this. Today, the Secretary announced Richard Nephew is our Coordinator on Global Anti-corruption. This position announced last International Anti-corruption Day will integrate and elevate the fight against corruption across all aspects of US diplomacy and foreign assistance, working closely with inter-agency and international partners.

Ned Price: (00:29)
This position demonstrates the importance the United States places on anti-corruption as a core national security interest and reiterates the central role global partnerships play in this space. So with that, happy to take your questions.

Matt: (00:48)
That’s it?

Ned Price: (00:48)
That’s it.

Matt: (00:48)
We’re like a week away or 10 days away.

Ned Price: (00:48)
That is it.

Matt: (00:48)
The road and then the holiday. All right.

Ned Price: (00:49)

Matt: (00:50)
So let me start in the Middle East, there’s an old expression in our profession here that, if you produce something that pisses both sides off, you’re probably doing the right thing. That’s a good job. You guys seem to have taken this.

Ned Price: (01:10)
[inaudible 00:01:10].

Matt: (01:10)
Yeah. You guys seem to have taken this to a new level in statement yesterday about the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. No one is happy with this. The Palestinians are upset. Her family is upset because you didn’t take a conclusive stand and the Israelis are upset because you kind of blame them, but you don’t have any conclusive evidence to assign that blame. So this seems to be another case of the administration trying to please everybody and then pleasing no one. Can you explain what it is that makes you think that the preponderance of evidence that you’ve seen shows that the shot that killed her was fired by an Israeli? And then after that, can you also explain why it is that if you believe that, why are you not assigning that?

Ned Price: (02:11)
Sure. So first Matt, to one of your points, our goal in this was not to please everyone. Our goal in this was not to please anyone. Our goal in this was to put forward what the U.S. Security Coordinator had found in his summary of the investigations to date. And just to take a step back, there were two elements in the statement that we put out yesterday. The first dealt with the forensic analysis of the bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh. And as you saw from the statement, the bullet was damaged to the extent that the independent third party examiners weren’t able to come to a conclusive judgment regarding the origin of the bullet.

Ned Price: (03:05)
Now, the second element of that statement deals with the summary of the investigations. That is to say the summary of the Israeli, the IDF, and the Palestinian Authority, the PA investigations that have been undertaken to date that the U.S. Security Coordinator put together in Israel. The Security Coordinator over the course of several weeks had been granted access to both of those investigations. And in summarizing it, the Security Coordinator concluded that gunfire from an IDF position was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The Security Coordinator also found no reason to believe that it was an intentional killing, but rather the result of tragic circumstances during the course of an IDF lead raid in Jinen against factions of Palestinians [inaudible 00:04:09] Jihad on May 11th, that had followed a series of attacks in recent weeks.

Ned Price: (04:15)
So in terms of how the USCC, the U.S. Security Coordinator came to that conclusion, as I said before, the Security Coordinator was granted access to the investigations of the two parties. The Security Coordinator also visited the sites of Miss Abu Akleh’s death in order to garner additional information. So putting all of these pieces together, it led to the determination that gunfire from an IDF position likely resulted in her death. It also, in the course of the investigation, given the totality of circumstances, given the totality of facts that became available, and that were made available to the U.S. Security Coordinator and his team, they found no reason to believe that it was an intentional killing, but rather the result of tragic circumstances in the course of a raid.

Matt: (05:08)
Okay, one, who was the independent third party examiner that examined the bullet?

Ned Price: (05:15)
These were members of the USSC team. Together they have 42 years of combined forensic experience. As we said, the bullet was damaged to such an extent that it precluded a conclusive determination as to the type of gun from which the bullet was fired. But these are some of the most experienced ballistic experts in the business.

Matt: (05:42)
Okay, they are American.

Ned Price: (05:45)
No, the USSC it’s a multinational organization.

Matt: (05:48)
OK. So can you be a little bit more specific?

Ned Price: (05:50)
Well, I don’t want to bring in specific countries, but the USSC, it’s a multinational organization. It includes several of our close NATO allies. And so we brought in, as part of that team, two officials from that multinational team with extensive, as I said before, 42 years of combined forensic experience.

Matt: (06:17)
And how did they come to the determination that they could not conclude that there was intent or a lack of intent? And how did they come to a conclusion that it was… I mean, they basically didn’t come to any conclusion.

Ned Price: (06:25)
What they did-

Matt: (06:27)
Right. And so, can you explain how it is that you’re able to say that there’s no evidence of intent no matter who did this?

Ned Price: (06:35)
Right. Well, that’s exactly what they found or precisely what they didn’t find.

Matt: (06:43)
[inaudible 00:06:43] nothing.

Ned Price: (06:43)
Well, they found no reason to believe this was intentional, but again-

Matt: (06:48)
They didn’t find any reason that it wasn’t intentional, right?

Ned Price: (06:51)
Again, the totality-

Matt: (06:54)
So why-

Ned Price: (06:54)
The totality of the circumstances, based on the two investigations to which they were granted access, based on the site visit to the site of Miss Abu Akleh’s death, led them to the conclusion that this was the result of tragic circumstances during this IDF led operation.

Sayed: (07:14)
How do you determine what was intentional and not intentional in this case?

Ned Price: (07:15)

Sayed: (07:19)
Did you talk to the person that fired the gun? You’re saying likely from a IDF source. I don’t know what that is. To me [inaudible 00:07:27]

Ned Price: (07:27)
It’s important to know this is a judgment.

Sayed: (07:32)
When you say likely. It either happened, or it did not happen. What is likely? I mean it did not come from outer space, it came from a particular direction. So I want you to respond to the question how do you determine intent?

