US State Dept Presser

State Dept Press Briefing – July 25, 2023

21 Min
State Dept Press Briefing – July 25, 2023

The US State Department held a press briefing on July 25, 2023 with Vedant Patel, Principal Dy Spokesperson holding the forte.   The Q-As on India and Af-Pak region have been tweaked to appear upfront. 

Some excerpts

MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one very brief thing, and then happy to dive right into your questions.

Last Friday, President Biden released the first-ever voluntary commitments on artificial intelligence, which were agreed to by several leading companies, including Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI.

These commitments are focused on safety, security, and trust and represent an important step forward to ensure that powerful AI foundational – “foundation models” maximize the benefits for all people in line with our democratic values.

As home to leading AI companies in the world, the U.S. is uniquely positioned to lead the way in creating an AI future that we all can benefit from.

The voluntary commitments serve as an important first step and contribution to the international AI conversation around safety, security, and risk.

As Secretary Blinken and Secretary Raimondo wrote in yesterday’s Financial Times, to shape the future of AI, we must act quickly and collectively.

No country or company can shape the future of AI alone. The U.S. has taken an important step, but only with the combined focus, ingenuity, and cooperation of the international community will we be able to fully and safely harness the potential of AI.

MR PATEL: That’s it. The floor is yours.

QUESTION: Thank you. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV, Pakistan. Just wanted to ask a couple of questions on the ongoing violence in Manipur, India.


QUESTION: We have seen some horrific videos. Clashes are still going on, and actually it was all started when Prime Minister Modi was here. So any concerns, any comments?

MR PATEL: So we were shocked and horrified by the video of this extreme attack on two women in Manipur. We convey our profound sympathies to the survivors of this act of gender-based violence and support the Indian Government’s efforts to seek justice for them. Prime Minister Modi himself noted such violence against women is shameful in any civilized society. And as we have previously stated, we encourage a peaceful and inclusive resolution to the violence in Manipur and encourage authorities to respond to the humanitarian needs and protect the lives and property of all groups.

QUESTION: The Pakistani Electronic Media Authority has came up with a new bill, and the journalists’ organizations – even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan – have expressed concern on this bill, saying the definition of disinformation under it strays into censorship territory. You always speak about press freedom in Pakistan, all over the world. Your thoughts?

MR PATEL: So that is true. We routinely raise our concerns about press freedom to all stakeholders around the world, including officials in Pakistan. A free press and informed citizenry are key for any nation and its democratic future. We’ve been very clear about that.

QUESTION: So my last question.


QUESTION: U.S. CENTCOM chief, General Michael, met with Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Munir, and just curious – I mean, what kind of – especially anything to share with us or —

MR PATEL: I think Matt addressed this yesterday, and I would just refer you to our colleagues at CENTCOM and the Department of Defense to speak to that.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: What’s the Department of State reaction to Michael McCaul’s recent letter regarding U.S. official trip to Afghanistan? Is there any trip planned?

And my second question: What was discussed in Secretary Blinken’s telephone call with Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, specifically about Afghanistan?

And the last question: As we approach the second anniversary of the Taliban’s return in power, how do you define U.S.-Taliban relation? Is this good, bad, or something else? Can you follow up?

MR PATEL: So let me say a couple of things there. First, there are no department officials who have any plans to travel to Afghanistan.

Secondly, the Secretary spoke by phone with his counterpart in Pakistan yesterday to continue to reaffirm a productive U.S.-Pakistan partnership. They spoke about a number of issues, including that the United States will continue to engage with Pakistan through technical and development initiatives, through our very robust trade and investment ties. The Secretary also welcomed the IMF’s approval of a program to support Pakistan and encouraged continued reforms to promote economic recovery and prosperity in the country as well.

QUESTION: And the Afghanistan topic?

MR PATEL: And your – what was your last question?

QUESTION: Last question, about the Taliban’s and U.S. relation – how do you define their relation now?

MR PATEL: So on the foreign minister’s call, yes, the Secretary and the foreign minister also discussed the destabilizing efforts of Russia’s war against Ukraine, as well as the joint interest of the United States and Pakistan on a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

As it relates to the United States and the Taliban, we have been incredibly clear, quite regularly condemning the clear backsliding that we’re seeing in Afghanistan, the egregious human rights abuses, the marginalization of women and girls, and it continues to be our viewpoint – two things: one, if the Taliban intends to seek international recognition, they need to start directly with the actions and the policies they choose to undertake in Afghanistan, and number two, the U.S. is going to be watching very closely and will continue to take appropriate action as needed.

