US State Dept Presser

State Dept Press Briefing -June 15, 2023

24 Min
State Dept Press Briefing -June 15, 2023

The State Department held a presser on June 15, 2023 with Spokesperson Mathew Miller fielding a wide range of questions.   The Q-A on India and Pakistan is tweaked to appear upfront

 Some Excerpts

MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. Before I get to your questions, I’m going to welcome Ambassador Cindy Dyer, the ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, to the podium. She’s going to give you some remarks on the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released today, take some questions; and then after she’s taken your questions, I’ll come back and be happy to talk about anything else.

AMBASSADOR DYER: Thank you, sir. Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you for today’s briefing. Earlier today Secretary Blinken released the State Department’s 2023 Trafficking in Persons report, or the TIP Report, which examines government’s efforts to meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards to combat human trafficking, using a three-P framework of protecting victims, prosecuting traffickers, and preventing this crime by dismantling the systems that make it easier for traffickers to operate.

Now in its 23rd year, the report reflects the U.S. Government’s commitment to global leadership on this key human rights issue, law enforcement and national security issue. It is our principal diplomatic and diagnostic tool to guide our engagements with foreign governments on human trafficking. The theme of this year’s report also reflects our commitment to what is called the fourth P: partnership. This year’s TIP Report introduction highlights and emphasizes the importance of partnership, shares lessons learned, and highlights elements and examples of effective partnerships for governments, international organizations, civil society, private sector entities, and other stakeholders.

For the second consecutive year, we partnered with the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network to provide content and feedback throughout the process of drafting the introduction. These consultants have a range of expertise related to combatting human trafficking, working with marginalized communities, trauma recovery and resiliency, mental health care, and survivor leadership. And they provide expertise and input into the development of Department of State anti-trafficking policies, strategies, and products – both in the United States and abroad.

We also included a special segment called Survivor Insights, perspectives from those with lived experience of human trafficking, written by network consultants, in their own voices. Collaborating with survivors as equal partners is critical to understanding the realities of human trafficking and establishing effective victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally competent anti-trafficking policies and strategies. I thank them for their thoughtful and meaningful contributions to this year’s TIP report, and for sharing their expertise with us.

This year’s TIP Report elevates important cross-cutting issues, including the non-punishment principle, unscrupulous manufacturers concealing forced labor, the vulnerability of boys and men to human trafficking, and online recruitment of vulnerable populations for forced labor. And I want to highlight one rapidly growing and troubling trend: forced labor, as a result of cyber scam operations. Traffickers have leveraged pandemic-related economic hardships, increased global youth unemployment, and international travel restrictions to exploit thousands of adults and children in a multi-billion-dollar industry over the last two years in these schemes.

Many people have responded to job offers for what they think are legitimate work in IT, in casinos, or other seemingly legitimate businesses. Often these individuals are forced to participate in cyber scams, under impossible quota arrangements that make them increasingly indebted to traffickers. Traffickers use this debt to exploit victims in forced labor and sex trafficking, including in special economic zones – primarily throughout Southeast Asia. but ensnaring nationals from at least 35 countries or territories.

We will continue to engage governments and authorities on the importance of proactively identifying and assisting victims and protecting people from fraudulent recruitment schemes like these. And we aim to raise awareness on this trend through this report. We will bring assistance to bear when we can, support government and civil society efforts to address this issue and protect victims.

In the country narratives, this year’s report assessed 188 countries and territories, including the United States. Overall, there are 24 tier-ranking upgrades and 20 downgrades, compared with 21 upgrades and 18 downgrades last year. There were two upgrades to Tier 1, 19 upgrades to Tier 2, and three upgrades to Tier 2 Watchlist from Tier 3. Half of this year’s 24 upgrades were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Downgrades this year highlight systemic gaps – governments not reporting their anti-trafficking efforts, not screening for trafficking indicators, not tackling forced labor adequately, not effectively monitoring protection systems, and not equitably implementing anti-trafficking efforts.

Across all data points included in the global totals tracking prosecutions, convictions, and victims identified, there were increases reported as compared to the 2022 total. Prosecutions were higher than the years immediately preceding the pandemic. Convictions continued to increase, and victim identifications increased by nearly 25,000 – although neither convictions nor victims identified were yet back to pre-pandemic levels and highs reported in 2019.

