State Dept Presser – Dec 13, 2023
The US State Dept spokesperson Mathew Miller held a presser on Dec 13, 2023.
The Q-A on Afghanistan -Bangladesh -Pakistan -Sri Lanka has been tweaked to appear upfront.
MR MILLER: All right. I don’t have any opening remarks.
QUESTION: Matt. I have a couple of questions on Bangladesh and one on Sri Lanka. Could you please share the State Department’s stance on the investigative report by Financial Times today, which reports that Sheikh Hasina’s government in Bangladesh orchestrated a planned propaganda campaign involving fake news, fake videos, using artificial intelligence tools against the United States and Bangladesh opposition political parties in the context of upcoming dummy election?
MR MILLER: We have seen the concerning news of deep fakes in election-related disinformation in Bangladesh. It’s part of a worrying trend around the globe of using AI to manipulate and influence democratic processes.
QUESTION: Six international human rights organization urge the international community to stand for the protection of fundamental rights in Bangladesh as the regime makes the whole country in prison ahead of so-called election of banning political activities, except election campaign from December 18.
On the other end, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Momen and his deputy claim that they will also be able to manage United States. After forming the government, he mentioned that U.S. will support the government. What is your response on that?
MR MILLER: So we are deeply concerned by the reports of mass arrests of thousands of opposition members and reports of torture in prison. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence. We urge the Government of Bangladesh to work with all stakeholders to create conditions in which all may participate in the pre-election and election environment freely, without fear of violence or retribution. It is our belief that a healthy democracy benefits from a variety of voices speaking freely, engaged in dialogue and discussion in an exchange about the issues of the day.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I know a lot of people are asking a question on Bangladesh. Do you have any new news for new sanction against Bangladesh before election on 7th of January?
MR MILLER: I do not have any new sanctions to announce today. It is our longstanding practice not to preview sanctions actions before we take them.
QUESTION: On Sri Lanka, in a bipartisan resolution of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee asks the Government of Sri Lanka to listen to the – and respect the rights of – the Sri Lankan people by addressing corruption and sharing justice for human rights abuse and holding free, fair, local and provincial elections without further delay. What is your comment on that?
MR MILLER: So we always support accountability for corruption and, of course, the holding of free and fair elections.
QUESTION: The Pakistani army chief is in Washington seeking U.S. support against alleged terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan. What kind of support is the U.S. willing to offer Pakistan, and will drone strikes be considered?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment with respect to his meetings, other than that generally speaking we look forward to partnering with the Pakistani Government on regional security and defense cooperation. We have taken a number of steps to partner with them this year on antiterrorism activities. In March, the United States and Pakistan held a high-level counterterrorism dialogue to discuss the shared terrorist threats facing our two countries and to develop strategies to cooperate in critical areas, such as border security and countering the financing of terrorism. And we fund several counterterrorism capacity-building programs in Pakistan focused on law enforcement and justice, and we look forward to carrying out that work.
QUESTION: Can I ask on Afghanistan?
MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: CBS spoke with the family of Ryan Corbett, an American who’s been unlawfully detained by the Taliban, has been held captive there for 16 months. We were told as part of our reporting that Special Representative Tom West just met with Taliban representatives in Doha, and per their – the State Department’s readout of that meeting, detainees, including Ryan, were a central focus of the conversation. A Taliban readout didn’t mention detainees at all, so we’re curious how willing you believe the Taliban to be to engage on the topic of detainees at this moment.
MR MILLER: I don’t want to try to assess their willingness. What I will say is that, of course, we have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. Not just in this meeting but in previous meetings we have continually pressed for the release of Americans detained in Afghanistan. Special Representative West did meet with a representative of the Taliban this week and pressed for the release of Ryan Corbett and other American detainees. It is something that we never lose focus on, and I’d say that from the Secretary on down, a number of people in this – this building and this administration work on it. So I wouldn’t want to assess their willingness other than to say it is the highest priority for us and we will continue to work on it.
QUESTION: One quick follow-up, because I believe the last sort of formal readout of U.S. officials’ interactions with the Taliban was issued in July. How would you characterize the level, the pace, the tenor of interactions with the Taliban since that time, including in recent months?
MR MILLER: I don’t think I have one to characterize other than to say that we meet with them when it’s in our interest to do so, and one of the reasons we do meet with them is we want to see these Americans returned and we want to do everything in our power to do so.