QUESTION: On Pakistan?

MR PATEL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Iram Abbasi from Voice of America.

MR PATEL: Great.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about the ongoing violence against one of the minority groups in Pakistan and their community. There was this incident yesterday as well, where Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, the religious group, vandalized one of their worship places, and this is not an isolated incident. There have been at least 11 cases where they vandalized their worship places. Do you condemn those attacks, and do you think Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan is a threat to minorities in Pakistan?

MR PATEL: So what I will just say is violence against any group we certainly would condemn and take issue with, and we continue to raise directly with countries around the world for the need to respect basic human rights of all groups.

QUESTION: Just one more question.


QUESTION: Did the Secretary Blinken talk about it to the FM, the foreign minister?

MR PATEL: What I will just say is that we raise human rights issues and human rights concerns with officials from countries around the world. And as the Secretary has previously said and been very clear about is that, when it comes to the United States, human rights and advocating for them are always on the table.

QUESTION: With Dubai especially becoming more of a tourist destination, what does the State Department say about Americans traveling there given the cultural differences?

MR PATEL: Well, the State Department – I’m going to answer this question broadly – it’s a great plug for our travel advisories, which came up in another question earlier today. Any country on the world, we have on very clear assessments and parameters of what this department’s official viewpoint is for the safety of traveling in that country, contact information for appropriate embassies and consulates, as well as information about other challenges or situations that American citizens may find themselves in in a particular country. So again, to any American citizen seeking to travel anywhere, especially as we enter the busy summer period, would encourage you especially if you are traveling abroad to take a minute and visit, check what the State Department’s guidance is for your destination, make sure you have your appropriate contact information for your relevant embassies and consulates.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure that it’s still correct that you have not heard anything back from the North Koreans about Private King.

MR PATEL: That is correct. As Matt indicated yesterday, getting an assertation of his well?being continues to be a high priority, and we continue to be in close coordination with the White House and the Department of Defense and throughout the interagency, but I don’t have any new updates beyond what Matt shared yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. And just to make sure that everyone understands, that means you don’t know if he’s in custody, you don’t know if he’s alive, you don’t know what – and if he is alive, if he’s – what his condition is?

MR PATEL: That is correct. Those are among the litany of things that we do not know.

QUESTION: Okay. I guess I won’t ask what else you don’t know because that could be anything. All right, I’ll let it go at that. I’m sure you’ll be asked about Qin Gang and say the same thing, that you don’t know anything, so I’ll let others – I’ll let others do that asking.

QUESTION: Just to stay on North Korea.


QUESTION: The Russian defense minister is planning to visit. I think some Chinese will go to mark Victory Day. Do you have any, like, specific – any concerns about those countries at a time like this kind of showing some support for Pyongyang?

MR PATEL: Well, this – it goes back to an issue that we have raised a number of times before. Both Russia and the PRC have a potential role they can play, including through the auspices of the UN Security Council, in which they can use their influence over the DPRK to encourage them to refrain from threatening, unlawful behavior, behavior that will not just incite tensions in the immediate region but also the region broadly. And they also have a potential role to play in encouraging the DPRK to return to the negotiating table. The United States’ point of view on this has been quite consistent, which is that we are open to meeting with Pyongyang without preconditions, and we continue to have a commitment for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: And now could – if we can move on to Qin Gang if – and this – and maybe we can come back to North Korea? But just on —


QUESTION: — the Chinese foreign minister, they’ve announced that he’s been replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi. There was supposed to be a visit of Qin Gang to Washington that was in the works. Could you tell us about those discussions? Did they get anywhere? And I guess to put a final point on it, does the U.S. consider that the visit that was being discussed is a visit of the Chinese foreign minister no matter who that is?

MR PATEL: So, Simon, let me say a couple things. First, it is up to China to decide who their foreign minister is. As you know, Secretary Blinken has met with Wang Yi on multiple occasions, including on his most recent trip to Jakarta as well as while he visited Beijing prior to that. We will continue to engage with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other Chinese officials, and we continue to believe that keeping lines of communications are incredibly important. And it’s an important avenue to manage this relationship responsibly, which is something that the international community expects of us.