Globally, efforts to prosecute and convict labor traffickers and identify labor trafficking victims were also notably higher than prior years, which we attribute both to ongoing improvements in government efforts in this area as well as better government data collection and reporting.

Finally, before I open it up for questions, I want to highlight the eight TIP Report Heroes, who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking and who the department is honoring today. The 2023 TIP Report Heroes come from Brazil, Cambodia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, and Venezuela. We hope you saw the livestream with the award presentations and Evon Idahosa’s remarks on behalf of the group.

These individuals inspire each of us to do more to advance the global fight against human trafficking, and protect the victims and survivors of this crime. The honorees will engage with American communities and organizations, committed to ending human trafficking in Boston and Miami through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, IVLP. I hope everyone has the opportunity to hear their stories of how they’ve used partnerships, often courageously and creatively, to advance our shared fight against trafficking and elevate the role of survivors. I am incredibly grateful to them for their efforts.

Let me end by saying I am so profoundly thankful to our colleagues at embassies around the world and throughout the department, who worked diligently to gather data and analyze trafficking trends and efforts year-round. A special thanks to the tireless team in the Trafficking in Persons Office who led the effort to produce this report. This truly is a year-long collaborative effort that I am so honored to share with the world today.

Thank you so much, and I’m happy to answer questions.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Two questions, if I may. The first is there was a particular mention – well, the Secretary mentioned – on trafficking of boys, and I wonder if you could – I hadn’t read the report last year, so I don’t know if this is new to this year or if it’s something that’s been ongoing for a couple of years. But if you could give us a little bit more of substance, highlight on that particular aspect.

And the second question is – since the report includes the United States, I assume the U.S. made the first tier, and so I’d like to have your assessment of human trafficking in the U.S. currently.

AMBASSADOR DYER: Thank you so much for that question. And you’re correct. This year we did a highlight on the often-hidden victims that are men and boys. Men and boys have always been victims, and can be victims, but they are frequently overlooked. Frequently, folks think of a trafficking victim as a woman or a girl, but in fact all adults and all children can be victims, including men and boys.

Men and boys frequently are less likely to seek services and self-identify. And what’s even more troubling is that when they do, services are not always available for them. Some services are exclusive for women and girls. And so we wanted to highlight this to make sure that we are using appropriate screening. All individuals can be victims, and that in addition to screening and identifying, we need to make sur that victim-centered, trauma-informed services are available to all victims, including men and boys.

To your second question regarding the United States, our office does assess very deeply United States efforts to address trafficking in persons. This year we did assess the United States efforts as a Tier 1, because they were increasing. We looked at this government’s efforts, this reporting period compared to last reporting period, and we saw a number of increases, including the number of victims who are served with federal funds, the number of T visas that are issued, and reducing the time that it takes to get a visa.

Of course, as with all Tier 1 countries, we have areas for improvement to make. One of those improvements is making sure that all of our services are available to men and boys. We need to do a better job of identifying labor trafficking, because so often people are really looking for sex trafficking. And we need to make sure that we’re looking for all victims of trafficking. So, while we did assess ourselves at a Tier 1, the U.S. narrative is detailed and it provides not only areas where we did a great job, but areas where we have improvement.

QUESTION: Regarding trafficking, human trafficking in North Korean defectors, what action is the United States taking against Chinese Government, which is committing human trafficking and human rights violations against North Korean defectors? And how much does the United States care about these? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR DYER: Thank you for your question. The United States cares deeply about all victims of trafficking. Our chief reason for putting so much time and effort into this report is so that it serves as both a diagnostic tool and a diplomatic tool. We really use this during our engagements with other countries. We use it to try to get better services and improve every country’s response.

As it pertains to the PRC, you can see in the TIP Report that we assessed that China is not meeting the minimum standards for addressing human trafficking and they are not making significant efforts to do so. That would put them on Tier 3; that’s the bottom tier.

Additionally, to your point, we found that they’re engaging in a policy or pattern of trafficking. We want countries to do a good job and certainly not to actually engage in bad practices, which the narrative clearly points out that China is doing, especially the policy or pattern of forced labor through the continued arbitrary detention of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethic Kyrgyz, and members of other religious and minority groups.

Additionally, the PRC is actually taking efforts to try to make it more difficult for us to determine if their supply chain is clean, for us to determine if forced labor is occurring. We are aggressively monitoring this. We are also monitoring the government’s use of the Belt and Road Initiative, where they are potentially using their – forced labor of their own citizens as well as host countries. So, we are definitely focusing on this really heavily in the report.