QUESTION: Yesterday there was a vote in the General Assembly, which was pretty overwhelming, and the President came out and made his remarks saying that Israel is losing international support, specifically – or one of the reasons: for indiscriminate bombing.
So, I want to know, one, what does the administration think about the overwhelming nature of this vote yesterday? And two, does the State Department in particular share the President’s view that Israel has been indiscriminately bombing in Gaza?
MR MILLER: Let me take them in order. So first, with respect to the vote, I would say it’s not the first time that Israel has not done well in a vote in the UN. You’ve seen the UN take a number of votes, oftentimes by fairly dramatic margins with respect to Israel, when we have disagreed with the outcome of those votes. So this is not the first time that has happened.
I would think what you can take away from that vote, though, is that it is clear that the world wants this conflict to end, which is a goal that we share. We want this conflict to end; we don’t want to see it go on a day longer than is necessary. But we also don’t think that stopping the campaign right now and allowing the plotters of the October 7th attacks to continue to operate, to continue to command fighters, to continue to sit in their tunnels stockpiling weapons and maintaining the ability to continue to launch terrorist attacks against Israel is in the long-term security interests of anyone in the region.
We think that the October 7th attacks should have been a wake-up call to everyone that the status quo that has existed in Gaza is not in the national security interests of Israel, it’s not in the national security interests of the Palestinian people, it’s not in the national security interests of the broader region or, in fact, the world. So we think if you want to see lasting peace, which is our goal and we hope is everyone’s goal, including everyone who voted for that resolution, you need to see Hamas removed from authority in Gaza and governance established in Gaza that reflects the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people and that can eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
With respect your second question, so we have not made a formal determination to that question. What I believe the President was speaking to – and of course the White House can speak to his exact comments – was the impact of the large-scale bombing campaign that we’ve seen where thousands of civilians have been killed. And it’s something that we’ve spoken to that we have seen too many civilians killed. We understand Israel’s intent, but as the Secretary has said, what also matters is the results, which is why we have continued to encourage them to take additional steps to protect civilians from harm.
QUESTION: So there is no inquiry or ongoing, like, investigation into whether that has happened or not?
MR MILLER: We continue to monitor what’s happening, we continue to collect information at a variety of levels, but I don’t have any internal deliberations or processes to speak to.
QUESTION: Yeah, but is there any credible collaboration or process –
MR MILLER: I’m just not going to speak to beyond saying that we continue to monitor and collect information.
QUESTION: Well, does that – well, but, I mean, one could infer from that that, yes, there is an ongoing process inside the administration, or one could infer from it that there isn’t and it’s not something that is being considered.
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to the internal deliberations. I’ll say we are monitoring, we collect information, and we continue to engage in conversations with the Israeli Government about the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law as they conduct this campaign.
QUESTION: Okay. And my last one is – because you said that October 7th showed that the status quo in Gaza was not sustainable, but yet, over the last, like, almost decade, you and Israel have done virtually nothing to change the status quo in Gaza.
MR MILLER: Let me speak to that exact question with respect to this administration. So we have, since day one, made clear our policy was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. And you may recall, Matt, we were planning a trip to the Middle East for the week after the October 7th attacks and as part of that trip, the Secretary was going to visit Saudi Arabia, he was going to visit Israel, and we were going to talk about integration and normalization between those two states. And one of those – one of the things that we were – we had planned and put on the table was a very robust package of steps towards an independent Palestinian state. So it has not just been our policy, it is something we were actively working towards in the leadup to October 7th.
But again, October 7th has happened; it has changed the landscape of the Middle East. We have made clear that we have a certain set of principles that we think ought to be adhered to going forward. One of those principles is that Gaza cannot continue to be run by a terrorist organization and used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Israel.
QUESTION: What was the Gaza aspect of the – that was planned for the discussions with the Saudis and the Israelis before —
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get – there was – it was a robust package. I’m not going to get into what the details were because, obviously, we have moved well beyond that plan.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, I know, but when you say that October 7th made clear that the status quo in Gaza was not acceptable, what did this plan that you had with the Saudis envision for Gaza?
MR MILLER: I’m just not going to the details of that plan because, again, it has been very well overtaken by events.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that, collecting information? Can you clarify towards what end are you collecting information?
MR MILLER: Again, we are always monitoring the way this campaign is conducted. We are monitoring the way U.S. weapons are used. We are monitoring the way that other weapons are used. And we are in constant conversations with the government of Israel about steps that they can take to minimize civilian harm, about steps that they can take to establish enduring deconfliction routes – you’ve heard me talk about that from this podium before – so civilians can get out of harm’s way. There are a number of things that we continue to monitor and engage in conversations with the Israeli Government about.
