US State Dept Presser

State Dept Presser – Aug 17, 2023

21 Min
State Dept Presser – Aug 17, 2023

The US State Dept held a Press Briefing on August 17, 2023 with Principal Dy Spokesperson Vedant Patel fielding questions. The Q-A on Pakistan and India is tweaked to appear upfront.

Some Excerpts

MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one very brief thing at the top and then happy to dive in.

So next week, on August 24th, Ukrainians will mark the 32-year anniversary of their declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. This will also be Ukraine’s second Independence Day since Russia’s full-scale, illegal, and unprovoked invasion began on February 22nd.

This year’s celebrations will be bittersweet for Ukraine’s people because, for the past 18 months, they have continued to face the Russian Government’s onslaught of brutal attacks. In addition to the Kremlin’s relentless bombings, they are also engaging in the systemic abduction and forced deportation of thousands of Ukraine’s children. And yet when faced with this kind of brutality, Ukrainians responded by continuing to support the defenses of their country and inspiring the world with their extraordinary courage and dedication to freedom.

As we approach the 18-month mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, let us remember President Biden’s words when he said that winning the war in Ukraine is to get Russia out of Ukraine completely. And as we support efforts toward a just and lasting peace, Ukraine is and will remain an independent, sovereign, democratic, and prosperous nation.

The U.S., along with our allies and partners, will continue to support to Ukraine for as long as it takes so Ukraine can defend itself from Russian aggression and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table when the time comes.

So, I’d like to take the opportunity to say happy Independence Day to the people of Ukraine.

MR PATEL: Jalil, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Patel. Nice to see you. So now when the U.S. has accepted the cypher reality, does the State Department agree that now basically the fabric of democracy is shattered in Pakistan or not?

MR PATEL: I don’t understand what you’re referring to, Jalil.

QUESTION: After the regime change of Imran Khan, now how the democracy is going in Pakistan, does the State Department see as being democracy or shattered democracy?

MR PATEL: So what I will just say – and I spoke a little about this earlier this week – there was a caretaker prime minister in government put in place in Pakistan. We look forward to continuing to partner with Pakistan on a number of issues, but especially as they gear up for elections to take place in the forthcoming time. So I will just leave it at that.

Yeah. Goyal, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. India just celebrated 77 years of independence, and 1.4 billion people are now waiting G20 leaders from around the globe, including, of course, President Biden and the Secretary of State, I’m sure. Secretary of State must be working, sir, on the background. Many issues will be discussed there between the President Biden and the Prime Minister Modi and other leaders in New Delhi, two days’ conference.

Two things are there. One, terrorism is on the rise in the region, and climate problems are there. Do you think some of these issues will be discussed, including, of course, Russia’s war against Ukraine, among others?

MR PATEL: I’m not going to get ahead of the G20 Summit, Goyal, but the issues that you outlined, of course, are important bilateral issues that we look forward to discussing with India in any context as well as other members of the G20, whether that be security cooperation, the opportunity to discuss climate and energy issues, and, of course, Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine.

QUESTION: A follow-up (inaudible).

QUESTION: Sir, just quickly follow – quickly.

MR PATEL: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Now Russia’s war against Ukraine is over 500 days and most powerful leaders from around the globe will be in New Delhi. You think there will be  some kind of solution or some kind of agreement? Because millions and millions of people are suffering around the globe in one or another way because of this war.

MR PATEL: We would welcome any country that, one, wants to take steps to support our Ukrainian partners, and two, we would welcome any country playing a role in conveying, continuing to convey to the Russian Federation that – how important and dire it is that they leave Ukraine altogether and stop attempting to violate Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Jalil, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Goyal was talking about just the increase in terrorism in the region.


QUESTION: I’m sure you know about Benazir Bhutto being assassinated, I’m sure you know about a guy named Mangal Bagh from Pakistan who was shot dead by a U.S. drone in Afghanistan. Is the U.S. at all concerned about the safety and security of Imran Khan being assassinated in jail because – has the U.S. shown any concerns at all?

