US State Dept Presser

State Dept Press Briefing – Sept 27, 2023

13 Min
State Dept Press Briefing – Sept 27, 2023

The US State Dept held a press briefing on Sept 27, 2023 with spokesperson Matthew Miller fielding questions on a wide range of issues. The Q-A on India, Canada and Afghanistan is tweaked to appear upfront.


MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone

QUESTION: Yeah. When Secretary met his Indian counterpart Minister Jaishankar in New York for the Quad meeting, did he raise the issue of Canadian allegations with India?

MR MILLER: No, not in that meeting. It was not a bilateral meeting. It was a meeting of a number of countries and it did not come up in that meeting. But we have engaged with our Indian counterparts on this issue and urged them to fully cooperate with the Canadian investigation.

QUESTION: And the minister is going to be here in the city this week. The Secretary has plans to meet him?

MR MILLER: Tomorrow.

QUESTION: Will he be raising this issue with Minister Jaishankar?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to preview the conversations he will have in that meeting, but as we’ve made clear, we’ve raised this; we have engaged with our Indian counterparts on this and encouraged them to cooperate with the Canadian investigation, and we continue to encourage them to cooperate.

QUESTION: So far engagement you had with the Indians, do you see sense of cooperation from them?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to read in – I’m not going to speak to our private diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in her statement expressed concerns on the allegations of involvement of Indian Government in Canadian citizen killing. She also said that she has requested a briefing on whether there are similar operations in the United States. Any briefings scheduled, or she contacted the State Department?

MR MILLER: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Sir, secondly, how United States see this Khalistan campaign, as all these operations managed by U.S.-based group Sikhs for Justice —

MR MILLER: I missed the first part of the question. Could you just —

QUESTION: So how you – how United States see this Khalistan campaign? Because all their operations are managed by a U.S.-based education group, Sikhs for Justice.

MR MILLER: I just don’t have any comment on that. Sorry.

QUESTION: Sorry, last question, sir. Has India asked United States to ban Khalistan operations in United States?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to read out any private diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. If you please, comment on the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan scheduled for September 21, which is tomorrow. There is no representative of the U.S. invited. How do you see that? And second, a high-level delegation of the Taliban led by acting Foreign Affair Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has traveled to Russia to participate in the two-days meeting. Does the travel ban on Taliban leaders still exist? Aren’t they in the blacklist?

MR MILLER: So I don’t have much to say about that other than that we’re aware of the Moscow format meeting taking place. We are not members of the Moscow format, so a U.S. representative will not be attending.

QUESTION: Travis King ( who has since handed over to US and on his way back home) voluntarily chose the North Korea. What punishment will he face when he comes home?

MR MILLER: I would refer you to the Department of Defense for that question. He is an active member of the military, and that’s a question they’ll have to speak to.

QUESTION: He had the violations of U.S. laws. He is active militaries.

MR MILLER: Again, I’m going to refer that to the Defense Department, who would be the agency that would be – that would speak to that question.

QUESTION: One more on North Korea. North Korea’s Ambassador to United Nations Song Kim said that nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula was imminent and blamed the United States and South Korea. How do you comment on this?

MR MILLER: We would obviously find those remarks irresponsible, as we find any number of statements the – that North Korea makes threatening its neighbors or raising tensions in the region. And I will say we will continue to work with our partners in the region – the Republic of Korea, Japan – to ensure their security and prevent North Korea from taking aggressive – such aggressive actions.

QUESTION: Yeah, so after the release of Travis King, do you think communication with DPRK is getting more easier to compared to before?

 MR MILLER: No, I wouldn’t say that, given that, as I just said, they refused all of our attempts to communicate with them over this matter. They have always had communications with other governments, and we found it possible to communicate with them through Sweden, which, as I said, is our protecting power. But– as I said, I do not see this as a sign of any diplomatic breakthrough that will have implications for other issues, other areas of concern we have with the DPRK regime.