QUESTION: Does the fact that you’re collecting information mean that you have seen potential signs of violations of international law that prompted you to start this?
MR MILLER: No, I would not take that conclusion at all. This is something that we always do with respect to conflicts all around the world, is that we monitor what’s happening, we collect information. But you should not read into it any more than that.
QUESTION: And then just on the UN resolution, it got more votes in favour than any of the General Assembly resolutions on Ukraine that denounced Moscow and demand it withdraw all its troops. Does that concern you at all and does the United States feel diplomatically isolated at all over its support for Israel?
MR MILLER: No, not at all. As I said, there is a long history of fairly overwhelming vote counts when it comes to resolutions that involve the state of Israel at the General Assembly. This is by no means a first. It goes back a number of years; it goes back decades on a number of different subjects. But as I said from this podium the other day, one of the things that we continue to hear about from our partners in the region and from countries all around the world is the indispensability of American leadership with respect to this issue. We hear it about other issues as well, but we’re talking about this conflict in the Middle East now. And you’ve seen this with the President convening G7 meetings that have produced statements calling for humanitarian pauses and other steps. You’ve seen this when the Secretary has travelled the world.
I can tell you when the Secretary travels and I sit in on his meetings – let’s leave aside the Middle East; when we were in Europe, when we were in Asia – we constantly hear from our counterparts both an encouragement of what we’re doing to try to keep the conflict from widening, to try to ensure that humanitarian assistance gets in. We hear the countries that want to engage with us and want to get information from us and want to ask us to do things on their behalf.
So we very much – what we see in our diplomatic engagements is, as I said, a continued demand from countries in the world that the United States of America continue to play a leadership role.
QUESTION: Matt, I wanted to follow up on what I asked you about the other day, about the images of the men who were detained and stripped in Gaza. Have you gotten any answers from the Israelis about these images?
MR MILLER: I said the other day we were going to seek information from the Israeli Government. We have. What they have informed us is that they conduct searches on detained individuals in Gaza to ensure that they are not wearing suicide vests, that they don’t have other weapons, that they pose no danger to IDF forces. They made clear to us, however, that these photographs should not have been taken, should not have been released, and they made it clear going forward that that will not be their practice and that if they do conduct searches of detainees, they will give them their clothes back immediately. Those are obviously appropriate steps to take.
QUESTION: And then more broadly, does the U.S. believe that Hamas can be militarily eliminated in the way that Israel is seeking?
MR MILLER: So, certainly, the military leadership, the current leadership of Hamas, can be militarily defeated. There are leadership individuals of Hamas who plotted the October 7th attacks. There are individuals who carried out the individual attacks who are hiding behind civilians in Gaza now. Those people can be found and they can be brought to justice. That is a military goal that we think is achievable. However – and you’ve heard the Secretary speak to this – you can’t defeat an idea on the battlefield. So it is incumbent upon Israel, it is incumbent upon other countries in the region, it is incumbent upon the United States and every country around the world who wants to be a responsible player to present a better idea. And that is why you have heard the Secretary repeatedly say at the end of this conflict there needs to be a legitimate answer for the aspirations of the Palestinian people. It’s why you saw us outline principles in Tokyo about what post – the post-government – post-conflict environment should look like in Gaza, and it’s why you’ve seen the Secretary engage in diplomacy in the region to talk about how we need to start down the path towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
QUESTION: And do you believe that the Palestinian Authority can still be revitalized in a way that you guys have spoken to in the past to lead a unified Palestinian state? There was an AP poll today saying that 90 percent want Abbas to step down.
MR MILLER: We do believe that. Obviously, the Palestinian Authority is not in a position to step in tomorrow and begin to administer Gaza. They’re not in a position tomorrow to step in and provide a secure – security assurances and policing and other security guarantees for Gaza. But we do believe that the Palestinian Authority is the representative of the Palestinian people, and a revitalized, reformed, revamped Palestinian Authority is the proper path forward for governance of a reunited West Bank and Gaza.
QUESTION: Two other separate topics on Israel. So where do conversations stand on whether aid can be not only inspected but admitted through Kerem Shalom crossing?