MR PATEL: So our message continues to be clear to our partners in Pakistan that anybody held in detention should be [afforded] human rights consistent with international law and that continues to be the case here. I will let Pakistan speak about any other details as it relates to Imran Khan’s case.

QUESTION:  Can you say whether or not the Secretary has gotten a letter from a lawyer for a Dr. Tahawwur Rana, who is wanted – India is seeking his extradition in relation to the Mumbai attacks a while ago. He was a co-defendant of David Headley, who you’re probably aware of. Anyway, he was acquitted here in the U.S., but the Indians are seeking his extradition, and his lawyer sent a letter asking the Secretary to deny this surrender certification on this. I know that you don’t like to talk about extradition requests, but can you at least say whether he’s gotten the letter, and is it going to be responded to?

MR PATEL: So this, Matt, as you so note, is a pending extradition matter, and so given the fact that it is pending, I don’t have any specific comment to offer.

QUESTION: And you said you – can you at least confirm that he has received the letter —or that his office has received the letter?

MR PATEL: — I’m just not going to comment on a pending extradition matter, but —

QUESTION: Is it correct or not that when the Secretary of State signs off on the final off on the final surrender, on the extradition request?

MR PATEL: I’m sure the Department of Justice can outline the specific steps that are required in an extradition matter.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Department of State can also confirm that – what I know to be true, which I don’t understand why you’re not saying it here, is that the Secretary of State has the final signature on a surrender.

MR PATEL: That is broadly speaking, that is my understanding of the process, but I’m sure —

QUESTION: And so why can’t you say whether or not you’ve gotten a letter (inaudible)?

MR PATEL: Because the process continues to be pending, Matt. But what I can say is that  we are committed to confronting terrorism across the world, and we continue to call for those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks to be brought to justice. But I’m not —

QUESTION: Okay. But that’s not my question. My question is whether the Secretary has or has not received a letter seeking – asking him to deny or reject the surrender order for this —

MR PATEL: I am not confused by the question you’re asking. I am just simply stating to that —I don’t have additional comment since its pending.

QUESTION: I’ve got a couple but they’re all kind of logistical and I think they can be dispensed with in less than a minute. One, the Secretary met this morning with Ron Dermer. Where it was suggested there would be a readout of that. Do you have one?

MR PATEL: I am sure that a readout will be forthcoming. But yes, the Secretary met this morning with Strategic Affairs Minister Dermer. This was a routine engagement where they discussed a wide variety of issues. A number of those, of course, as you can imagine, were the United States’s ironclad commitment to Israel and Israel’s security. They of course talked about the importance to de-escalate tensions and the United States commitment to a two-state solution. They also discussed regional challenges like the continued threat posed by Iran and its proxies, and as well as they discussed Israel’s further integration into the region as well. But I am sure there will be a formal readout coming soon enough.

QUESTION: And visa waiver, did that come up?

MR PATEL: I’m sure it was discussed, but I don’t have a specific list for you.

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, has the Secretary left for Camp David yet?

MR PATEL: I do not believe so.

QUESTION: But he is going to be going this afternoon?

MR PATEL: He will be joining the President for the trilateral summit that we spent a good amount of time talking about earlier this week.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one, which is logistical as well, which is the sanctions that were announced for the people you believe who are responsible for the poisoning of Navalny. Can you explain why you have publicly identified these people as  subject to travel bans?

MR PATEL: So Matt, that – therein lies in the specific designation, which is a 7031(c) designation, which is a unique authority that allows the public identification of those who have been designated. I know that there’s probably some confusion out there with some of the other authorities that exist  on the subject of visa restrictions.