QUESTION: About Azerbaijan-Armenia, if you don’t mind. As I understand, senior officials are currently in Azerbaijan. You have eyes and ears on the ground. Give me a sense of what you have been observing there during the past 24 hours. There are calls for international community to prevent ethnic cleansing, something that (inaudible). What exactly is going on? And the sides are talking about also turning back to Brussels. What is being hoped for, actually?

MR MILLER: I would say a few things. Number one, as you noted, Samantha Power, the USAID administrator, and Acting Assistant Secretary Yuri Kim are in Azerbaijan today, where they stressed a number of things, the same things that the Secretary stressed in his conversation with President Aliyev yesterday and that I reiterated at the podium, which is that, number one, we want to see the ceasefire maintained; number two, we want to see humanitarian needs addressed; that means keeping the Lachin corridor open, it means ensuring that humanitarian supplies can come in, and that it means an international monitoring mission to ensure that humanitarian needs are addressed.

And I will say that we did welcome the comments by the Government of Azerbaijan just a little while ago before I came out to this podium, that they would welcome such an international monitoring mission. That’s something that the Secretary had directly pushed the president for, and we’re glad to see his having agreed to it, and we will work with our allies and partners in the coming days to flesh out exactly what that mission will look like. But then ultimately what we do want to see is a return to the negotiating table, where they can ultimately reach a dignified, lasting peace.

QUESTION: Speaking of the negotiating table, for months and months you had dialogue going on in Washington, in Brussels. Senior officials told us just last month that the sides had agreed to return back to Washington. Who dropped the ball, and when and why?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what – so first of all, I reject the characterization about dropping the ball. We have been pursuing negotiations. The Secretary has been having direct conversations with the president of Azerbaijan, the prime minister of Armenia. We’ve had a number of officials travel to the region – not just in the past week or 10 days since hostilities broke out but going back months and months and months.

We have done everything we can to pursue diplomacy, but ultimately, remember, it’s up to the two parties here who are the parties that have direct disagreements. We can do everything we can to push them but ultimately they have to agree to talk and they have to agree to ultimately come to some resolution. That’s what we’re going to do, is continue to play our part to facilitate that.

QUESTION: And how much of this also can be pointed at Russia? I’m asking because Kremlin loves pointing at the West, and also the fact that Pashinyan chose Western orientation for Armenia. So what is Russia’s role here, and how do you – is it time to come out and call Russia out for what it has been doing?

MR MILLER: I certainly do not think Russia has played a productive role here in the past week. We have seen them at times – there have been times where they facilitated negotiations, and that was something that we welcomed; but certainly in the last week their role has not been productive in this situation.

QUESTION: I have one more on Russia, if you don’t mind.


QUESTION: In the wake of today’s sanctions and also yesterday’s business advisory on Xinjiang, I want to ask you about business advisory on Russia. It has been more than a year and a half that we entered this war. There have been calls from different sides, Ukrainian business community and diaspora. The fact that you guys are still allowing the U.S. companies, business companies, to operate in Russia – some of them have left and returned back and earning money and pay taxes – is not consistent with your policy to isolate Russia, is it?

MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about that. Number one, that since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February of last year, a number of U.S. international companies have looked at the legal, looked at the reputational risk, and decided that those risks were too high to continue involving – to continue operating in Russia. In fact, over a thousand U.S. companies have withdrawn from Russia in that time. In addition, Russia has passed restrictive new laws that I think have discouraged a number of businesses from operating.

I will say this is a decision that every business has to make on its own, looking at the operational and legal and reputational risks of operating in Russia. But I do want to be clear that we have always emphasized that there are certain types of commercial activity that we are not trying to shut down with respect to Russia. All of our sanctions have had exemptions for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian purposes because we do not see the United States in conflict with the Russian people.

So we have not tried to tell businesses that are working to provide food or pharmaceutical goods to the Russian people that they should stop doing business there. We have targeted our sanctions, our export controls, on the sectors of the Russian economy that fuel Russia’s war machine, and we’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up one more on Armenia-Azerbaijan?


