State Department Press Briefing – June 14, 2022

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson, fielded a wide range of  questions at his media briefing on June 14 afternoon.

 Some Excerpts

QUESTION: I just want to ask very briefly if you’re aware of Brittney Griner’s detention being extended by the Russians.

MR PRICE: So I’ve seen those reports. I’ve seen the reports emanate from Russia that her detention has been extended. Our position for some time on this has been very clear: Brittney Griner should not be detained. She should not be detained for a single day longer. We have characterized her, we have characterized Paul Whelan, who has also spent far too long in Russian detention, as wrongful detainees. The team here, individuals around the world, are working around the clock to secure and to affect their safe and prompt release and also the safe and prompt release of wrongful American detainees around the world.

QUESTION: Yes, also on Russian detainees, do you have any comment on Navalny being transferred to a more strict colony and his lawyers saying they don’t know where exactly he is?

MR PRICE: Well, similarly, we’ve seen these reports that Aleksey Navalny has been transferred from the penal colony where he has been in prison and that his current whereabouts are unknown. We call on Russian authorities to allow Mr. Navalny access to his lawyers, to his legal representation, as well as to receive medical care. We have communicated to the Russian Government repeatedly that they are responsible for what happens to Mr. Navalny as he is in their custody. They will be held accountable by the international community were anything to befall Mr. Navalny while he is in their custody.

QUESTION: On U.S. detainees, how many are in pretrial detention right now in Russia?

MR PRICE: So, this is a figure, especially in a country as large as Russia, that is constantly changing. It doesn’t do us any good to release a particular figure on any given day. There are cases where Americans are detained and subsequently released in short order; there are cases where Americans are detained and are held for far too long, as is the case with Brittney Griner, as is the case with Paul Whelan, as was the case with Trevor Reed. So, we are working and making the point relentlessly to our Russian counterparts that, consistent with their obligations under the Vienna Convention, consistent with their obligations under our bilateral arrangements, we expect to have regular access to Americans who are held in pretrial detention.

QUESTION: The Iranian foreign minister has said that they put forward a new proposal to revive the JCPOA. Is that true, and if so, when did they make this proposal?

MR PRICE: As we and our European partners have made clear, we are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna, the deal that has been on the table for a number of months now for a mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA. But for that to happen, Tehran needs to decide to drop demands that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA, needs to decide to drop issues that are extraneous to the JCPOA.

We have made very clear where we are. We believe that if Iran makes this political decision, we’ll be in a position to conclude and to pursue a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA very swiftly. If Iran does not do that, it will further imperil the odds that we will ever be able to reach a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it something akin to the Iranians maybe demanding some sort of a guarantee that you will not have a new administration nullifying whatever deal you arrive at? Is that it?

MR PRICE: On that, Said – yeah, fancy, huh. On that, Said, we have made very clear to the Iranians – we did this in October of last year when the President met with our European – with his European counterparts in Rome on the sidelines of the G20. And if you take a close look at the readout that emanated from that meeting, we made very clear that our intention is and was – was and is – to affect a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and that we intend to remain there, in so long as Iran would live up to its end of the deal. It would serve us no purpose to achieve a mutual return to compliance only to scrap it down the line.

Now, beyond that, I’m not going to speak to proposals that have been sent back and forth, other than to say we are prepared to re-enter the JCPOA on a mutual basis. That is to say, if Iran decides that it is willing to reimpose the nuclear restrictions that the JCPOA calls for, we are willing to do what is necessary in terms of sanctions lifting on our end to once again be in compliance with the JCPOA. That choice is now Iran’s. It has been Iran’s for some time. There has been a deal that has been on the table in Vienna for a number of months now. It is a deal that is still in our national security interest, because it is a deal that conveys non-proliferation advantages that are – that go beyond what.  

QUESTION: Russian officials claim that Ukrainian forces struck within its borders, hitting near a military base. There seems to be some credible information backing up those claims. Is this something the department is looking into? And if it is confirmed, is there a concern for escalation?