QUESTION: Ambassador. Can you speak to some of the new vulnerabilities that Russia’s war against Ukraine has created, and its long or short-term impacts, both in the region and globally please? Thanks so much.

AMBASSADOR DYER:  We remain deeply concerned of human trafficking faced by all of those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine forced more than 8 million people to flee Ukraine and displaced 1.5 million more within its borders as of May 2023. We are actively watching and observing.

We were glad that governments and organizations have actually identified relatively few confirmed cases of human trafficking among those refugees. However, we remain very concerned and are working closely with our allies in Europe to really, vigorously monitor this system.

And we are particularly concerned about the trafficking also within Ukraine due to Russia’s invasion, particularly for children and internally displaced persons. That – the narrative in Ukraine is very thorough, very well researched, and I encourage you to read it. It will include much more specific information.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. You talked about one of the persons that you invited to – here is from Iraq. And we know that, according to some reports, that Iraq has recorded an increase in human trafficking crimes, where the victims are women, girl children, and also LGBT persons. Then due to the collapse of the economy of Iran’s currency and also the conflict in Syria, this has led to influx – hundreds of the women and girls to go to the Kurdistan region of Iraq and also to Iraq and they are suffering from the human trafficking in the cafes and also in the hotels. Then what efforts do you have in this area, in Syria, in Iraq, and also to prevent and to mitigate this – the consequences of this human trafficking?

AMBASSADOR DYER: As you may have seen, Iraq in this year’s report was downgraded to Tier 2 Watchlist, because it does not meet the minimum standards and it didn’t indicate overall increasing efforts to address the very problems that you mentioned compared to the year before. Specifically, the federal government reported identifying fewer trafficking victims, despite the concern that you have raised. They’re identifying fewer trafficking victims, and they actually did not report law enforcement or all victim identification data. This is obviously concerning for us. We also are concerned because the federal government lacked adequate protection services for the victims that were identified. So, we have flagged these issues in the report.

I also feel like because I just delivered some bad news, let me deliver some good. We had two amazing TIP Report Heroes from Iraq today – a husband and wife team, who established an NGO called FATE that is serving Iraqi victims – but also individuals, as you pointed out, who are in Iraq who came from other places. This is an organization that they’re serving all, whether they are Iraqi citizens or not. So that bad news is tempered with some good news. And thank you for your question.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. My name is Hariana. I cover for Africa. So I saw in your – I heard in your remarks you mentioned Africa, Sub-Saharan having a downgrade in trafficking in person. Can you tell us what seems to be the biggest problem in Africa when it comes to trafficking person and what the governments in Africa are doing to solve this problem?

AMBASSADOR DYER: Well, thank you very much for that question. And to be clear, I actually was saying that of the 24 upgrades that were given in this TIP Report – compared to last year, there were 21 – of the 24 upgrades – it’s actually good news – 12 of those upgrades were in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, there is a bit of a good news story there.

We carefully looked at each of those countries. Some of those countries – it is important to note – they were on what is called Tier 2 Watchlist, and they had been on that Watchlist for a long enough time that they couldn’t remain. They had to go up or they had to go down. And fortunately, many of those countries exhibited enough positive efforts compared to what they had done the year before that we assessed that they could go up; and so that accounted for 12 of the 24 upgrades.

And so, I really think this is a good news story. Similarly, one of our amazing TIP Heroes is from Sub-Saharan Africa; Evon Idahosa is from Nigeria. She has – she’s based in – her office is based in Benin City, which is a real hub for many trafficking victims, specifically women and girls being trafficked out of Nigeria. She’s doing amazing work with her organization Pathfinders. And so that’s another bright spot.

QUESTION: And can you tell us if among the countries that are doing well in terms of trafficking person, is Angola and Mozambique part of those countries?

AMBASSADOR DYER: I would have to look up – I don’t know if I have the specific information on Angola and Mozambique. I know that we had one upgrade to a Tier 1 country. That was the Seychelles actually went up to Tier 1, which is – while, as we’ve established, they – it – all Tier 1 countries still have improvements to make, it’s the highest tier. And so that was a good news story. But tell me the specific country that you wanted to ask about.

QUESTION: Angola and Mozambique.