QUESTION: One other development is that Azerbaijan says it’s arrested the head of the self-styled republican – the suffragist entity in Nagorno-Karabakh, which of course has fallen on Mr. Vardanian. Does the U.S. have anything to say about that, either the arrest or about what treatment you would expect to —

MR MILLER: We are aware of the arrest. We’re closely monitoring the situation. I don’t have any further comment today.


QUESTION: Thank you. Changing topic to the visa waiver, which – is the – this department and the Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken, completely convinced that Israel has totally fulfilled all its obligations to join the visa program?

MR MILLER: We are convinced that it has met the requirements to join the Visa Waiver Program. It’s a recommendation the Secretary made to the Department of Homeland Security, and it was ultimately decided by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Over the past few months, as we’ve been trialing this program with the Government of Israel, we’ve seen more than a hundred thousand American citizens enter Israel without a visa. That includes tens of thousands of Americans on the Palestinian registry who have travelled into Israel without a visa. And that said, we have ongoing monitoring programs that will be in place for Israel, as they are with every other member of the Visa Waiver Program. We’ll be closely monitoring their compliance as we go forward.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are convinced that Israel is exactly, like all the other countries, the 40 other countries that belong to this program   they conduct themselves with the same kind of fidelity in treating all Americans the same?

MR MILLER: I said that they have met the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program. As we have discussed many times from this podium, there are differences, especially with respect to Gaza. We have to remember that Gaza is controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. We would expect there to be different procedures. There are different procedures for entering the United States if you’re coming from a territory controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. So we do understand that there are different procedures, but we have looked at the plans and the policies that Israel has put into place and decided that they meet the Visa Waiver Program. But we will continue to monitor their compliance going forward.

QUESTION: You are not concerned that Israel could use (inaudible) of this caveat that it has special security needs and so on to abuse this – these requirements that you demand of them?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what you mean with respect to taking advantage of, but we will be watching for compliance with the program very carefully.

QUESTION: And what recourse do Americans that are not treated equally upon entry or departure, what recourse do they have?

MR MILLER: They should just – they should report that to the United States embassy.

QUESTION: And in the event that there are repeated incidents, will there be, like, a pullback from that program?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to get into – I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals, other than to say, as I just said, that we monitor ongoing compliance with the program and have ability – have the ability to take steps up to and including excluding people from the – countries from the program going forward if they fail to stay in compliance.

QUESTION: Last question on this. A group of American rights groups – Arab American rights groups – have filed a suit against this. Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER: I don’t. I would refer you to the Department of Justice for comment on that.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the stat you just gave? You said since when more than a hundred thousand Americans have entered Israel without a visa?

MR MILLER: Since we started this trial period, which was July or –

QUESTION: So like, all Americans, right? That, like, includes people like me and you?

MR MILLER: I said over a hundred thousand –

QUESTION: Palestinian Americans?

MR MILLER: No, hold on. Over a hundred thousand American – let me just –

QUESTION: Matt, that means nothing. Americans who get into Israel with – unless they’re Palestinian Americans, with –

MR MILLER: I think you missed the second part of what I said. Over a hundred thousand Americans since we began trialing this program have entered Israel without a visa, and that includes tens of thousands of Americans on the Palestinian registry.

QUESTION: How many – all right. But saying more than a hundred thousand since the trial period began means absolutely nothing, okay?


QUESTION: No, it means nothing. Because you and I could get to Israel without a visa for years. That’s not the issue. So when you say tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans, or tens of thousands of Americans who are on the Palestinian registry, how many?

MR MILLER: I don’t have the exact number. Tens of thousands.

QUESTION: Well – but how do you know that they’re – how do you know it’s reciprocal? How do you know that this is reciprocity if you can’t give an exact number?