MR MILLER: So let me speak to the humanitarian assistance question in general. So, we have seen progress on a number of fronts in the past 24 hours. We’ve seen progress in the establishment of enduring deconfliction routes in southern Gaza, both so civilians can move around safely to get food, to get clean water, to get medicine if they need it, and for humanitarian assistance to be delivered. We’ve seen Israel publicizing four-hour pauses in southern Gaza, which is important for these very same reasons, so assistance can get in and people can move about. We’ve seen fuel – we’ve seen an increase in the amount of fuel that’s being delivered in to run desalinization plants and cooking oil for bakeries. We expect that to continue to increase today.
And yesterday we saw Kerem Shalom open for inspections, which is important to increase the capacity to inspect trucks that are moving in, and that happened at our urging. It’s something we’ve been working with them on for some time, something the Secretary and other members of the government have raised and pushed Israel on. And we hope that Kerem Shalom will be open for transit soon. It’s my understanding that that’s a matter that’s before the Israeli Government today, maybe a vote on it today. We hope it will be approved and that Kerem Shalom will be opened not just for inspections but for cargo to move in through Kerem Shalom, which would alleviate some of the traffic that – the traffic situation that’s existed at Rafah, and would help get more aid in to the people who need it.
QUESTION: Okay. And how much aid do you estimate or do you know is going in right today?
MR MILLER: I don’t have an estimate on the number of trucks and others that went in today.
QUESTION: Somewhat separately, does the U.S. share the Israeli assessment that Yahya Sinwar is in Gaza?
MR MILLER: I am just not going to speak to those assessments. I will leave it to the Israeli Government to make. I will say it is our assessment that – without speaking to any one individual, that the leadership of Hamas, who plotted, planned, and in some respects – in some cases carried out the attacks, do remain in Gaza.
QUESTION: Coming back to wiping out Hamas, what about the prospect of getting rid of its weapons? How is that done? Is there any way to verify that that could be done? Because it’s one thing to take out people, but if weapons still exist, someone could still take them up.
MR MILLER: I will let the Israeli Government and the Israeli Defense Forces, which are in the middle of a campaign right now addressing this very question, speak to that in detail how they are going about doing that. But I do think you get to one of the underlying problems here, which is we continue to see images coming out – like, so it’s one thing to – if Hamas – if you have a known command and control bunker where Hamas you know is operating. You can go and target that facility and collect the weapons. But one of the unfortunate things we have seen is that as Israel has moved into Gaza, you’ve seen images that the Israeli Government has made public where guns and weapons caches and rocket launchers and other military equipment are hidden inside homes, are hidden inside civilian infrastructure. So, it is a very serious problem that there exists not just a large number of Hamas fighters inside Gaza but a large amount of military equipment inside Gaza that of course poses a very legitimate security threat to Israel that they are going to have to deal with.
QUESTION: And then to come back to this localized four-hour pause to try to move in humanitarian aid, bigger picture, are there talks on trying to get four-hour pauses or four-day pauses to trade hostages for people held in Israeli prisons? Is there any progress on that?
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak to hostage negotiations from here. I’ve always made clear that that’s not something that I am willing to do, and you’ve heard that same answer from other members of this government. What I will say is that we, of course, would support a renewed pause for the purposes of releasing hostages. We were disappointed that the last one ended. We were disappointed that Hamas reneged on its deal to produce one of the women who it’s holding hostages, and we would welcome a resumption of a pause and welcome the resumption of a release of hostages, not just women but other hostages and ultimately the release of every hostage that Hamas is holding.
QUESTION: Are you seeing any indication that either party is willing to come back to the table, or are you sticking with the U.S.’s position that Hamas is holding up the resumption of these talks?
MR MILLER: Again, I just don’t think it’s productive for me to speak at all to negotiations in this regard.
QUESTION: Give me your (inaudible) reaction on the today’s prisoners exchange between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Two points there. What role, if any, you guys have played in this, given timing of it? Assistant secretary was in the region. And secondly, do you view this as part of broader effort to move the needle in the peace process?
MR MILLER: So the under-secretary – or the assistant secretary was in the region. This is something that we have encouraged, actively encouraged in talks with both governments. We welcome the return of the Armenian and Azerbaijani detainees earlier today and reports that additional confidence-building measures are being discussed. We will continue to work with Armenia and Azerbaijan to move the process forward. We continue to believe that peace is possible if both parties are willing to pursue it.
QUESTION: You made it clear last week that the Secretary is looking forward to having the ministers in town. What date did he have in mind?
MR MILLER: Stay tuned. I’m not going to make an announcement on that from here today.