Ned Price: (07:47)
Sayed, this was a judgment based upon all of the information to which the USSC was granted access. And you said before the USSC, over the course of several weeks was granted access to the IDF led investigation, to the PA lead investigation. They visited the site as well. So I am not standing here, nor would the USSC be able to stand anywhere and to say conclusively with 100% certain exactly what happened. But the conclusion that the USSC came to over the course of that several week summation of the various investigations and the site visit as well, was that the bullet likely, as you said, emanated from an IDF position. Similarly, the USSC, based on those same inputs found no reason to believe that this was intentional and concluded it was likely the result of the tragic circumstances surrounding a counter-terrorism raid.

Sayed: (08:48)
Are there any conversation with the likely shooter, is there any conversation with any soldier, because we know how the Israeli operates. We know that they keep everything on record. They keep every fire that gets shot. It’s recorded. Everything that is done by Israeli soldiers on a raid is completely recorded, completely registered and so on. So why can’t you talk to Israelis in this case?

Ned Price: (09:18)
There was extensive-

Sayed: (09:19)
And talk to the soldiers-

Ned Price: (09:19)
There was extensive information and consultation with our Israeli partners on this.

Sayed: (09:23)
Who was actually there. You say likely, somebody was there, they know who exactly they are, so why can’t they talk to this group of soldiers?

Ned Price: (09:30)
Sayed, there was extensive consultation and dialogue with our Israeli partners, just as there was this extensive consultation and dialogue with the PA, as well. As I said before, the USSC was granted access to the IDF investigation just as the team was granted access to the PA investigation. So this summary of the investigations that led to this analytic conclusion, not scientific, but analytic led the USSC team to this finding that the bullet likely emanated from an IDF position and that the killing, the tragic killing of Shireen Abu Akleh was not in fact intentional.

Sayed: (10:17)
Are you committed to holding, whoever committed this accountable [inaudible 00:10:22] ?

Ned Price: (10:22)
What we said in the statement yesterday, the USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional, but rather the result of tragic circumstances.

Sayed: (10:31)
So this ends right here? It’s over. That means this is over.

Ned Price: (10:33)
Well, you heard from [inaudible 00:10:36] in the statement yesterday that we will remain engaged with Israel and the TA on next steps and to urge accountability. We do want to see accountability. We would expect accountability in any case involving a wrongful death. And this clearly was the case of a wrongful death. Our goal, and what we believe is the collective goal of the parties, is to see to it that something akin to this, the killing of a journalist in a conflict zone can’t happen again, must not happen again.

Sayed: (11:18)
It happened again in Hebron. It happened again only two weeks after.

Ned Price: (11:20)
And Sayed, the IDF as a professional military outfit currently in the midst of its own investigation is in a position or soon will be in a position to consider steps to further safeguard non-combatants. That is something we have consistently encouraged, not only to the IDF, but in conflict zones around the world. And as part of accountability, the IDF will be in a position to consider additional steps that would safeguard civilians and non-combatants in the case of a conflict zone.

Rosalind: (12:00)
How long was the USSC involved in this process?

Ned Price: (12:01)
The USSC was granted access to these investigation over the course of several weeks.

Rosalind: (12:05)
Several weeks. Are there any lawyers, any criminal lawyers, any people with experience in investigating murders or homicides on that team?

Ned Price: (12:17)
I can’t speak to whether there are lawyers with that background, but again there are forensics experts on the team. There are security experts on the team. After all, this is the team that coordinates security assistance with the PA that works closely with Israeli authorities as well. But this was not a law enforcement investigation. This was a summation of investigations.

Rosalind: (12:44)
So the reason I ask is because the U.S. Government is arguing that it is not able to assess intent. And yes, people with experience and forensics can take a look at physical evidence. But determining intent is usually the role of someone with legal experience. Usually someone who has to either argue the case or defend the accusation in a court of law. And so it raises questions about how this conclusion has been raised if people who can only deal with fragments and shrapnel and physical tissue are able to determine intent, especially if they have not actually interviewed the people who were involved, the people who fired the weapons, the people who were eye witnesses to the weapons.

Rosalind: (13:31)
This isn’t the way that a criminal investigation here in the U.S. would be carried out. And so it’s reasonable to ask how can you come to that sort of conclusion? It seems as if it’s a rush to judgment, when actually we know that the FBI has not been involved in this. And then my follow on question is, and it’s really a sidebar question, is this the work of the USSC? Have they been involved in other investigations where the Palestinians and the Israelis have had massive disputes about what happened on the ground?

Ned Price: (14:05)
So a couple points on this Rosalind, your questions. Number one, as I said before, I believe to Sayed, this was not a criminal investigation. This was an effort on the part of the USSC to summarize the findings that the PA has devised and the findings that the IDF has come to in their own perspective investigations. Yes, there was a site visit to the site of Miss Abu Akleh’s killing, but this was primarily a summation of the investigation on the part of the two parties. I didn’t intend to suggest that the entirety of the USSC team is comprised of forensic experts. The forensics experts, with the 42 years of experience, those were the individuals that conducted the testing of the bullet in question. The USSC team of course is much broader. It has a much more expansive set of backgrounds and expertise.

Ned Price: (15:09)
This is a team that is fully capable of working with both the PA and the IDF, as they routinely do in the course of their business, to take a look at their investigations, to take a very close and careful look with an exacting eye at the conclusions that both parties have arrived at to date. To supplement that with a visit to the site where Miss Abu Akleh was so tragically killed and then to form conclusions based on that. Now these are analytic conclusions. Again, that is why we have caveats in there. Likely fired from an IDF position, no evidence to suggest this was intentional. So we need to be clear about what this was and what this wasn’t, but the USSC is confident in its findings. And we have confidence in turn in the USSC.

Rosalind: (16:05)
The family though is very displeased with what the State Department is saying about the killing of their loved one. How does this government respond to the family of a U.S. citizen, that they don’t have all the answers, that they believe that there’s much more to be known about how she was killed and that they are asking for justice for her killing?