MR MILLER: I’m giving you “tens of thousands.” I don’t often – I oftentimes walk out here with numbers that are in a range without the exact number to tell you the – down to the decimal point.

All right. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Se Hoon Kim, Global Strat View. Last week, President Raisi’s visit to the United Nations actually carried on a lot of conversation in the public sphere. However, there were incidences where journalists from Iran International were harassed and attacked on the streets by Iranian diplomats. Namely, the – Iran International’s journalist Kian Amani was directly attacked and harassed by the protocol officer of Raisi, Reza Naghipour. I’m just wondering what your comment on that is and also would like to see your comment regarding the constant harassment and the targeting of Iranian dissidents located in the United States who are U.S. citizens, green card holders, and a lot of times asylees.

MR MILLER: So with respect to the first question, we actually put out a statement on this last week during the UN General Assembly in which we made very clear that we condemn the harassment and intimidation of journalists. And with respect to the harassment and intimidation of Iranian citizens living in the United States, of course we condemn that as well. We condemn transnational repression wherever it happens in the world.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today, Serbia is holding day of mourning after violent clashes in Kosovo on Sunday. The State Department so far didn’t send a message of condolences to the Serbian victims, and while Secretary Blinken expressed condolences for the loss of Kosovo police officer, there has been noticeable absence of any mention of the Serbian victims in his statement. What kind of message does this convey to the Serbs in Kosovo?

MR MILLER: I think we have pretty consistently expressed our condolences to the victims of violence in – both in this situation and around the world, and one of the messages we have had for both sides in this conflict is that they should refrain from violence and return to the EU-facilitated dialogue. That continues to be our message.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. What do you have for the tragic fire incident that happened late yesterday in a wedding party in Nineveh Province, Hamdaniya district in Iraq, where more than 100 people killed and many more injured?


QUESTION: So some of the victims are treat in local hospitals and some are in Kurdistan Region’s hospitals, but will you provide any medical assistance? And if needed, will you welcome them in – here in the United States hospitals?

MR MILLER: So first of all, we mourn the loss of life in the horrific fire that took place at a wedding in Hamdaniya in northern Iraq that killed more than – at least a hundred people and, to our understanding, critically injured 150 others. We express, of course, our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and we hope for a speedy recovery for those wounded.

With respect to the second part of your question, we do stand ready to support the Government of Iraq and its people at this tragic time. We have always stood by – we will always stand side by side with the people of Iraq and be ready to talk with the Iraqi Government about what – any assistance that we can provide. And with respect to the last question, I think it’s too early to get into what might occur.

QUESTION: Mexican media is reporting that Secretary Blinken will be hosting a high-level delegation of Mexican officials on Friday. Given the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, will this be the topic of discussion on Friday?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to get into – two days before the meeting what exactly we will talk about, but certainly migration issues are often issues that we talk about with our Mexican counterparts when we meet with them both here and in Mexico.

QUESTION: Who will be taking part from the U.S. side on this – on this meeting on Friday?

MR MILLER: Stay tuned. We’ll make announcements of that in the coming days.

QUESTION: But you confirm the meeting is happening?

MR MILLER: I’m going to make announcements about that in the very near future.

QUESTION: On Russia, Russian air force plane arrived in Pyongyang this week, and North Korea and Russia are taking steps to realize military cooperations. Any comment on that? Are you concerned about this?

MR MILLER: Sure. We have spoken to this a number of times and warned that arms discussions between Russia and the DPRK almost certainly continued during Kim Jong-un’s trip to Russia, and we believe that they continue as – in the aftermath of that trip. We think a burgeoning military relationship between Russia and the DPRK, including additional transfers of weapons from the DPRK to Russia and technology transfers from the DPRK – from Russia to the DPRK, will further undermine the global nonproliferation regime, would be in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that Russia itself voted for. And so we would urge the DPRK to abide by what it has said publicly and refrain from supplying arms to Russia.

With that, we’ll wrap for today. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.) # # #