AMBASSADOR DYER: Okay. With regards to Mozambique, I do know that that is one that was downgraded. Mozambique was downgraded from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watchlist. And the reason that occurred is because Mozambique did not meet the minimum standards as set out in the TVPA, but they – they were making some significant efforts, but they didn’t demonstrate overall increasing efforts. Specifically, the government did not identify any trafficking victims, and they lacked adequate procedures for frontline officials to even screen for those trafficking victims. And for the seventh consecutive year, the government did not adopt its draft national referral mechanism, which would set in place the screening procedures. These are obviously some areas for improvement. We hope that they’re able to do that during the year.

MR MILLER: All right. I’ll take one more for the ambassador. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Jalil Afridi from Pakistan. So I would like to know first did Pakistan – which tier did it fall in? And secondly, we had a lady from Pakistan who went through human trafficking, and she was a national hockey player. And she left her child and – and so all these people, they each have very sad stories. And today this incident of Greece adds to this whole sadness.

But from Pakistan point of view, I have – I – like in this 23 years of journalism, this is like – these human traffickers, we never hear severe punishments for them. We never hear their deportation. We never hear they’re like putting them in life – for their whole life in jail. What is the reason for that?

AMBASSADOR DYER: You actually bring up a really good point, because we do believe that in addition to identifying victims and referring them to services, traffickers will continue to operate as long as they can do so with impunity. It’s a financial crime, and as long as they can do it with impunity, then they will continue to do so, which is why one of the key areas that the Traffickers in Persons Report covers is not only was there a prosecution but also was there a conviction. And was there a conviction that resulted in a punishment that is appropriate to the severity of the crime.

Pakistan definitely has room for improvement in this area. One good thing – on the good news is the honoree, the TIP honoree that we had from Pakistan is actually a government official. He is someone who is in the police department, who is working really hard to create a more coordinated response between the police and the prosecutors and the service providers – so that victims can tell their story, so that prosecutors can bring that forward, and so that they’re more likely to get a conviction. His name is Zaheer, and he was really inspiring. I hope maybe you have an opportunity to talk to him while you’re here.

MR MILLER: Thank you, Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR DYER: Thank you for having me.

MR MILLER: Okay. Let me get my house in order here. Okay, on to other topics. Let’s start – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV Pakistan. Pakistani Government and military have imposed a ban on the media coverage of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Media channels are not even allowed to say or mention his name in the news bulletins and primetime shows. This raises concern about press freedom and the role of government in controlling media narratives. So would you like to say something about safeguarding the rights of journalists and the public’s access to information?

MR MILLER: Sure. I would say that we generally urge all governments to respect the role of journalists and media. We believe the press performs a critical function in democratic societies. We expect that journalists covering the events in Pakistan should all be allowed to do their work. A free and independent press is a vital, core institution that undergirds healthy democracies by ensuring that electorates can make informed decisions and holding government officials accountable. That last part is near and dear to my heart, as someone who personally comes before you to be held accountable just about every day.

QUESTION: Sir, one last question. What is the current stance of the United States towards Imran Khan?

MR MILLER: What is the current stance?

QUESTION: Towards Imran Khan, as he recently – in his recent his interview —

MR MILLER: He’s a private citizen. We don’t generally have stances towards private —

QUESTION: Sir, he’s a former prime minister. He’s continuing to say – he just said that – he claimed that defying U.S. policies led to his downfall.

MR MILLER: I would say that we’ve spoken to this in the past. Those allegations are absolutely false. Pakistani politics are a matter for the Pakistani people to decide, pursuant to their own constitution and laws. They are not a matter for the United States Government.

QUESTION: Recently Secretary of Defence was in India and then National Security Advisor Mr. Sullivan was in India yesterday, just came back, and many other high-level meetings were going on for the last six-plus months and all that. My question is that how many remaining issues are there between U.S. and India that will be discussed or resolved or solved or will be highlighted and plus icebreaking or – I should say, that how many you think dealings or deals will be signed between the two countries during prime minister’s visit?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to get ahead of the White House, who will be hosting Prime Minister Modi, of course. They’ll be making further announcements about the visit in the coming days leading up to the trip next week.