QUESTION: Does the department have any position on Hungary’s blocking Ukraine European bid and also aid for Ukraine? I know your traditional position was we have no dog in it, but things are getting out of control in that part of the world.
MR MILLER: I will say that the United States and the EU have been resolute in standing with Ukraine. We believe now is the time to step up that support. It’s vital in our – to our national security and that of our European partners. We appreciate the EU’s continued efforts to provide financial support to Ukraine and hope that the EU can quickly agree on funding for 2024 and beyond.
QUESTION: And broadly speaking respecting yesterday’s conversation in this town, also what’s being discussed in Europe, on the point of border issue – I don’t want to drag you into domestic politics, but is there any research or any —
MR MILLER: But you’re going to try. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — let’s say assessment going on it? Is the department doing any assessment on what will the European and American borders look like if we allowed Putin win the war against the largest country in Europe?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to answer that question. That’s a hypothetical I’m not going to get into because we want Ukraine to win this war, and that’s why we think it’s so important that the United States Congress provide the security assistance that we have requested to Ukraine so it can win this war.
QUESTION: Thank you. My last topic, I promise.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the fresh charges against Alsu Kurmasheva in Russia and the latest developments, if there’s an update
MR MILLER: So I would say that we have seen those reports. We’re closely following her detention. We’re aware of the – that there may be possible charges against her because we’ve seen those reports. Again, we have sought consular access to her the Russian Government has not provided. We will continue to insist on it. They have acknowledged her detention to us, though they have not made a formal notification. And we, as always, take seriously our commitment to assist U.S. citizens abroad, and we will continue to do that in this case.
QUESTION: Now that they have acknowledged it, is there any doubt in your mind that she is wrongfully detained?
MR MILLER: That’s not a determination that we have made yet. But as I have said before, with all these cases, we are constantly assessing facts and the law and making the most appropriate determination.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the member of the Polish parliament who used a fire extinguisher to snuff out lights on a menorah in the parliament building there. I know the ambassador of Poland posted on X about this, but have you seen that video? Do you have any comment?
MR MILLER: I have not seen the video personally. I’ve seen the report. Obviously, that would I think be an inappropriate action to take, but not having seen the video myself and only seen the preliminary reports, I’d refer you to the comment made by the ambassador.
QUESTION: This seems like a pretty blatant example of antisemitism.
MR MILLER: I would say that we have, unfortunately, in the wake of October 7th seen a dramatic rise in antisemitism around the world. That has been one of the unfortunate outgrowths of these attacks, in the aftermath of the attack. We have made clear antisemitism is inappropriate in any form, just as we have made clear that Islamophobia is inappropriate in any form. And we will continue to make that clear to countries around the world.
QUESTION: Matt, I have two or three question. It’s small question. Israel is the best equipped army in the world, and they have the support of mighty USA. And they’re not fighting another country; they’re fighting a small group of people in Gaza strip. How come they are taking more than two months to win their goal? How come it’s still they are – it seems like they are struggling.
MR MILLER: They are facing an enemy who has had years to dig tunnels underneath a civilian population, to hide behind civilians, to arm itself, and who showed on October 7th possess, unfortunately, quite significant military capacity and quite significant ability to inflict torture upon the – inflict terrorism on the Israeli people. So I think what you’ve seen is they are facing a very brutal, entrenched opponent, and they are well within their right to do everything they can to take on that opponent and do everything possible to ensure that October 7th is not repeated.
QUESTION: Eva. I’m with Epoch Times.
MR MILLER: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. So yesterday, the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party issued a bipartisan policy proposal with 150 recommendations, and they are calling for a reset on the relationship with China. Specifically, some of the recommendations include restricting outbound investment and raising tariffs on goods imported from China. So I’m wondering, like, how much support would you perceive from the Biden administration on these policy proposals?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak with respect to those specific proposals, but we have imposed restrictions on outbound investment. We have imposed sanctions and export controls that target specific sectors of the Chinese economy when we’ve seen inappropriate activities. We have made clear to the Chinese Government – the Secretary has made this clear, the President has made this clear – that we will continue to take those actions when it is in our national security interest to do so, but at the same time, we want the ability to work with China both on issues of mutual concern between our two countries and on broader global issues when it makes sense to do so.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. I have two questions. First one: Israel has a serious plan to flood the tunnels in Gaza with seawater. This action will threaten the lives of hostages and cause environmental disaster. Do you agree with this military plan? And what are you going to do to stop Israel from this madness plan?