Ned Price: (16:34)
Well, we continue to urge both the Israeli investigators and the Palestinian investigators to bridge their investigations. You may recall, prior to this past weekend, we had been calling publicly for the IDF and the PA to bridge their respective investigations, because it was our belief that by doing so would provide both sides with the-

Ned Price: (17:02)
… both sides, with the clearest indication and the clearest route to accountability. We will continue to work both with Israeli investigators, with the PA as well, to continue to encourage them to bridge this investigation, because yes, as we said in our statement, we do want to see accountability. We would want to see accountability in any case of a wrongful death. That would especially, and is especially the case in the wrongful death of an American citizen, as was Shireen Abu Akleh. So we will continue working with the two parties to see to it that they continue to the best of their willingness and ability to bridge their investigative efforts, and in the aftermath of that, to consider steps that would render a degree of accountability. And we believe it is in the interest of all of the parties, Israelis as well as Palestinians, to put in place steps that further safeguard civilian and noncombatant life.

Rosalind: (18:07)
One more from me. Have US officials in Israel been in touch with her family? It seems as if they were blindsided by this announcement yesterday.

Ned Price: (18:19)
Senior American officials have been in close touch with the Abu Akleh family.

Shaun: (18:25)
Since these conditions were reached?

Ned Price: (18:27)
We have been in close touch, including in very recent days.

Shaun: (18:30)
Could I ask one more about the bullet? The [inaudible 00:18:34] that they handed it over to the U.S. with the understanding that it wouldn’t be given to the Israelis. The IDF says that they actually did forensic research on the bullet that was in an Israeli laboratory. Do you think this is consistent? Does the United States believe that the deal was treated untoward in terms of the United States handling this and not the Israelis?

Ned Price: (18:58)
We believe both parties operated in good faith. And just to be clear about this, the examination was conducted by two members of the USSC. These were the two forensics experts with a combined 42 years of experience. Local experts, whether they were Israeli or Palestinian, did not conduct USSC’s examination of the bullet. The USSC had full custody of the bullet, from the moment it was provided by the PA to the USSC until the moment it was returned by the USSC to the PA.

Shaun: (19:38)
[inaudible 00:19:38] doing research simultaneous to what the USSC was doing?

Ned Price: (19:41)
I couldn’t speak to what they intended to say, but I can tell you that no other party had possession of this bullet during the examination.

Shaun: (19:51)
And it was returned to the PA.

Ned Price: (19:55)
And it was returned to the PA.

Sayed: (19:56)
[inaudible 00:19:56]. Very quickly on the E1. We understand that the Israelis put it off till September. Have you pressured the Israelis to put off the expansion of the E1 settlement?

Ned Price: (19:59)
We have consistently spoken to both sides to encourage them not to take steps that would exacerbate tensions in the case of something like this would put a two state solution further out of reach. That’s been a consistent message since the start of this administration.

Sayed: (20:20)
And my last one, because I promised the family. Two years ago, 22nd of June, a young cousin of mine was killed by the Israelis. They still hold his body. I don’t want to go into who was at fault and so on and all this. Why in God’s name would they continue to hold corpses and not allow for a decent burial? Do you believe that the Israelis ought to free those corpses and give them to the families, there are many of them, so they can have a decent burial?

Ned Price: (20:53)
Sayed, it’s very difficult for me, and I’m aware of this case.

Sayed: (20:57)
[inaudible 00:20:57]-

Ned Price: (20:57)
I’m aware of the case. I know you’ve raised it before. It is difficult for me to speak to specific cases, but you have also heard from us, including in the context of Shireen Abu Akleh, that we believe that families of the deceased should be in a position to mourn in peace and in dignity, and to do so in a way that respects the tragic ordeal that they have endured.

Sayed: (21:26)
[inaudible 00:21:26].

Ned Price: (21:26)

Speaker 1: (21:26)
When you mentioned accountability, saying that [inaudible 00:21:31] there should be accountability, do you think the Israelis should have a criminal prosecution to this, that the Israelis that they are investigating should be criminally prosecuted?

Ned Price: (21:37)
We are not going to be proscriptive about this. Again, it was the considered judgment of the USSC that this was not intentional, and nothing to suggest that this was anything more than the tragic result of a counter-terrorism operation in which a noncombatant, in this case an American Palestinian journalist, was killed. At the same time, we do want to see accountability. The IDF is in the midst of its own investigation. As a professional military force, the IDF will be in a position, or is in a position, to consider steps to see to it that something like this can’t happen again, to consider steps that would safeguard civilian and noncombatant life.

Speaker 1: (22:22)
[inaudible 00:22:22] to say we can’t figure out anything more, that’s the end of it, that’s…

Ned Price: (22:27)
We are always going to encourage steps to safeguard civilians and noncombatants in a combat zone. This is a message we have discussed with our Israeli partners prior to this, and we believe that based on the findings of the SSC, that there does need to be accountability. We’ve consistently called for accountability. In the case of Ms. Abu Akleh’s killing, again, we’re not going to be proscriptive in terms of what that looks like. We’ve said what this appears to be and what it appears not to be. But regardless, we believe there needs to be accountability to see to it that something like this does not happen again.

Speaker 2: (23:11)
[inaudible 00:23:11] Griner.

Ned Price: (23:11)

Speaker 2: (23:12)
She sent a letter to President Biden pleading with him to stand up for her. Can you give an update on what the administration is doing to secure her release, and has Blinken had any more contact with her wife?