I will say generally our partnership with India is one of our most consequential relationships. We look closely with India on – we work closely with India on our most vital priorities. They play a crucial role in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific that is connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. And I know Secretary Blinken looks forward to seeing Prime Minister Modi and other members of the Indian delegation, while they’re here; and working to make progress on all the issues with which we consult with India. But in terms of any specific issues, I will defer to the White House for comment on that.

QUESTION:  …What India can expect from the U.S. as far as diplomacy and cultural exchanges and immigration and visas and all of those things?  When the U.S. will open for the visas because many husbands and wives are stuck in India. And they are still waiting to come to the U.S.

MR MILLER: Yeah. I will say, with respect to visas, our consular teams have been making a huge push to process as many visa applications as possible in India, including in those visa categories that are key to the bilateral relationship. This is a top priority for our government. We know that there is more work that we can do, and we are working hard to do it.

With respect to the broader question – again, I don’t want to get ahead of the White House about what kind of announcements we might have related to the trip.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Prime Minister Modi’s trip, there’s a lot of people in the Indian American community who’ll be welcoming the prime minister. There are also going to be some people who will protest or want the administration to raise with a lot more priority human rights and democracy issues. 

MR MILLER: Sure. I would say, as I said in my previous comments, there are a number of issues with which we work with India, as I outlined before, but that also we regularly raise with Indian Government officials – at senior levels, our human rights concerns. We’ve been clear about that. We speak with them privately – we speak about those privately with the Indian Government and we speak about them publicly.

I will also say that with respect to protests, we support the right of every American to exercise their First Amendment rights to make their voices heard. We just earlier in this briefing talked about a very vigorous exercise of the First Amendment right that’s been happening outside our building for, I don’t know, a week or two now, and we continue to support the right of Americans to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you. On North Korea, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the east coast today. What is the State Department reaction to this? And the White House, the National Security Council announced that this is violation for the UN Security Council. What is your reaction?

MR MILLER: I would say that the United States along with our allies in the region – Japan, the Republic of Korea – condemn today’s DPRK missile launches. These launches are a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. They demonstrate the threat of DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to the region, to international peace and security, and to the global nonproliferation regime. I will also note that today the United States imposed sanctions on two DPRK individuals for supporting the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and missile programs. So, we will continue to take action to hold people accountable for such activities.

QUESTION: China continues to use its veto power on sanctions against North Korea in the UN Security Council resolution. Will the Secretary Blinken discuss this issue with his counterpart in China during his visit to China?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to preview the exact issues that the Secretary will raise other than to say that we do expect him to raise a whole host of bilateral issues, regional security issues. There’ll be issues where we have concerns with actions that China has taken and areas where we hope that we can potentially work together. But we’ll wait until after the meetings to read out exactly what he said.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Kosovo and Serbia. There’s been more tensions on the border, including Serbs arresting three policemen. And so far, I guess in terms of statements from the U.S., what we’ve seen is mainly criticizing the Kosovan prime minister. I wondered: Where do you stand on these tensions as they’re increasing, and what kind of engagements can you talk to us about?

MR MILLER: Yeah. Let me make clear that – our expectations for both parties, which is we believe that Kosovo and Serbia must both take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions. That includes the unconditional release of the three recently detained Kosovo police officers. We believe both parties must follow the three-point plan that has been outlined by the EU without delay. As part of this, as we’ve spoken to before, Prime Minister Kurti and his government must ensure that elected mayors carry out their transitional duties from alternate locations and withdraw police forces from the vicinity.

We continue to condemn the unacceptable violence against NATO-led KFOR troops, against law enforcement and journalists. And I will say, in terms of a path forward, we continue to be engaged both directly with both parties as well as with our partners in the region. Secretary Blinken has had conversations with partners in the region about this. Counsellor Chollet has had direct conversations, as have others from the State Department.

QUESTION: Can we expect any further actions going forward, like would you be looking at using sanctions, perhaps, to – as a tool on this?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview any potential actions right now. Our focus is making clear our expectations to both parties that they both take immediate steps to exacerbate[1] tensions and follow the three-point plan that’s been outlined by the EU.

Go ahead, Shannon.

QUESTION: Thank you. There was an incident near Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. It was apparently – one American is accused of attacking two other tourists who were also from the United States and killing one of them. Is this a case the State Department is tracking, and is the State Department offering assistance to the victims.

MR MILLER: We are aware of the incident involving multiple individuals in Germany. The consulate in Munich – the U.S. Consulate in Munich is monitoring the situation closely, is in contact with authorities. But due to privacy considerations, I’m unable to offer any further comment at this time.