QUESTION: No, there’s actually not any confusion. what it is that you guys decide to make these names public when you want to even when they are covered by other parts of the law. And so, I just want to know why in this case —

MR PATEL: And again, it is because they are – they are 7031(c) designations, which are different from 212(a)(3)(C) designations under the INA, in which we are not able to publicly identify —

QUESTION: So in other words (inaudible) complain about this should go to Congress rather than to you? Is that what you’re saying?

MR PATEL: I mean, you’re welcome to take your complaint anywhere. I’m just sharing with you the facts.

All right. Simon.

QUESTION: Thank you. If we could move on to Niger?


QUESTION: So I guess you’ve seen comments coming out of ECOWAS, the West African states, a lot of tough rhetoric and sort of talking about their commitment to a military intervention if things don’t change in Niger. So I wonder, do you – does the U.S. have some concern about this, heightened concern given that – about this sort of spilling over into a regional conflict?

MR PATEL: I would echo what many of you heard the Secretary say earlier this week, which is that we support what ECOWAS is doing, and this is the moment to continue to focus intensively on diplomacy, which ECOWAS has also stated that continues to be their priority, and that any kind of military intervention is a last resort. So we’re focused on finding a diplomatic solution and we’re working in close contact with ECOWAS, but I am certainly not going to get ahead of this or go into hypotheticals.

QUESTION: But you support the use of – the threat of military action as a last resort —

MR PATEL: Again, I am not going to get into hypotheticals. What we are – have said is that we want to find a diplomatic solution to this. This is something that ECOWAS and other regional partners share as well, and it’s something that we’re going to continue to work in close coordination with with ECOWAS, with the African Union, with others as well.

QUESTION: And if it continues to – if the junta continues not to heed these warnings, are you concerned that that’s going to lead to – would you have more specific in terms about the safety of President Bazoum given, I guess, what we’ve heard could happen to him in the event of a conflict?

MR PATEL: Our – the safety and well-being of President Bazoum and his family has been an area of immense concern to us since this attempted takeover took place, and that continues to be the case. And of course that’s something that we have been very clear about to the CNSP, is that President Bazoum’s well-being and his safety continues to be their responsibility. It’s something that we are continuing to pay close attention to, and we’ll hold appropriate actors involved accountable should that – should that change.

On top of that, though, we continue to maintain our strong desire for seeking a diplomatic solution that we believe and that we hope will respect the constitutional order in Niger.

QUESTION: And just finally, is there – is there an ongoing conversation or contacts between U.S. officials and members of the junta that —

MR PATEL: We have remained deeply engaged in this since it took place, but I don’t have any specific calls to read out or offer.

Yeah. Kylie, go ahead.



QUESTION: If no one has Niger – okay. So CNN put out new reporting today about a gruesome massacre on June 15th in West Darfur, Sudan by the Rapid Support Forces and allied militias, where they hunted down non-Arab people, and according to one humanitarian worker, more than a thousand people were killed that day. Does the State Department have any response? Did this building know anything about what appears to be one of the bloodiest days in that country that we’ve seen to date?

MR PATEL: So on August 9th, in her remarks to the UN Security Council, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield spoke a great deal about this and stressed the U.S. Government’s condemnation in the strongest terms to these reported atrocities, which are horrific reminders of the events that led us to determine in 2004 that genocide had been committed in Darfur. While these atrocities have been taking place in Darfur – reportedly have been committed by the RSF and affiliated militia – our view is, though, that both sides have been responsible for abuses and both the RSF and the SAF must cease fighting, ensure their forces respect human rights and international law, and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities and other abuses, as well as allow for the unhindered humanitarian access as well.

And we are going to continue to condemn and confront these kinds of actions in the strongest terms, but I don’t have anything additional to offer on that from here.

QUESTION: Has anyone from the U.S. Government reached out to members of the RSF after these days, which appear to have amounted into a massacre?

MR PATEL: I’m not aware of any specific engagements to read out or read out from here, but I’m happy to check if there – if we have any additional information as it relates to that.