Ned Price: (23:25)
On the second part, the Secretary has had a couple of opportunities in recent days and recent weeks to speak to Cherelle Griner. He has had opportunities in recent days and recent weeks to speak to the families of other Americans who are wrongfully detained or held hostage around the world. I can tell you that he has no higher priority than seeing the release of these Americans, Americans who are either unjustly detained, or Americans who are held hostage. This is something on which he’s personally engaged on a daily basis, whether it is a discussion with the family, as he did the other week, a discussion with the families of Americans who are held hostage, who are wrongfully detained, or whether he is in close contact with our embassy in Moscow, for example, with our representatives around the world, as he has given his team a charge to do all that we can to see to it that these Americans are released as soon as possible.

Ned Price: (24:37)
At the same time, we also are engaged in work with our allies and partners around the world to create and to reinforce a norm that would relegate this horrific practice to where it belongs, and that’s of course the dustbin of history. We want to see Americans released. We want to see this practice banished, whether it is in the case of Russia or any other country that engages in the practice of wrongfully, unjustly detaining Americans or third country nationals for political benefit.

Speaker 2: (25:18)
Has Blinken spoken to Cherelle Griner since June 22nd?

Ned Price: (25:24)
They spoke. They had an opportunity to speak last month, and we acknowledged that at the time. The secretary will remain in close contact, not only with Brittney Griner’s family and loved ones, but also here at the State Department, we remain in close contact, I would say almost daily contact, with her broader network. That includes her legal representation. That includes others who are working diligently day and night to see her release.

Speaker 3: (25:53)
[inaudible 00:25:53].

Ned Price: (25:53)

Speaker 3: (25:55)
We’ve yet to get a reaction to that letter that Brittney Griner sent, from the administration. Can you offer just any reaction, any visceral sense that you got from reading the letter, reading any of the excerpts? And secondly, Brittney Griner’s wife, she says she’s no longer going to stay quiet. She said that silence is getting her nowhere. We do know that traditionally families of hostages have been advised, or the wrongfully detained have been advised to stay quiet, to avoid compromising any negotiations. Is this still the advice that you’re giving to Americans who are detained abroad and their families?

Ned Price: (26:25)
So first, on the letter, on the case more broadly, as you know, our chargé d’affaires had an opportunity to see Brittney Griner on the first day of her trial last week. She was able to speak to Brittney Griner. Brittney Griner asked her to convey the message that she is keeping the faith, and I think you see that to a remarkable degree in that remarkable handwritten letter that Brittney Griner sent to the administration. Brittney Griner, Paul Wheelman, Americans around the world who are held hostage or unjustly detained, they are always on our thoughts. They are always weighing on everything it is that we do. We regularly engage with families. We regularly engage with the representation of those who are wrongfully detained or held hostage. But I think all of you can understand at the same time that while we update families and certainly in broad strokes on our efforts, it’s not something that we are in a position to speak to publicly in any detail.

Ned Price: (27:41)
And I point to the case of Trevor Reed. I was often asked from this podium about updates for Trevor Reed’s case, and I have said things very similar to what I just said about Brittney Griner and to Paul Whelan. Of course, we were able to find a way to secure Trevor Reed’s release and we were able to do so, I would say, in large part because we were discrete about what we were doing at the time. We do not want to do anything, we do not want to say anything that would potentially jeopardize the chances of seeing an American release or that would delay by a single day, a single hour, or a single minute, the safe return of an American to her or his family and loved ones back here in the United States.

Speaker 3: (28:36)
[inaudible 00:28:36] the secretary and the president, neither of them have had a conversation with Cherelle Griner since this letter was received by the administration. Is that right?

Ned Price: (28:42)
I believe the letter was just received yesterday or overnight.

Speaker 4: (28:46)
Yeah, yeah. I’m just making sure. Understood. Okay.

Ned Price: (28:46)
And I can’t speak for the White House, but of course, when it comes to the State Department, we do engage regularly, if not daily, with Brittney Griner, her loved ones and her networks as well.

Speaker 4: (28:58)
And just one more question. The coach of the Phoenix Mercury, who’s… that’s the team that Brittney was playing on here… made a comment just yesterday saying if it was LeBron, he’d be home. It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those. We know it, and that’s what hurts a little more. What is your response to that? Just the fact that the administration, the State Department handles so many cases abroad. Do you think that this situation is unique because of who Brittney Griner is?

Ned Price: (29:39)
Well, as you said, and as the coach said, the hurt here is immense. The hurt here is profound. And I say that as someone who can’t even begin to imagine what Cherelle Griner is going through, what Brittney Griner’s coached, what her teammates are going through, all of those who love her, not only in this country, but around the world, are going through. The same could be said for the family and the loved ones of Paul Wheelman. The same could be said for the family, the loved ones of Americans who are wrongfully detained around the world.

Ned Price: (30:18)
Now, of course, Brittney Griner was perhaps a household name before she was unjustly taken into detention and held unjustly, wrongfully, by the Russian Federation. So there certainly is a spotlight on this case, owing to who she is, owing to what she has accomplished over the course of her professional career. But I can tell you that our commitment to seeing every single American who is held hostage, wrongfully detained, unjustly detained, that commitment is the same.

Ned Price: (30:59)
When it comes to our engagement with the families, we regularly engage with them. We do pass on advice. We pass on suggestions. We don’t pass on directives. It is our goal to work with the family, to see to it that we are doing everything we can to place their loved one in the most advantageous position to be released. We ourselves don’t want to do anything, don’t want to say anything that could jeopardize that. We have had conversations with families about how they too could avoid doing anything that would further complicate the release of their loved ones.

Ned Price: (31:40)
Certainly understand the inclination on the part of families to bring as much publicity as they can to their cases. I think all of us, if we were in the position that Cherelle Griner is in, if we were in the position that Whelans are in, if we were in a position that many other Americans who are held hostage or wrongly detained, we would want to do the same thing. We have collaborative, good, working relationships between our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, his office, and the families, and that contact is regular, that dialogue is iterative. And together, we seek to pass on guidance. We seek to provide them with what they need to know and to provide them with suggestions on how to go about handling the publicity that they might receive.