QUESTION: Can I also ask quickly about the two Americans found dead at a luxury hotel in Mexico? The State Department has said that they are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the matter. So far, does the investigation appear to be proceeding as regular? Are there any irregularities there?

MR MILLER: I’m not aware of any irregularities. We can confirm the death, unfortunately, of those two U.S. citizens. We offer our sincerest condolences to the families for their loss. We are closely monitoring the investigation into the cause of death, and we stand ready to provide any consular – any appropriate consular assistance. And I don’t have anything further at this time.


QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Two questions. Curious if you have been keeping track on movements of Russian nuclear weapons now that Belarus self-proclaimed – president claims that he has some of them. And do you also expect that Russia will retain control over those weapons? Because he says he can’t use them.

MR MILLER: So, I won’t speak to the issue of control. What I will say about that is we’ve, of course, seen the reports going back for some time now about the Russia-Belarus arrangement. We’ll continue to monitor how it unfolds and the implications. As we’ve said before – and it continues to be the case – we have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture nor any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon. With respect to Belarus, it’s yet another example of Lukashenka making irresponsible and provocative choices to cede more control over Belarus to the Kremlin against the will of the Belarusian people. And for Russia, it’s yet another irresponsible move by the Kremlin.

QUESTION: And my second question – I want to give you a chance to expand a little bit on what you tweeted about Azerbaijan and Armenia yesterday, its implications. As you know, Azerbaijan denies what you said was happening yesterday. And overall, broadly speaking, what are you guys doing to prevent these sort of incidents from happening in future?

MR MILLER: Repeat – I missed – I sort of missed the first part of your question.

QUESTION: You tweeted yesterday that there was some incident —

MR MILLER: Yeah, right.

QUESTION: — involving two individuals working for a U.S. company – they got injured – and Azerbaijan denies that. I just want to give you a chance to expand a little bit on that because we have mixed reportings from both sides.

MR MILLER: Yeah. So, I don’t have anything other – anything further to offer on that – on that situation other than to say that we remain concerned about the situation. And we continue to urge the two parties to work together to bridge the remaining differences. Speaking broadly, I will say – as you know, as we spoke to yesterday, we do believe that an agreement is still within reach and we look forward to convening the two parties to move forward.



QUESTION: We’ve all heard you loud and clear saying there’s no deal, interim or otherwise. In the last several days a lot of ink has been spilled. We’ve discussed it a lot in this room. Is it fair to say that there’s been some momentum or movement in areas of mutual concern between the U.S. and Iran?

MR MILLER: I think how I would describe it is we have been clear what our Iran policy is and what our Iran objectives are. Number one, we want Iran to take steps to de-escalate tensions, which of course includes steps to curb its nuclear program. Number two, we want Iran to take – to cease its actions that destabilize the region, including its support for proxy groups that carry out attacks. Number three, we want Iran to stop its support for Russia’s war on Ukraine. Number four, we believe that Iran should release Americans who it continues to wrongfully detain. The wrongful detention of U.S. nationals and political leverage – for political leverage is unacceptable, and we will continue to work to bring every American who is wrongfully detained home.

And I will say that we continue to use diplomatic engagements to pursue all of these goals, in full coordination with our allies and partners. But, as I said yesterday, with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, there is no deal. The reports that there are a deal or some agreement or some other description – however you want to describe it – are not true. Sorry to retread ground that – and as much as I would love to stand up here today and say that we have an agreement to bring U.S. citizens home – U.S. citizens who have been wrongfully detained home – that is not the case. It is a matter that we continue to work, that we continue to spend a great deal of time and resources trying to effectuate, and we will continue to do so – but I don’t have an announcement of any agreement to bring detainees home at this time.

QUESTION: Absent an announcement and having clearly delineated all of those goals and objectives and desires on the part of the United States, would you characterize – is there a willingness on the part of the Iranians to move forward on any of those fronts that you just —

MR MILLER: I will certainly not today and probably not ever speak to the motivations or desires or intentions of the Iranian regime. What I will say is that our objectives are clear. And we continue to work to try to advance U.S. objectives in all of these areas using all the tools available to us, including diplomacy, but we are not yet at the point where I’m able to make any sorts of announcements.

QUESTION: Related?