QUESTION: So really it’s just condemnation from the U.S. Government right now, no action to try and hold those accountable, even though you say both sides are to fault here?

MR PATEL: Look, we – I’m certainly not going to preview actions or steps from up here. The United States, when it’s come to atrocities like this, we have taken steps to hold relevant parties accountable, and we continue to work with regional partners on this, and we’ll take appropriate steps as needed. I’m just not going to preview them from up here.

Okay. Nike, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can I go to China?

MR PATEL: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Americans wrongfully detained in China? Secretary spoke to Paul Whelan on Wednesday, and five Americans detained by Iran have been released, now put on house arrest. Those Americans wrongfully detained by China, their families are asking when can they see their loved ones return home. Do you have any update on that? And is this something that the Secretary plan to discuss when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is –

MR PATEL: So, I – Nike, I would want nothing more than to be able to stand up here today and say that every American national who has been deemed wrongfully detained is on their way back home to the United States. As it relates to the Americans who we have wrongfully detained in the PRC, I don’t have any updates. Our work to bring them home continues.

But yes, you can absolutely expect that in every opportunity this administration, this government will press for their release and for their swift return home. That is something we have done, and that’s something we will continue to do.

QUESTION: South China Sea.

MR PATEL: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on reports by the Associated Press that China appears to be constructing an airstrip on a disputed South China Sea island that is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, the Triton Island, according to satellite photos? Does that conflict with the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific? Thank you very much.

MR PATEL: So freedom of the seas and adherence to international law in the South China Sea are vital interests for the international – entire international community. Our view is that the PRC’s reclamation and militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, its willingness to use coercion and intimidation, along with other provocative actions undertaken to enforce its expansion in unlawful – in the South China Sea, these kinds of activities undermine the peace and security of the region. And Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea. And in the name of its – of enforcing its expansive and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, the PRC is interfering with the navigational rights and freedoms that accrue to all states.

Julia, you had your hand up. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sticking with the wrongfully detained Americans, I wanted to ask you about the Secretary’s call with Paul Whelan.


QUESTION: I know that the word “frank” has been one going around to characterize it. If you had anything to add on that?

MR PATEL: So I can confirm that Secretary Blinken spoke with Paul Whelan yesterday, on August 16th. I’m not going to get into the details of that call, beyond noting that the Secretary was able to hear directly from Paul about his condition and was able to tell Paul that President Biden and he remain committed to bringing him home and are doing everything they can to do so. I will just note, again, that Secretary Blinken offered Russia a serious proposal for Paul Whelan’s release, and that our view continues to be that Russia should immediately release Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich.

QUESTION: Paul’s brother released a statement earlier today saying that the substantial proposal from ’22 – 2022 has, as you all have noticed, I’m sure, dropped from State Department’s messaging. You just referenced it just now, but is there another proposal perhaps in the works that Russia would be more willing to look at, with different concessions, given that they haven’t seriously responded to this one?

MR PATEL: So I’m just not going to get into the specifics of the ongoing discussions and negotiations around Paul’s release. What I can say is that we have been clear and consistent about the need to release Paul Whelan. We did so when Secretary Blinken briefly spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov in New Delhi on the margins of the G20 summit, when the Secretary again spoke to —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: The G20 foreign ministers ministerial. Thank you, Matt. Always here to correct us.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: He had the opportunity to raise this with Foreign Minister Lavrov again when he spoke to the foreign minister shortly after Evan Gershkovich’s detention. And so we have been clear and consistent that the Russian Federation should immediately release Paul Whelan and Evan as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) all that. The offer that’s been on the table is the offer; there isn’t an updated or new one?

MR PATEL: I have no updates or anything to offer on the discussions on this.

QUESTION: Switching topics, I just have one more related to Russia. Reports of Putin speaking with his Iranian counterpart, discussing Iran’s future membership in the BRICS grouping. I was wondering if the State Department has a comment on that possibility.