Speaker 4: (32:38)
[inaudible 00:32:38] a while ago that this letter was passed to the chargé in the courtroom and then sent back?

Ned Price: (32:44)
No, that’s not my understanding, and I can’t speak to the modalities of transmission for any specific correspondence.

Speaker 4: (32:53)
[inaudible 00:32:53].

Ned Price: (32:53)
Well, what I can say is that of course we do have contact with Americans held in detention, be it pre-trial detention or detention during their trial. We seek to ensure, to see to it that contact is regular, is consistent, consistent with Vienna Convention, but I will also say-

Speaker 4: (33:16)
I’m not trying to make light of this, but it’s like, if you’re in a Russian prison and you write a letter to the president and put it in the mail with a Lenin stamp on it or something like that and address it to the White House, it ain’t going to get there, but if it does get there, it’s certainly not going to get to the president. So it had to have come [inaudible 00:33:37]-

Ned Price: (33:37)
The State Department is not necessarily the only channel. And again, I’m not speaking to the modalities for any specific piece of correspondence, but many detainees, including those held in pre-trial detention, in detention during their trials, do have access to their legal teams as well.

Speaker 4: (33:49)

Ned Price: (33:51)

Speaker 5: (33:56)
[inaudible 00:33:56] to ratify a treaty [inaudible 00:33:59] a slap between… with Iran. The fear now is that-

Speaker 5: (34:03)
[inaudible 00:34:00] with Iran. If the fear now is that a convicted terrorist can be released from Belgium and sent back to Iran, this can get broader. More European countries can join, and who knows what is going to happen there? My question is how do you assess Europe’s handling of [inaudible 00:34:25] Republic of Iran’s hostage policy and does this mean that Europe is separating its way from US when it comes to hostages, and they don’t want a collaboration with the US?

Ned Price: (34:42)
This goes back to what I was saying before. We have a near term goal when it comes to Americans who are held hostage or wrongfully detained around the world, and we also have a longer term goal. Our near term goal is to see to it that those who are at the present moment held unjustly, wrongfully against their will, or held hostage, to see to it that they’re released.

Ned Price: (35:03)
We also have a longer term goal. That is something that Secretary Blinken has made a priority working with a number of our partners around the world including our Canadian allies, including many of our partners and allies in Europe as well. That is to create and to reinforce a norm against this horrific practice, to see to it that the international community speaks with one voice and acts together to see to it that those countries are held accountable for what it is that they’re doing.

Ned Price: (35:36)
Now, the reason I say to create and to reinforce is because, of course, we want to see this norm strengthened. We want to see this norm put in practice by countries around the world. We want to see our Americans released and countries around the world want to see their citizens who are held hostage or wrongfully detained released. Over the longer term, we want to see to it that countries feel a tremendous pressure not to engage in this sort of practice.

Ned Price: (36:10)
We continue to monitor several egregious cases of European and dual citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran, including Swedish Iranian doctor Ahmadreza Djalali and we echo concerns from UN experts that the situation that this individual faces is truly horrific. We join the Swedish government, as one example, in calling for his release. We know that, when it comes to Iran, this is one of those countries that does have a long history of unjust imprisonment of foreign nationals, seeking to use them as political leverage, and all the while Iran continues to engage in egregious human rights abuses as well, which include for its own citizens in many cases. Large scale, arbitrary, and unlawful detentions of individuals, many of whom have faced torture and execution after being denied due process.

Ned Price: (37:12)
These practices are outrageous. We too are working with our allies and partners around the world to condemn that and to do what we can to counteract them. We are also aware of reports that the Belgian government is considering a prisoner swap, but we’re not going to comment on bills or treaties pending in Belgian’s legislature.

Speaker 5: (37:34)
Okay, and is there any negotiations at the moment going on about Iranian Americans being hostages in Iran like [inaudible 00:37:43]?

Ned Price: (37:46)
This is a dialogue. This is a priority for us that is always ongoing and we have consistently made the case that we treat the case of Americans who are unjustly, wrongfully detained in Iran on a separate track as the nuclear negotiations with Iran for a very simple reason. Even when we started down the path in Vienna early last year, in the spring of last year, we said that a mutual return to compliance, a potential mutual return to compliance to the JCPOA with Iran was not a certain proposition. Of course, we did not want to tie the fates and we do not want to tie the fates of Americans who are unjustly and wrongfully detained to something that remains far more uncertain than it was when we first embarked down this path, but we have consistently been engaged in this. Even when we have not had discussions in Vienna, even when we have not had nuclear discussions for other channels, including most recently in Doha, we have been working assiduously on this. We have no higher priority than seeing the safe return of these Americans, of these dual nationals as soon as we can manage it.

Speaker 5: (39:16)
Also, I’m sorry about Doha. You mentioned NPR published an interview with special envoy Bob Malley today, in which he said that Iran introduced a set of new extraneous demands. Also, he said, “Now it’s Iran’s turn to give an answer.” My question is that, what are those new demands? Did we know about this before? What are they exactly, and what is this answer that America is waiting for? Is it related to NPT concerns? Is it related to Iran’s regional activities? Is it related to ballistic missile program. In what field? What are you looking for?

Ned Price: (40:03)
The answer that not only the United States is waiting for, but also that our European allies are waiting for is a decision on the part of the Iranian government to fully return to compliance with the JCPOA. It is not clear to us based on what we have heard from the Iranians indirectly from our European allies, that they have made that political commitment. There has been a deal on the table that has been more or less finalized for several months now. This is a deal that was worked out in large part due to the concerted efforts of our European allies who have played the role of middleman first in Vienna, most recently in Doha. But in recent weeks and recent months, rather than make that commitment, that political commitment to return to compliance with the JCPOA, Iran has consistently introduced extraneous demands, demands or issues that go beyond the four walls of the JCPOA.