As it relates to any potential travel, Simon, I am not going to get specific – get into specifics. What I will just reiterate is that at the conclusion of almost every U.S. official’s visit to the PRC, they have reiterated that there is an expectation that we will continue to see high-level engagement with travel from both sides of the Pacific, and we continue to expect that to be the case. I don’t have any finite travel to announce, and it would – ultimately would be for the PRC to announce any travel to the United States. But I just – I’m not going to get ahead of the process on who it might be and what their title or titles may not be.

QUESTION: And just finally, sorry.


QUESTION: Have there been any specific communications, say, for the Chinese informing you of this change? And where did that – what level did that happen at?

MR PATEL: I don’t have any other further information on this beyond what – what’s been publicly reported.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that.


QUESTION: What is your take of the events in China and why he’s been incommunicado for so many weeks and months? And you asked about – Simon asked about communications, but has the Secretary been in contact? Before we knew that he was being removed, has he been in contact with his counterpart in the recent weeks, Vedant?

MR PATEL: I have no calls on behalf of the Secretary to read out. As you know, Leon, he had the opportunity to have a bilateral engagement with Wang Yi on the margins of ASEAN in Jakarta. I have no other engagements to read out. Obviously, we continue to think it’s incredibly important that we maintain open lines of communications with the PRC.

As it relates to our personal take, again, it is up to the PRC to determine who their foreign minister is, and I will just leave it at that.

Anything else on the PRC before we move away?

Jenny, go ahead.

QUESTION: Switching topics. Trevor Reed was reportedly injured in Ukraine fighting there. Do you have any comment on this? Was the State Department aware that he had gone to fight there? Are you concerned this will have negative implications on ongoing discussions to free the American detainees who are still in Russia, Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich?

MR PATEL: I will say a couple of things, Jenny. We are aware that Trevor Reed was injured while participating in fighting in Ukraine. Since the beginning of this war, we have warned that U.S. citizens who travel to Ukraine, especially with the purpose of participating in fighting there, that they face significant risks, including the risk of capture or death or physical harm as well.

And so I want to be explicitly clear about something. Mr. Reed was not engaged in any activities on behalf of the U.S. Government. And as I indicated, we have been incredibly clear warning American citizens, American nationals, not to travel to Ukraine, let alone participate in fighting there. And as you know, Jenny, we are not in a place to provide assistance to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in that ongoing war.

Now, we are aware that through the support of an NGO, Mr. Reed has been transported to Germany and he is receiving medical care. Beyond that, I would just reiterate again to anyone listening to this briefing and the entirety of this room that Ukraine continues to be categorized as a Level 4 country per the State Department’s Travel Advisory warnings, which indicates Do Not Travel. And that continues to be our posture.

As it relates to the other American citizens who continue to be wrongfully detained in Russia, as I, as the Secretary, as Matt, as Ambassador Carstens and others have said, we will continue to engage directly with the Russian Federation calling for their release. You’ve seen us do so in the case of Paul Whelan, Evan Gershkovich, and we’ll continue to remain deeply engaged on those issues.

QUESTION: But are you concerned the Russians will weaponize this as a way to say (inaudible) —

MR PATEL: I’m just not gonna speculate on something like that.

Anything else on this?

QUESTION: On Ukraine?

MR PATEL: Go ahead, Alex.

QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. The report from DIA officials that Russia is building a drone manufacturing facility with Iran’s help that will have significant impacts on the war once it is completed, is this something new to you? And if it isn’t, a new reaction to that?

MR PATEL: Alex, I don’t have anything on this specific report, but what I will say is something you’ve heard us speak quite clearly about before, which is that Iran remains Russia’s top military backer, and we can say that – you heard us speak about this earlier this year – that Russia received hundreds of one-way attack UAVs as well as UAV production-related equipment from Iran. Russia has been using Iranian UAVs to strike Kyiv, to terrorize Ukrainian populations, and this partnership, this military partnership between Russia and Iran, continues to be deepening.

QUESTION: Thank you. And separately, is the U.S. aware of the U.S. intel over Russia laying additional Black Sea mines that then may attack civilian shipping – a strategy Ukrainians understood (inaudible)?

MR PATEL: I certainly wouldn’t get into any – any intelligence assessments from up here, and I also don’t want to get ahead of things. But Alex, the important thing to remember is that there are flagged ships that operate in the Black Sea that have participated in the Black Sea Grain Initiative when it was in place from every corner of the world. And I certainly don’t think that these respective countries would take kindly to Russia attacking their flagged ships, especially because they were there participating in the Black Sea Grain Initiative for the very reason of ensuring that Ukrainian grain and food products are able to be transported to other parts of the world, to parts of the world that need it.