MR PATEL: I’ve not seen the reports of that call. I would let those two countries speak to their own engagements. And the United States, of course, is not a party to BRICS.

But what I will say again – and you’ve heard me say this week and will reiterate in this context – is that Iran continues to partake in a number of malign and destabilizing activities. At the nexus with Russia is their provision of drones to the Russian Federation for use in Ukraine. That is something, of course, that the United States takes serious issue with. And we, of course, in coordination with our allies and partners, will continue to hold both the Iranian regime as well as the Russian Federation accountable for the use of these drones on our Ukrainian partners.

QUESTION: Follow up on that?

MR PATEL: Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: This week marked 11 years of Austin Tice’s being kidnapped. In light of today’s sanctions, some of us have heard from his mom in town earlier this week. Did the Secretary have – or anyone in this building had a chance to meet with his mom this week?

MR PATEL: So I don’t have any meetings or engagements to read out. What I will say is that the Secretary, Ambassador Carstens, this department has the opportunity to engage with family members of our wrongfully detained or held hostage American citizens frequently. It’s something that we take really seriously, and it’s something that we’ll continue to do over the course of their cases.

Jackson, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I did not see the schedule change. Regarding Iran allegedly assisting Russia to build 6,000 attack drones, according to The Washington Post, does that throw a wrench in the negotiations over the hostages?

MR PATEL: So first, it’s not alleged. We know quite clearly that the Iranian regime is providing drones to the Russian Federation and that they’re being used in Ukraine. Number two, what the news that we shared last week about these five American citizens who have been released from the Evin Prison and moved to house arrest – that issue is separate from all of our other issues as it relates to the Iranian regime. And we will continue to take steps to hold the Iranian regime accountable for their malign, destabilizing activities in the region, as well as more broadly as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: If I could turn your attention to Nicaragua. The University of Central America – they’re a top-notch Jesuit school – property, money, and assets all seized by the Ortega government just the other day, the latest attack on the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. Your – the administration’s response, please?

MR PATEL: So the Ortega-Murillo’s seizure of the Jesuit-run Universidad Central Americana represents the further erosion of democratic norms and a stifling civic space. This is a premier center of academic excellence, independent inquiry, and hope for future in Nicaragua. The U.S. condemns the regime’s ongoing repression of religious figures and institutions, and we call for the immediate, unconditional release of individuals of conscience imprisoned in Nicaragua, including Bishop Álvarez. The decision is a further sign that Ortega and Murillo continue to embrace authoritarianism and undermine all independent institutions in Nicaragua. Despite their efforts, they cannot extinguish freedom of thought, and we’re going to continue to use diplomatic and economic tools to promote accountability for such acts.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. believe Álvarez is still alive? There’s, like, one lawmaker, Representative Chris Smith – he’s demanding proof; the Nicaraguan Government, Ortega, show proof that Rolando Álvarez is alive. Is the U.S. going to demand proof, to see that?

MR PATEL: I have no different assessment to offer from up here. Again, our call is for the immediate and unconditional release.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So today the Treasury Department sanctioned two Syrian-based militia responsible for human rights abuses in northern Syria. So these groups and others close to Türkiye have displaced tens of thousands of Kurdish people used to live in Afrin. So does the United States Government take Türkiye and this group as responsible for the demographic change in Afrin?

MR PATEL: So our view is that we believe the rights of all Syrians should be respected, and we’ll continue to identify and seek to hold to account individuals who abuse or violate those rights, including those related to housing, land, property rights in – those remaining in Syria and those who have been displaced. And we continue to encourage all parties to act in a manner that promotes peaceful coexistence and respect for human rights as well.

Diyar, go ahead.

QUESTION: After her return from the Washington to Iraq in the last 30 days, Ambassador Romanowski, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has met almost all the Iraqi leaders, including the political parties, but not the Iraqi president and also the Kurdish leaders. And yesterday the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. was here at the State Department, and he met with the Assistant Secretary Lee. Were there any new message to the Iraqi leaders? And why all these meetings are happening at this current time?