Ned Price: (41:12)
The JCPOA is about one thing. It’s about one thing only, and that’s Iran’s nuclear program. To introduce anything that goes beyond the narrow confines of the JCPOA suggests a lack of seriousness, suggests a lack of commitment, and that unfortunately is what the team saw once again in Doha. We were disappointed that Iran, yet again, failed to respond positively to the EU initiative and no progress was made.

Ned Price: (41:49)
As you’ve heard, we are at a point where the lack of forward momentum, the lack of progress is tantamount to backtracking. Time is of the essence. We have said that because this is not a deal that will be on the table indefinitely. It is a deal that will be on the table only as long as it is in our national security interest. The fact is that, since Iran distanced itself from the commitments it made with the JCPOA that was implemented in January 2016, Iran’s program has galloped forward in ways that are wholly concerning to us. There is a deal on the table that would mitigate many of those concerns and that most importantly would once again verifiably and permanently see to it that Iran is prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That is our goal. It is our goal because President Biden has made a commitment that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear a weapon.

Matt: (43:02)
[inaudible 00:43:02].

Speaker 5: (43:12)
Malley approved that today.

Matt: (43:13)
[inaudible 00:43:13] January.

Speaker 5: (43:16)
[inaudible 00:43:16].

Matt: (43:16)
When you first started to say [inaudible 00:43:16]. The window was closing, the runway was shortening. It’s not July.

Ned Price: (43:16)
This will be a deal that we will pursue as long as it is in our national security interest. This is an assessment.

Matt: (43:23)
But this I hear, that it’s not indefinite, is belied by the fact that you keep putting off a decision. What do the Iranians actually have to do for you to say, “That’s it. We’re done”? What do they have to do? Nothing?

Ned Price: (43:34)
Matt, the fact is that, if they continue down the path they are on, we-

Matt: (43:43)
But they’ve been continuing down this path for the last seven months.

Ned Price: (43:43)
We will reach a point where the non-proliferation benefits that the JCPOA affords are obviated by the advances that Iran’s nuclear program has made.

Matt: (43:52)
Okay, I’m not [inaudible 00:43:52] you to say exactly when that point is going to be, but can’t you just look at this objectively from the position of where we’re sitting at? You have been saying the same thing for the last seven months, that the time is running out. This deal is not going to be on the table indefinitely, and yet you keep stringing it out. Every single time you go back, like in Doha, it results in nothing and you say you’re disappointed. You say the Iranians are raising extraneous things, and they’re moving the goalpost, and you’re not. Well, there has to come a point if you’re going to be taken seriously by them or anyone else where you say enough is enough. You do realize that, right?

Ned Price: (44:36)
Matt, what I can tell you is the reason it is difficult, the reason it is impossible for us to put a timeframe on it is because this is not based on a political decision. It is not based on a temporal decision. It is based on a technical assessment, a technical assessment of the state of Iran’s nuclear program versus the non proliferation benefits that the JCPOA, at least the deal that’s been on the table for several months now, would convey to us, would convey to our allies and partners. This building, our intelligence community, the US government, international weapons inspectors continue to be of the assessment, right now have an assessment that the deal that is on the table is far preferable to where we are now.

Matt: (45:26)
It just seems like we’re getting to the point of [inaudible 00:45:26] days are numbered.

Speaker 5: (45:27)
[inaudible 00:45:27] because [inaudible 00:45:33] reported that EU is actually trying to do something after Biden’s trip to the region, so probably we’re going to have another round of talks in Doha. Is that true?

Ned Price: (45:45)
We are grateful for the EU, for its efforts. There is not another round of talks currently on the books. We remain committed to exploring a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA. We are committed to returning to compliance with the JCPOA if Iran makes that same commitment. Unfortunately, Iran, as I said before, continues to raise issues that are extraneous, continues to demonstrate that it has not yet made that political commitment.

Speaker 5: (46:20)
[inaudible 00:46:20].

Speaker 4: (46:21)
[inaudible 00:46:21] G20.

Ned Price: (46:23)
Okay, G20, and then we’ll …

Speaker 4: (46:27)
What can you tell us about the US supporting or not supporting the G20, inviting Lavrov to the foreign ministers meeting in Bali this week?

Ned Price: (46:37)
We are committed to two propositions. The first, we are committed to the success of the G20. We are committed to the success of Indonesia as the hosts of the G20, but we are equally committed to the proposition that it cannot be business as usual with Russia. We have heard the international community speak out against Russia’s brutal, unprovoked war against Ukraine. I suspect you will hear members of the G20 do that from Bali in the coming days, but we believe we can fulfill those twin imperatives, seam the success of this G20 summit without offering any semblances of business as usual with Russia.

Speaker 4: (47:22)
Can you just be a little more explicit about the Secretary’s plans when it comes to seeing the foreign minister at the G20? Will he attend all of the meetings that Lavrov is in? Will he leave the meetings when Lavrov makes remarks? What are your plans?

Ned Price: (47:36)
The Secretary intends to engage fully in the G20. I’m not going speak to any plans in the part of foreign minister Lavrov or any other ministerial level participant, but I can tell you the Secretary will be a full and active participants in the G20, which we see as a valuable forum. Again, we are committed to the success of this G20 and the success of Indonesia’s stewardship of it.

Speaker 4: (48:03)
Just one last question. What does it say about the global community right now that Lavrov has even invited to attend this?

Ned Price: (48:15)
Look, I’m not going to speak to the decision making process and the part of the G20 organizers, but Russia is, of course, a member of the G20. The upcoming G20 will be an opportunity for us, for the international community to discuss what Russia and its invasion of Ukraine has wrought. What it has wrought in terms of rising energy commodity crisis, what it has wrought in terms of food insecurity as well. I suspect, again, over the course of a couple days in Bali, that you will hear a number of the G20 members express no shortage of condemnation for the actions on the part of the Russian Federation. I suspect you will hear the United States speak clearly with our allies and partners against what Russia is doing in terms of its invasion of Ukraine and the disastrous implications it is having for countries around the world in terms of rising food.