QUESTION: And final on this line, if I may, IAEA today has confirmed the presence of anti-person mines at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. May I have your reaction, please, to this?

MR PATEL: Alex, you’ve heard me say this probably seven different ways over the past many, many months, but we have been very clear that such violent and volatile type of activity under – near, in such close proximity to a nuclear power plant – in this case, ZNPP – is incredibly unsafe. It puts the immediate region in harm’s way. And so we continue to call on such activity so close to ZNPP to stop.


QUESTION: Yeah, I have a couple of questions, Vedant.


QUESTION: First, on Russia and Syria, how do you view the encounters between Russia fighter jets and U.S. drones operating over Syria, and how will the U.S. react on that?

MR PATEL: So the U.S. and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS continue to work with our local partners in Syria to maintain constant pressure on ISIS remnants and ensure ISIS’s lasting defeat. I would reiterate what comments were made by our colleagues at the Department of Defense, that we strongly urge Russian forces in Syria to immediately stop reckless and threatening behavior that could result in the loss of life and adhere to standards of behavior expected of a professional force.

For any specifics on this particular incident, though, Michel, I would refer you to our colleagues at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: But you made the – made the same request in the past, and Russia didn’t stop doing what it has done, lately, especially on Sunday. Will there be any consequences?

MR PATEL: I certainly am not going to preview any actions or consequences from here. What I will just reiterate, though, Michel, is that we’ve been clear that Russia needs to stop these reckless and threatening types of behavior that could result in the loss of life and put people in harm’s way.

QUESTION: And on Syria, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Representative Joe Wilson sent a letter to President Biden opposing potential extension of Syria sanctions exemption. Are you planning to extend the exemption?

MR PATEL: Well, Michel, firstly I’m not going to preview any sanctions or any sanctions-related actions that we might take. I certainly don’t have anything to announce from here at this moment. We are aware of that letter and continue to be in close coordination with our colleagues across the interagency as well as the Department of Treasury, who of course can speak more to questions regarding GL 23.

But let me just say that we have been clear and have been clear about this numerous times, that we strongly support humanitarian access to all Syrians in need through all appropriate modalities. There obviously has been immense benefit of the provision of aid for this earthquake. Michel, I think you were on that trip with the Secretary where we saw some of these aid efforts, at least from the Turkish side, and we had the opportunity to observe them. And our viewpoint continues to be that we support these endeavors.

QUESTION: ….United States is in Syria to defeat ISIS, correct? I mean, that is an enterprise that has been largely accomplished. So how long will the United States stay in Syria, controlling, like, one third of the country, disallowing the country access to its own oil? So, could this go on forever? Because ISIS, as much as an organization, it is also an ideology. I mean, this thing could be there forever and ever, right?

MR PATEL: Said, let me say a couple things. It is not just about a pinpoint moment in time and effort – what it is about are our continued efforts to maintain the degraded position of ISIS in the region. And that continues to be a priority. And as I said, we continue to operate in efforts to maintain constant pressure on ISIS remnants and to ensure ISIS’s lasting defeat. Obviously, our colleagues at the Pentagon and the global coalition can speak further about any specific parameters, but this has been a key priority for this administration and this department for some time.

QUESTION: May I switch topics to the Palestinian issue?


QUESTION: Very quickly, on the visa waiver, there’s still a great deal of confusion, because people tried to cross the Erez Crossing and they were turned back. So we know that the statutory requirement on reciprocity says all Americans should be treated equally and so on. But in this case – and I heard what Matt said yesterday in his response to a question that was raised —


QUESTION: — that you understand or you see that Israel has certain concerns, security concerns with Gaza. So – and this, if you factor this in, then reciprocity is not a full thing extended to all Americans, is it?

MR PATEL: So Said, again, what I – what I’ll reiterate is that this – that is 100 percent our expectation. You’ve heard me and Matt be very clear about this, is that our expectation is that any American citizen is treated equally in any attempts to transit to and through the region. I will note, though, Said, to your question, that we continue and we will analyze data that Israel has committed to provide. And I’ll also note that the embassy has established a portal, accessible via U.S. Embassy Israel’s website, where U.S. citizens may report any travel difficulties. And it is important for us to receive that feedback, to collect that data, and to analyze it so that, come the deadline, the Secretary and this department can make the most appropriate recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: So this is still an ongoing process, Said. And we’ll continue to assess and work directly with the Israeli Government towards fulfilling our very clear requirements for entry into the Visa Waiver Program.