MR PATEL: So I’m not going to get into the specifics of private diplomatic conversations. But what I will say is that when Ambassador Romanowski returned to Iraq following the joint security and defense dialogue here in D.C., she met with Iraqi political leadership to share the outcomes of the discussion. U.S. officials here in D.C. meet regularly with Iraqi diplomats, including the Iraqi ambassador, and it is of course normal business for diplomats of all countries to meet with counterparts across the government. And I don’t have anything additional to add beyond just reiterating that the U.S. supports a stable, secure, and sovereign Iraq.

QUESTION: Why there were no meetings with the Iraqi president?

MR PATEL: Again, I just don’t have any other information to provide on this.

Kylie, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a sort of non-news of the day question for you, but we won’t see you up here for a while, so I wanted to ask about the closure of the Anglo-American School in Russia. It happened this spring. We all know that. But I’m just wondering if you have any response to that school closing after decades, where U.S. diplomats’ children went to that school, and what it means for the diplomatic community.

MR PATEL: Certainly. So of course I think the closure of any school that has been integral to an American mission in any country, of course, has serious unintended consequences, especially as it relates to the families of our diplomats and our personnel abroad. I don’t have any other specifics to offer on this situation, Kylie, but I think this is yet another example of when actions by the Russian Federation make it more challenging and more complicated for our mission and embassy personnel and the facility itself to function when aspects that impact family life end up being more challenging.

QUESTION: And are you able to share with us where the State Department has suggested that diplomats with children send their children to school in Russia now?

MR PATEL: I certainly just wouldn’t get into those kinds of specifics from up here.


QUESTION: So, two quick questions on the Palestinian issue.


QUESTION: Israel is allocating about $180 million to expand and build illegal settlements and outposts in the West Bank – illegal outposts in the West Bank – to expand them. I wonder if you’re aware of this report and if you have any comment on that.

MR PATEL: So our views on this, Said, have been clear and consistent that the expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution. It incites tensions and it further harms trust between the two parties. And we strongly oppose the advancements of settlements and urge Israel to refrain from this activity, including the promotion of outposts. We take this issue very seriously, and it impinges on the viability of a two-state solution, as I just said.

QUESTION: I mean, I know. Your position is very clear, and I think the Israelis see this. They definitely watch this briefing. But, I mean, again, I hate to keep revisiting this issue over and over again, but without leverage, it seems that the Israelis will just dismiss this as just another statement – old, worn-out statement.

MR PATEL: Said, I think you are minimizing the impact that diplomacy can have, the potential impact that it can have, not just in that region but in any part of the world. We, this government, speaks in unison when talking about this issue, and it’s something that the Secretary is clear about with his counterparts, the President is clear about, others in this building who work on these very important issues are clear about with their appropriate interlocutors as well.

QUESTION: So, I mean, speaking of leverage and so on, the United States just greenlighted, basically, a deal that Israel concluded with Germany to the tune of $3.5 billion. I mean, that’s almost as much as the United States gives Israel a year in military aid. My question to you: if they can cut this kind of deal on weapons and so on, why are the American taxpayers obligated to subsidize Israel with $3.8 billion? Obviously they don’t need this aid that you send them.

MR PATEL: Said, the United States’s role here, in my understanding, is a – there is a third-party transfer equity piece of this that the United States approved. But beyond that, I will let our Israeli and German partners speak to the further details of this.

QUESTION: One last thing. Anything new on the nomination of Jack Lew for ambassador?

MR PATEL: I have no personnel announcement to announce. Thank you.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Speaking of Lew, I know you can’t speak to hypotheticals, but at the time you’re looking at a U.S.-Israeli relationship that’s incredibly complicated as it is, a bruising confirmation process in the Senate right now; you’ve got a presidential election coming up. Broadly speaking, regardless of who the nominee might be for the ambassadorial position, what in the administration’s view is the worthwhileness of floating a nomination at this point in time before the next presidential election?