MR PRICE: Well, as you know, we don’t typically comment on purported strikes or specific operations from here. I would leave it to others to update and to offer assessments on tactical developments on the battlefield. What we can say is that we are doing everything we can, and it is quite a lot, to provide our Ukrainian partners with what they need to defend themselves. Since the start of the invasion, since February 24th, we’ve provided some 4.6 billion in security assistance to our Ukrainian partners, $5.3 billion since the beginning of the administration. You see the delta between those two numbers – $600 million, indicating that – sorry, $700 million – I’m bad at math – indicating that we provided Ukraine with significant assistance well before Russia began its invasion on February 24th.

With the assistance of Congress, the passage of the emergency supplemental, we do have additional resources. We’ve had a first presidential drawdown the other week of nearly a billion dollars in additional security assistance to our Ukrainian partners. We will continue to provide our Ukrainian partners with the security assistance and with the forms of security assistance that they need contoured to the battle that they’re facing, and the battle that they’re facing right now principally in the Donbas, where Russia is continuing to inflict violence and to cause widespread death and destruction.

QUESTION: Ned, any update about reopening the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem? Should we expect any announcement during President Biden’s trip to the West Bank?

MR PRICE: I don’t have any update for you beyond what we’ve said previously, and namely that we are committed to reopening the consulate in Jerusalem. In the meantime, we have a team on the ground that manages our relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Just to follow-up on this —

MR PRICE: Said, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today there was a meeting between Barbara Leaf with the Palestinian prime minister, and he in fact demanded that the consulate be open. So, is there a timeframe? I know I asked you this question, and forgive me because I asked it so many times. But are we likely – are we getting closer to sort of a timeframe for reopening the consulate?

MR PRICE: There’s not a timeframe I can provide you other than to reiterate what I just said, that we remain committed to reopening the consulate in Jerusalem. It is part and parcel of our effort to re-engage with the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people. You have to remember that when we took office in January of last year, there had been almost a complete rupture, a complete severance between the United States Government and the Palestinian Authority, and in some ways the Palestinian people.

So, over the past 15 months, we have invested in recreating, re-establishing that relationship – that relationship between the U.S. Government and the PA. But importantly, that relationship between the U.S. Government and the Palestinian people, a relationship that has allowed us to provide significant funds of humanitarian assistance directly to the Palestinian people in a way that will tangibly improve their lives.

QUESTION: In this call that was done last night by a White House official, it talked about this meeting between India, Israel, the U.S. and —

MR PRICE: The I2-U2.

QUESTION: But what is the intent? What’s the reason behind this?

MR PRICE: Yeah. So, part of our approach is – from the start, not only to revitalize and to re-energize our system of alliances and partnerships around the world – and I think we’ve done that to a good degree – but also to stitch together partnerships and alliances that didn’t exist previously or that previously weren’t utilized to their full extent. The Quad is a good example of an alliance that previously may not have lived up to its full potential, and of course, we’ve invested heavily in the Quad with virtual meetings at the leader level, in-person meetings at the leader level, and with Secretary Blinken convening his Quad ministerial counterparts on a number of occasions as well.

AUKUS, another good example, taking a key ally in the Indo-Pacific —taking a key ally in Europe, stitching those together in a way that will work to our benefit but will also help our allies help each other in a number of realms, not only in the —

QUESTION: Yeah, but what – specifically what does India bring to the table in this group? What do the Emirates bring to the table in this group? What does Israel, other than being the host of this —

MR PRICE: Well, on their own, each of these countries bring to the table a number of interests — I’ll make a couple points. Each of these countries are technological hubs. Biotechnology, of course, is prominent in each of these countries as well. Deepening trade and economic ties between these countries is in our interest when it comes to the relationship between Israel and the UAE. That’s something we have sought to deepen. These two countries have, of course, deepened their relationship in recent years, including in the economic realm.

India, of course, is a massive market. It is a massive consumer market. It’s a massive producer of high-tech and highly sought-after goods as well. So, there are a number of areas where these countries can work together, whether it’s technology, whether it’s trade, whether it is climate, whether it’s COVID, and potentially even security as well, so —

QUESTION: Okay. I should just note that the second U could have been Uruguay too, so I don’t want to leave anyone out.

MR PRICE: Well, don’t want to rule out any potential future groupings. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:11 p.m.)