MR MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. The American Iranians who’ve staged a sit-in outside this building, they’re in their 13th day. When – do you know that an official from the State Department has already met with them? I was wondering if Secretary Blinken has noticed them, asked about them – although their banners and signs I think speak for themselves – and whether he would be interested in meeting with them, since he has met with some similar activists in the past during the demonstrations.

MR MILLER: I think I – it’s safe to say that everyone who works in the State Department is aware of the demonstrations. We all drive by them or walk by them every day when we come into the building. As you noted, a State Department official did meet with them to discuss issues in the last several days, and we will continue to engage with them as appropriate, but as with – as it pertains to the Secretary, I don’t have any meetings to announce.

QUESTION: Yeah, just to follow up on the question, the possibility of having a deal regarding the detainees: you said that you were pursuing diplomacy regarding this. Yesterday, Omani foreign minister told Al-Monitor that you are closer to a deal. Are you a step closer at least?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to characterize either our private diplomatic conversations or the status or the subject of conversations that we have – other than to say that it continues to be an objective of the President, an objective of Secretary Blinken, objective of everyone who works in this building to bring wrongfully detained Americans home. We are working on it 24/7, including with consultations with our partners and allies in the region, and we will continue to do so. But I don’t think it’s either appropriate or, really more to the point, it’s useful for me to try to read out the status or where we stand on that work as it remains ongoing. I think one of the things you’ve heard all of us say from this podium, from various other places, that one of the things we’ve learned about our work to secure the release of wrongful detainees – it’s awful[2] not helpful to talk about the work we’re doing while it’s ongoing because it can jeopardize the effectiveness of that work.

QUESTION: You have said that you are pursuing the diplomacy with Iran. We know that the inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog, they found the traces that Iran has reached to 83.7 percent of the uranium, then – which is 6 percent below the nuclear weapons spread, with the Iranians going farther. Do you have anything to do with them? Then how do you prevent Iran to not get 90 percent of enriching uranium?

MR MILLER: I will say we – it continues to be a top priority for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We continue to believe diplomacy is the best path to achieve it. That has been our belief since the beginning of this administration. If you remember where we were when this administration took office – or I should back up and say where we were when the previous administration took office – the Iranian nuclear program was in a box. Unfortunately, the previous administration left the JCPOA and allowed Iran to continue marching forward in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. We have tried to pursue diplomacy to constrain their efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon, but we have also made clear that all options remain on the table.

QUESTION: On Sudan, the fighting seems to be getting worse and spreading. Why do you think the actions taken by the State Department haven’t seemed to make much of a difference? And do you have any hope for a resolution in the near future?

MR MILLER: So I will say we continue to stay engaged on this matter both bilaterally and with our partners in the region, most chiefly Saudi Arabia. We have been extremely disappointed by the actions of the two parties. We continue to stand by the people of Sudan and urge the parties to end the fighting immediately.

One of our messages has been all along, both directly to the two parties and we’ve said this publicly a number of times, that there is no military solution to this conflict. The Jeddah talks that were taking place provided a face-to-face opportunity to have a dialogue. We strongly urged the parties to take advantage of that. We were able to secure a number of ceasefires – some more effective than others, but ultimately, the parties decided that they would resort to resuming conflict.

I would say that we continue to engage with partners in the region and continue to consider other options that are available to us. We announced a range of sanctions – I think it was week before last, and we continue to consider other steps moving forward.

QUESTION: Thank you. On human trafficking – and I apologize for walking in in the middle of the ambassador’s briefing. Child labor trafficking and child labor exploitation really have the same components a great deal of the time, and especially in a conflict zone or zones adjacent to conflict zones. And sometimes – and situations that can be terribly exacerbated by the fact that sometimes the elder child is the sole breadwinner. I mean, I’m talking about a real situation – talk about Syrian boys and so on – that are in camps in Türkiye and in Jordan. I mean, we see it in day-in and day-out by the thousands and so on. So, what measures can be taken to – first of all, to ensure their safety, to make sure – I mean, these countries are your allies – to introduce maybe some labor child protection laws and so on?

MR MILLER: — I will say the first thing that we do is to continue to shine light on the problem around the world. I think it’s an important step that we take to release this report every year, to call out practices around the world that may be up to appropriate standards. And we will continue to shine a light on those activities and work with countries in the region to try and improve them.

Thank you all.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:17 p.m.)