MR PATEL: Well, let me say a couple of things. First, to take a step back, we think it is important to have confirmed ambassadors in as many capitals as we can. You saw the Secretary come down here and make that point a number of weeks ago. We of course – it’s important when, before those nominations become public, that the appropriate processes are run before any individual is announced. That is, of course, the case in any situation.

But also, in the meantime, we of course have incredibly qualified CDAs in charge of our missions in places where we don’t have confirmed ambassadors. But it is clear that a confirmed ambassador conveys the approval and the strength of confirmation of Congress, as well as being personally nominated by the President of the United States. So not just in Israel but in any country, it is incredibly important to have as many confirmed ambassadors as possible.

QUESTION: So how do you balance that against Israel becoming what is likely to become a political football issue in the Senate right now? How does the administration balance those two interests?

MR PATEL: So I – one, we have a number of ambassadorial nominations pending before the Congress still. We think our colleagues in Congress should move on those and get those individuals confirmed as soon as possible. And whenever this administration  announce its nominee to be the ambassador to Israel, we look forward to working with our partners in Congress on moving that forward. I don’t think it is lost on anybody how vitally important American interests are in that region and how important it is that when the time comes, to have a confirmed ambassador there.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I have two more questions since we’re not going to see you the next couple of weeks. Iran.


QUESTION: The Secretary told us earlier this week we will not – we will continue to hold the regime accountable for its human rights abuses. Yesterday marked 11 months since Mahsa Amini was murdered and next month will be first anniversary. There are calls from the Hill to sanction Iranian leadership including the supreme leader. Is it something that the department is considering?

MR PATEL: I am just not going to preview sanctions or designations from up here, Alex, but in the very tragic and brutal case of Mahsa Amini, we, of course, have not hesitated to take steps to hold perpetrators and violators of human rights in Iran accountable. You saw us do so at regular intervals over the course of the last year and we’ll continue to take steps to do so. And of course, the Iranian regime’s crackdown of human rights and its clear violations of human rights continues to be a threat posed by them that we will continue to tackle and challenge in close coordination with allies and partners in the region, but across the world broadly also.

QUESTION: Thank you. And on Azerbaijan, the case of Gubad Ibadoghlu, there are calls from the Hill, among civil society members, and most recently UN human rights body urging the government to release him on humanitarian grounds because of his deteriorating health situation. Is this the sentiment that you guys’ share?

MR PATEL: I’m going to have to check on that case, Alex, and we can follow back up with you.

QUESTION: I asked this question, like, three times and the line the State Department came up with was urging the government to respect human rights, some vague language for the Azerbaijani Government. Why not calling for his release if you want him to be released?

MR PATEL: Again, Alex, this is just a case I’m going to have to check back on and I’m happy to follow up with you offline.

QUESTION: On Bahrain.


QUESTION: There are a number of human rights activists, there are others, who have – who have been imprisoned, some of whom are now on hunger strike. There is one in particular whose name escapes me at the moment. He’s a Danish-Bahraini citizen. You – I recognize he’s not an American citizen or an LPR —


QUESTION: — but you have spoken about his case in the past. He’s on a hunger strike, and I’m just wondering – there are a couple of important dates coming up in his detention. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR PATEL: Yeah, let me say a couple of things. First, we are aware of and concerned of the reports of this hunger strike at the Jaw Rehabilitation and Reform Centre. We have raised human rights issues with Bahraini officials, including as recently as the Secretary’s July 20th meeting with the Bahraini foreign minister, where we also expressed concern about some of these reports. Broadly, though, Matt, the U.S. is committed to promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world, and we urge Bahrain to continue to make progress on criminal justice reforms and ensure human rights standards are upheld.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thank you, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.) ###