QUESTION: Okay. So if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that you will have some sort of a yardstick by which to measure when and where Israel has real legitimate security concern or where it may be abusing that, whatever margin —

MR PATEL: Said, those yardsticks exist. There are very clear —

QUESTION: All right.

MR PATEL: — requirements and prerequisites as it relates to the Visa Waiver Program for any country that is intending to be part of that program.

QUESTION: Let me ask you on the judicial reforms, if I may. Now, the President said yesterday that – or the White House said that they were disappointed or they regret the passage of the reforms. But now that this – the ship has sailed. So what’s next? What will the United States do, and can we – do we – can we expect sort of any hiccups in the special relationship with Israel? Does that in any way impact the thinking or the stuff that is ongoing? There’s been calls, for instance, by former ambassadors to basically cut off military aid to Israel and so on. So what is your response to all these things?

MR PATEL: Well, what I will say on that is that is not going to happen. But what I can say is that our decades —

QUESTION: What’s not going to happen?

MR PATEL: There’s not going to be any cut or stoppage —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: — of military aid, and that is because our commitment to Israel and our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. Our decades-long partnership with Israel is ironclad. And the President – and you saw the White House be very clear about this over the past couple of days – has expressed his views in this scenario, that major changes in a democracy need to be enduring, they need to have as broad consensus as possible. We also understand that talks are ongoing and likely to continue over the coming weeks and months to forge a broader compromise.

And we will continue to support efforts of Israeli leaders as they continue to work to seek a broader consensus and create a consensus through political dialogue. We also will continue to engage with our Israeli counterparts and Israeli officials to strengthen the bond between the United States and Israel and to advance our shared democratic values, cooperating on a full range of issues while working through our differences and concerns, like our – most relationships where we have bilateral relations with a country, Said.

QUESTION: So you expect these negotiations in the coming weeks to yield any sort of pullback by the government and saying, we were wrong, let’s not – let’s not implement these judicial reforms, et cetera?

MR PATEL: Said, it’s not for me to preview or hypothesize or speculate from up here. What I’m simply saying is a matter of fact, which is that we understand that talks continue to be ongoing, likely over the coming weeks and months, as internally within Israel this process moves forward to continue to a broader – a compromise.

QUESTION: Okay. But I’ll tell you what, because – I’m sorry, I just want to talk about this issue for a bit further. Because these judicial reforms, they impact lives on a daily basis. People that go in and then the ministry of defense decides that this person —

MR PATEL: We agree with you, Said.

QUESTION: — cannot enter and so on. Then the supreme court says no, this is —


QUESTION: That’s a first. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: — if you’ll allow me – because that’s what they mean by the unreasonableness. This is unreasonable, and they have done that.

MR PATEL: No one is disputing that —

QUESTION: And they’ve done it again. Now we can see probably now a multitude of —

MR PATEL: Said, no one is disputing that.

QUESTION: — (inaudible) persons held by the Israeli Government in the occupied territories on Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and so on. I mean, this is really a very critical issue.

MR PATEL: Said, to your point that this is – affects everyday people, no, we agree with that point. That is exactly why this is something that the Secretary, the President, and others have been deeply engaged on and incredibly clear that it’s our viewpoint that such changes in democracy, where the expectation is that they are going to be enduring, must have as broad of a consensus as possible.

Okay. Diyar, go ahead. You had your hand up.

QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. The Iraqi Government has reintroduced two draft bills to the parliament, which, if passed, would severely curtail the freedom of expression and also of peaceful assembly of the Iraqi people. This has made a lot of reaction inside and outside of Iraq, including international bodies. What’s your reaction to this, and the freedom of expression in both Iraq and Kurdistan region of Iraq?

MR PATEL: So in countries around the world, we support efforts to defend the freedom of expression, the freedom of press and association, and peaceful assembly, and adherence to the rule of law. All citizens, including peaceful protestors, civil activists, deserve protection and equal treatment under the law. For democracy to succeed, government must safeguard constitutionally protected and internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, and this includes protecting exercises of free speech, such as peaceful protests.

QUESTION: Do you have any concern about freedom of expression in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan?

MR PATEL: I don’t have any assessment to offer on these two pieces of legislation, Diyar. What I will just say is that, again, that it is our point of view and our – and we can support these kinds of efforts to defend freedom of expression in countries around the world.