Speaker 6: (49:29)
[inaudible 00:49:29].

Ned Price: (49:30)
Let me move around. I know we’re-

Speaker 6: (49:33)
[inaudible 00:49:33] same topic.

Ned Price: (49:34)
Okay, same topic.

Speaker 6: (49:37)
[inaudible 00:49:37] it’s really hard to comprehend that the top diplomats or world leaders will allow themselves to be the same where [inaudible 00:49:43] war criminal is lecturing them about how to conduct war crimes and get away with it.

Ned Price: (49:51)
Look, I think you will hear members of the G20 speak very clearly. They will speak out against what we have seen from Russia. At the same time, the G20 is an important forum to discuss many of the issues that are at the forefront today. Many of the issues that are at the forefront precisely because of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. We believe that we need to continue to engage our allies and partners. There’s one indispensable ingredient when it comes to the show of unity that the international community has mustered against Russia, and that is our engagement with partners and allies. That is that very strong international consensus that has emerged to condemn the actions of the Russian Federation and to stand with our partner Ukraine.

Speaker 6: (50:51)
Can you assure us that there will be no handshake, photo op, or any meeting with the Secretary?

Ned Price: (50:54)
I’m not in a position to walk through the choreography, but I would certainly not expect any meeting between Secretary Blinken and foreign minister Lavrov.

Matt: (51:02)
[inaudible 00:51:02].

Ned Price: (51:02)
… Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Speaker 7: (51:02)
Choreography? That means… Are you expecting kabuki theater?

Ned Price: (51:02)

Speaker 7: (51:02)
On Russia, just very quickly, did you guys make any comment on the recent Russian advances in the Donbas region?

Ned Price: (51:19)
We’ve said consistently that this would-

Speaker 7: (51:20)
How do you read it?

Ned Price: (51:20)
We’ve said consistently that this would be a conflict that would not be linear in terms of how it would play out. Right now, you are seeing Ukrainian and Russian forces trade territory in the Donbas. We have seen Russia make some incremental advances, but they have done so at a heavy cost, a heavy cost in terms of personnel, a heavy cost in terms of their supplies as well. But what we do know is that this has already been a strategic failure for Russia. When this started on February 24th, Vladimir Putin went into Ukraine, we think, with every intention of being the de facto leader of Ukraine within a matter of days, if not a matter of hours. You have seen those objectives thwarted. You have seen Ukraine, Ukrainians stand up to defend their country, to defend their freedom, to defend their democracy. You’ve seen them do that with a massive amount of security assistance from the United States, nearly $7 billion from the US alone since February 24th and-

Speaker 7: (52:42)
How much?

Ned Price: (52:42)
Nearly $7 billion since the start of the conflict on February 24th, with dozens of allies and partners standing up and providing sums for security assistance and providing supplies as well. Even as this grinding battle goes on in the Donbas, what is already clear is that this has been and this will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin given its going-in position. Nazira.

Nazira: (53:11)
Thank you. Two question, one question about the loya jirga or the religious leaders council meeting that Taliban prepared last week for three days. No women, Taliban not allow women to participate on that loya jirga leader event or meeting or conference. The second question is Balkhab, Northern Afghanistan war between Mehdi, one of the former member of Taliban, with the Taliban. So many people displaced from their places. The question is, no emergency assistant. As a lot of people killed and they’re displaced from their house, they want United States and international community send them emergency assistant. Do you have any comment and any opinion?

Ned Price: (54:09)
On your first question, the Taliban have made a commitment to the international community, but more importantly, to the Afghan people to be representative of the Afghan people, to fulfill the wishes and the aspirations of the people they purport to govern. At every step, we have seen the Taliban fail to make good on those public and private commitments when it comes to securing the hard-won gains of the Afghan people over the course of the past two-plus decades. The United States, working with our allies and partners, we have consistently made clear that we want to see the rights of Afghanistan’s women, its girls, its minorities, including its religious minorities, protected.

Ned Price: (55:14)
Of course, we have seen very little from the Taliban to indicate that they are prepared to make good to that public commitment, to make good to what they have conveyed in private as well. All the while, we are going to continue to lead the world in providing humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan, including for Afghanistan’s minorities, including as we continue to place pressure on the Taliban, working with our allies and partners to do so. Shaun.

Shaun: (55:55)
Could I follow up on the talks in Doha last week with Tom West?

Ned Price: (55:59)

Shaun: (56:02)
Yeah, I saw that you put out a statement on Friday, I believe it was. It implied that there was no progress on the central bank reserves issue. Is that still something in progress, the idea of [inaudible 00:56:08] in central bank reserves?

Ned Price: (56:11)
That’s something that we are still working on. We are urgently working to address… You’re talking about the $3.5 billion?

Shaun: (56:22)

Ned Price: (56:22)
We are urgently working to address concerns about the use of the licensed $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves to ensure that they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban. We are working with Afghans and local partners at the technical level to address underlying macroeconomic issues, which will provide necessary stability for the current humanitarian response to be more effective, and it will help alleviate many of the issues that fueled humanitarian crisis that we see today. We’re also working to help find an appropriate mechanism that can serve as a steward of that funding, the $3.5 billion that President Biden has set aside for the benefit of the Afghan people.

Shaun: (57:12)
Could I ask you, if you don’t mind, two separate things on Africa? There’s a special part of the binder for that continent. Sudan, General Burhan said yesterday that he is, in his words, handing over to democratic rule, taking the military out. There’s a lot of skepticism and cynicism about that. What’s the US’ take? Do you see this as a step forward in any way or are you suspicious of the motives behind this?