MR MILLER: I’ve seen the reports of that activity. I will leave it to Israel to speak to the details of its military campaigns, but I will make clear publicly the same thing we’ve said to them privately, that with respect to any tactic that they carry out, it should be done with – in compliance with international humanitarian law and in a way that is designed to maximize civilian protection.
QUESTION: Okay, the other question: The American administration consistently express its concern about the safety of civilian in Gaza, but in fact, the weapons supplied by United States are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilian, most of them children, women, and elderly people. So why doesn’t United State administration put strict condition on the use of these weapons to protect the Palestinian civilians?
MR MILLER: So there – with respect to every weapon that we transfer, not just to Israel but to every country around the world, there are conditions on the transfer of those weapons and we expect that they will be used in full compliance with international humanitarian law. And one of the things that we continue to engage with the Government of Israel about is that – is steps that they can take to minimize civilian harm. You’ve heard me talk about those steps from here today. You’ve heard me talk to them other days, as has the Secretary, as has the President.
We believe that far too many Palestinian civilians have died as a result of this conflict. We want to see Israel take additional steps to protect innocent civilians. We want to see them establish these enduring deconfliction zones and enduring pauses so – that are predictable so civilians know where they can go to get out of harm’s way, so civilians – so humanitarian assistants know that they can bring assistance in. I’ll go back to what I’ve said a number of times, which is this is such a difficult problem because you have Hamas continuing to embed itself in civilian homes, in civilian infrastructure, to use civilians as human shields, but that doesn’t in any way lessen Israel’s burden to do everything it can to protect civilians, and that is what we are engaging with them on a daily basis to try to achieve.
QUESTION: Has there been any contacts with the Israelis regarding this after Biden’s remarks yesterday? And what was the reaction from the Israelis? How is – does the U.S. plan to overcome this disagreement with Netanyahu government?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to any conversations that we may or may not have had since – in the last 24 hours, but I will say we have been quite clear for some time that there are steps that we think Israel needs to take that you have seen the Israeli Government come out and say they’re not prepared to take. And you’ve seen that at times we’ve overcome those disagreements; you saw it when the Secretary travelled to the region and wanted to achieve an increase of humanitarian assistance. The Israeli Government wasn’t able – willing to do it at first; we reached an agreement. You saw the Secretary come to the region and say we want to see humanitarian pauses implemented and the prime minister come out and say they were unwilling to do so, and then a few days later implement them. And you have seen most notably, I think, a very disagreement between us and the Government of Israel about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
So the same – the case that we have made to them privately, and we will continue to make publicly to them and to other countries in the region and around the world, is that there can be no lasting peace and security in the region without meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. We believe that is not just in the interests of the Palestinian people, but in the long-term security interests of the Israeli people.
One of the things that you have heard the Secretary say a number of times when talking about the steps that we have urged the Israeli Government to take is that a lot of the things we encourage them to do are not just the morally right thing to do, but are in Israel’s security interests, and that’s a case that we will continue to make to them.
QUESTION: Yesterday the Iranian foreign minister confirmed that his government is receiving messages from Washington weekly. But he said that this has nothing to do with Iran and these groups who are attacking the U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, they are defending the people in Gaza. Do you think that the Iranian Government derailing your messages and they are not taking your messages, and they have no will to rein their groups in Iraq and Syria from attacking your forces?
MR MILLER: I will say that the Secretary’s had a number of conversations, including a face-to-face meeting in Baghdad with Prime Minister Sadani, and has been very clear on two things: one, that we expect the Iraqi Government to take action against the groups that have carried out forces – that have carried out attacks against U.S. forces, and most recently against the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and that if they don’t, we will not hesitate to take the actions that we need to take to defend our personnel in the region. And I think I’ll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday there were a call between Secretary Blinken and Prime Minister Sudani, and in the statement –
MR MILLER: That’s what I was just referring to, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, in the statement it’s been said that the Secretary noted that these groups are doing these attacks with the support of Iran. But do you aware of that the groups that you named in the recent statements and the Pentagon statements, they are part of the popular mobilization groups, Hashd al-Sha’bi, and these groups are funded by the Iraqi Government; they’re receiving this year 2.7 billion from the Iraqi budget. Have you requested the Iraqi Government to cut the funds to these groups?
MR MILLER: Again, I am not going to speak to our private diplomatic conversations, other than to say that we have made quite clear that we expect the Iraqi Government to take action to hold these groups accountable…..
And with that, I will wrap for today. Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)
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