QUESTION: And one last question —


QUESTION: — about the dispute between Iraq and Kurdistan region of Iraq. They have a dispute for a long time, especially about the budget issue and also oil revenue sharing, that the KRG has faced a big challenge to paying the salary for their public servants. Do you have any engagement, and what’s your view on this issue between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan?

MR PATEL: So during the February U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee in Washington, U.S. officials continued to urge the Government of Iraq and the KRG to resolve their budget and hydrocarbon disputes in a manner that benefits Iraqi citizens and is consistent with Iraqis’ constitution requirements.

 Go ahead

QUESTION: Yeah, on Israel —


QUESTION: — and the unrest that’s been enveloping the nation. I wanted to see if you have any comments on the car ramming attack that took place last night that injured, I believe, three pro-democracy, anti-reform protesters?

MR PATEL: Sorry. I – you – I couldn’t hear the first part of your question.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the car ramming attack?

MR PATEL: So I’m not aware of the specific report of this attack, but what I will just say broadly is that people making their voices heard as it relates to democratic issues like this, judicial reform in this case, it’s our view that individuals should be able to express themselves safely, should be able to protest safely, and make their voices heard safely as long as they are also being safe and not inciting harm as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on the —


QUESTION: — Tierra Allen case, because apparently there are no charges except her screaming in public. I mean, that’s a long time to be held for screaming in public. What are the charges?

MR PATEL: Said, I’m just not going to speak to the specifics of a case from up here. What I will just reiterate is that we are offering all appropriate consular services and continue to remain in close touch with her and her family.

Simon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to come back to Israel —the ambassador – Ambassador Nides, has he left Jerusalem now?

MR PATEL: Yes. So his last day was last week.

QUESTION: Right. So who is running the embassy at the moment?

MR PATEL: So the CDA is Stephanie Hallett, and she continues to be in charge in this period.

QUESTION: And are you concerned at all that not having an ambassador in place during a pretty significant period in Israel and in U.S.-Israel relations is going to sort of hamper your ability to communicate with the Israelis?

MR PATEL: Well, first I have no doubt that the administration is working to nominate someone, and we will make that public as soon as is appropriate. Obviously, though, the entire team at our embassy there, including our CDA, are incredibly experienced and incredibly well-versed in engaging with their Israeli counterparts. This is also a collective effort, one that many individuals here across this department continue to be deeply engaged on. Of course, broadly, we want ambassadors confirmed as – in as many places as possible, as the Secretary made clear when he visited the briefing room last week. But in this circumstance, we continue to feel confident in the many channels that we continue to have to engage with Israeli officials through this period.

QUESTION: And Ambassador Nides’ last day was last week?

MR PATEL: Correct.

QUESTION: When did he leave Jerusalem? Because I think he was here during the Herzog visit.

MR PATEL: I don’t have specific dates at my fingers here.

QUESTION: Okay. But he was in post until last week? Thank you.

MR PATEL: All right. We’ll take a couple more, then I’m going to wrap.  

QUESTION: I’m from Kurdistan 24.


QUESTION: On Iraq, the congressional defense committee and the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2024 proposes that the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State shall develop a plan of action to equip and train Iraqi forces, including Kurdish Peshmerga forces, to defend against attacks by missiles, rockets, and unmanned systems. How much is the Department of State supporting this proposal?

MR PATEL: So I’m just not going to comment on active legislation that is still going. Would refer you to respective congressional offices on that.

Go ahead, Tetsuo.

QUESTION: I would like to ask a follow-up question on the ASEAN meeting that took place in Jakarta. North Korean ambassador took place in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and he didn’t talk with U.S. delegation as far as reported. So can you confirm that there was no diplomatic engagement between North Korea and the U.S. this time in Jakarta? And —

MR PATEL: There was no diplomatic engagement between the United States and the DPRK in Jakarta.

QUESTION: And I’m also wondering if you had any specific reason for that.

MR PATEL: Specific what?

QUESTION: A specific reason for no diplomatic engagement between the two countries.

MR PATEL: So broadly, Tetsuo, we have been very clear – to take the focus off of the ASEAN Ministerial for a second, we have been very clear and consistent that we stand ready to engage with Pyongyang in discussions over our very clear goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a goal that we know is shared by many who were present at the ASEAN Ministerial, including our allies and partners in Japan and the Republic of Korea. But as you’ve heard me say previously, we have not seen a reciprocal interest in engaging from Pyongyang.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:04 p.m.)