Ned Price: (57:32)
I think it’s too early to tell, but you have consistently heard us voice our support for the Sudanese people’s desire to advance their country’s democratic transition under full civilian leadership. When it comes to what we’ve heard over the past couple days, we took note of General Burhan’s address to the country and his commitment to dissolve the Sovereign Council once a civilian government has formed. We encourage all sides to reengage, to find a solution that will keep Sudan moving towards a civilian-led government, democracy, and free and fair elections. We also urge that violence against protesters be investigated and that the perpetrators be held accountable.

Shaun: (58:13)
Then separately in Mali, ECOWAS has agreed to lift the sanctions on the junta in return for a pledge on elections. Does the United States think this was warranted at this point? Would you rather wait and see about the elections upcoming?

Ned Price: (58:31)
There’s been no change in our position. We continue to encourage a return to democracy in Mali, and I’ll leave it to ECOWAS to speak to their posture.

Shaun: (58:38)
Could I just introduce a new topic?

Ned Price: (58:38)

Shaun: (58:43)
Has nothing to do with Mali or Sudan. Abortion. I believe this is the first briefing we’ve since Roe v. Wade was overturned. I know the Secretary had a statement on that, but just to ask a bit more about what, if anything, that’ll change at the State Department, both in terms of how employees are treated but also in the Mexico City Policy and other reproductive health policies and so on.

Ned Price: (59:05)
Let me just say something broadly about this and then I’ll come to your question. Look, I won’t try to elide the fact that America is the world’s most important piece, in many ways, of unfinished business. You’ve heard us say this before, but our charge from literally our earliest days was to form a more perfect union. By definition, we are not perfect, never will be, but we don’t try to hide that either. We understand and appreciate that domestic developments here at home will have implications for us around the world. Of course, I won’t get into questions of domestic politics, but we’ve heard questions, many of them understandable, and the Secretary alluded to this in his statement last week as well, from our close partners and allies in recent days. They’ve posed them in good faith. They’ve posed them out of genuine curiosity.

Ned Price: (01:00:14)
At the same time, we’ve also heard from some of our competitors, some of our adversaries. We’ve seen their efforts to seek to stoke questions, of course, not doing so in good faith, and it’s important to differentiate the two. The way we look at this is that, in the face of these good-faith questions, it’s incumbent upon us to provide answers and to do so in ways that are unmistakable to people around the world, including the many millions of people around the world who have come to see and still do see the United States as the last, best hope, as the beacon on the hill.

Ned Price: (01:01:04)
What does that answer look like? It is still the case that no country does more to support human rights and freedom around the world than the United States. It’s still the case that no country does more to support the humanitarian needs of people around the world than the United States. It’s still the case that no country does more to advance public health and stand up for sexual and reproductive health around the world than the United States. No country does more to stand up for repression and illiberalism around the world than the United States. These are traditions that have transcended administrations because it’s not about politics. It’s very much written into our DNA as a country.

Ned Price: (01:01:49)
When it comes to implications from the Supreme Court decision last week, it does not change the commitment on the part of this administration to advance and to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad. We remain fully committed to the longstanding US goals of advancing global health and gender equity and equality, and this decision in no way changes our current programming overseas. We’ll continue to provide assistance for global health, for gender equity and equality, and women’s and girls’ empowerment. We’ll also continue to support evidence-based policies and programs that advance public health, respect and promote human rights, and put gender equity and equality at the forefront of our foreign policy and engagements.

Ned Price: (01:02:41)
Now, of course, statutory restrictions related to abortion have been in place for many years on our foreign assistance around the world and our appropriated funds for the department and for USAID. We’ll continue to comply with these restrictions, as you might expect. As Secretary Blinken has said, this department will do everything possible to ensure that our employees have access to reproductive health services wherever it is they live. Final question? Yes.

Speaker 8: (01:03:11)
Thank you. Can you please expand a little bit on Richard Nephew’s appointment? Will he have similar status as the Secretary’s special representative? Will he be able to come up with sanctions list against corrupt foreign officials or who have anti-, let’s say, corruption index list? This is my way of asking, will he have enough tools in his toolkit to actually move the needle when it comes to global corruption issues?

Ned Price: (01:03:38)
Richard Nephew, as you know, was announced today as the coordinator on global anti-corruption. What that means is that he and his team will be charged with strengthening US Government alignment on our anti-corruption work and to work closely with international partners as well to advance our collective goals in the realm of anti-corruption. Part of this includes leading the Department of State’s implementation of, you may recall, the first ever US Strategy on Countering Corruption, advancing our efforts through the Summit for Democracy, we’re in the midst of the Year of Action right now, there are many strands of work that continue from the Summit for Democracy, as we bring together all of those resources, some of which are at the State Department but other tools, as you alluded to, through other parts of the Executive Branch, to advance the administration’s anti-corruption in our broader democratic renewal agenda.

Speaker 8: (01:04:32)
My last question, if you don’t mind. State Department sent out a diplomatic note on July 1st to the embassies, foreign embassies, asking them to refrain from, let’s say, transnational repression cases. I can come up with so many cases, but my colleagues asked about Iran earlier, Azerbaijan, and others have been involved into this. Did you have any particular case in your mind in terms of timing? Why now? This has been an ongoing issue. Is there any response you have received? Thank you.

Ned Price: (01:05:08)
This is a message that we have consistently conveyed in capitals around the world but also to embassies here in Washington, transnational repression, extraterritorial repression, including the repression of dissidents in a place like the United States. We’ve highlighted some of those cases, or I should say the Department of Justice has highlighted some of those cases. It’s something about which we are profoundly concerned. It is a message that we considered was appropriate to reiterate, and we will continue to do so given the priority we attach to this issue. Thank you all very much.

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