US State Dept Presser

State Dept Presser – Dec 6, 2023

25 Min
State Dept Presser – Dec 6, 2023

The US State Dept spokesperson Matthew Miller held a presser on Dec 6, 2023. The Q-A on Pakistan is tweaked to appear upfront.


MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. I will start with a few brief comments before moving to questions.

Today, the Secretary determined that members of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces have committed war crimes in Sudan. The Secretary also determined that members of the RSF and its allied militias have committed crimes against humanity as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against Darfur’s civilian population. Members of the RSF and allied militias have also committed ethnic cleansing.

The SAF and the RSF must end this brutal conflict. The warring parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and we call on them to protect civilians, hold accountable those responsible for atrocities and other abuses, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and negotiate an end to this conflict.

For too long, the belligerents have killed, raped, and attacked civilians with impunity in Sudan. The international community must work towards meaningful justice for victims and the affected communities and bring an end to this era of impunity. As we work with our African partners, the United States calls on all countries to support efforts to protect civilians in Sudan, prevent future atrocities, and promote accountability for those responsible for these horrific acts.

As we have repeatedly said since the outbreak of this conflict, the United States stands with the Sudanese people, who did not ask for this war, in support of their rightful demands for a transition to democracy and freedom, peace, and justice. We will use all the tools at our disposal to support these aims.

QUESTION:  Matt. Former prime minister of Pakistan appeared in the court after many months for the first time; he interacted with the media as well. And in his court hearing, he said that during his trial, he is going to summon the U.S. official to testify as well with regard to his cipher. Will the U.S. be willing to send an official there, or no?

MR MILLER: I had a feeling this question would be about the cipher. As always, not in a position to comment on ongoing litigation. As we have consistently stated, we call for the respect of democratic principles in Pakistan and around the world. We are following the cases brought against the former prime minister, but we have no comment on the charges against him.

QUESTION: I have one question, but it’s about three separate things. One is that the Israelis are continuing to talk about this idea of a buffer zone that they would like to create either in or potentially near Gaza. What is – can you clarify what the U.S. position is on that? Can you clarify what the U.S. position is on the idea of there being a quote/unquote “transition period,” during which Israel would retain or would keep security control of Gaza after the conflict is over, if the conflict ever is over? And then lastly, what is the U.S. position on the idea of a international security or peacekeeping force that might be deployed, that some have called for to be deployed?

MR MILLER: Yeah, let me take them in order. So with respect to the first one, the Secretary made very clear in a speech he gave several weeks ago in Tokyo, where he laid out the principles that the United States supports when it comes to the end of this conflict in Gaza. One of those principles was that there must be no reduction in the size of Gaza, and that remains our position and it will remain our position. So if any proposed buffer zone was inside Gaza, that would be a violation of that principle, and it’s something that we oppose. With – if it’s with respect to something in Israeli territory, I won’t speak to that. That’s a decision for the Israelis to make, but we are very clear that when it comes to reduction in the size of Gaza, that is not something the United States supports.

With respect to the second – I remember the third. What’s – what was the – remind me what the second —

QUESTION: The second one was the transition.

MR MILLER: The second one was transition. With respect to a transition period, look, we understand that there will have to be some kind of transition period after the end of major combat operations. I don’t think it would be in anyone’s interests – not Israel’s interest, it wouldn’t be in the Palestinian people’s interest – for at the end of major combat operations for Israel to just leave and leave a security vacuum in place where there could be rampant lawlessness inside Gaza and innocent civilians exploited. So we understand there will need to be some transition period at the end of combat operations. I – I am not at this point able to define while the conflict’s ongoing how long that would take or when it would end. I think it’s too early to prescribe any parameters for that.

And then with respect to —

QUESTION: But, but, but, but wait – but it would have to be temporary for you to be okay with it?

MR MILLER: Yes. Yes, because one of the positions we have also made clear is that there can no reoccupation of Gaza.

QUESTION: And then the last —

MR MILLER: And then with respect to the third, the international security force, these are the types of conversations we are engaging in with our allies and with our partners in the region. I think it is too early to definitively prescribe any solution, but we are focused on what the post-conflict environment needs to look at in Gaza, and that obviously includes security for the Palestinian people of Gaza.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Said.

QUESTION: On this issue, can – I mean, there is a great many rumours and so on that talks about incentivizing Egypt to take, like, hundreds of thousands and so on. So, you repudiate that completely? That is not something that has been discussed? As it was allegedly discussed on Capitol Hill.

MR MILLER: So I am not going to respond to rumours, and I don’t know – I don’t know what you’re referring to with respect to Capitol Hill. But it doesn’t actually really matter, but I will reiterate the principles that the Secretary outlined, and one of them is no forced displacement of the Palestinian people from Gaza.

QUESTION: Okay. A couple of other issues. There was a report that Israel’s assault forced a nurse to leave babies behind; they were found decomposing. Are you aware of this story?

MR MILLER: I am aware of that report, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you take it as it happened, or if it did happen, is that a war crime?

MR MILLER: Said, I would say that is a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for those babies. It’s a tragedy for their family members. It’s a tragedy for the Palestinian people, and it is a tragedy for the world. And it is why we have made clear that far too many Palestinians have been killed in this conflict, and that of course includes far too many Palestinian children, and of course Palestinian babies. And it is why we have taken every measure we could to speak loudly and clearly to the Government of Israel that it needs to do everything it can to minimize civilian harm, and it’s why we have worked to try and move humanitarian assistance in. And it is also why, I will say, we have said that Hamas should stop hiding its fighters in hospitals. So —

QUESTION: I understand. I’m speaking about this particular incident. If it happened –

MR MILLER: No, I just – I – it gets to the very difficult nature of this war and the immense human tragedy that has been inflicted on far too many people.

QUESTION: Right. But if it happened, it’s not a war crime, or is it a war crime?

MR MILLER: Said, I am never going to be able to make an assessment here. You saw us today make a conclusion about war crimes after a very deliberate fact-finding process where we then apply the fact to the law. It’s not something I can do responding to a report from —

QUESTION: So will the U.S. do a fact-finding —

MR MILLER: Said, just – just please let me finish my answers before you interrupt. I will take all of your questions.


MR MILLER: It is not something I can do responding to a report from the podium.

QUESTION: Okay, I understand. But would the U.S. consider sending a fact-finding mission, like that you did?

MR MILLER: We are in the middle of a conflict right now, an ongoing conflict. We monitor all of these reports. But I’m not going to speak to what actions we might take when we’re still in the middle of major combat operations.

QUESTION: And lastly, and my last question: On Monday, when I asked you about where should the Palestinians go, and you said there are designated UN centers to go to. Well, apparently the spokesperson for the United Nations, Stephane Dujarric, whom you know, repudiated that yesterday, or refuted that. He said, “Let’s be clear. There are no UN-designated safe zones in Gaza. I think all my senior colleagues have been very clear, including the secretary-general, saying there are no safe places in Gaza. There are shelters that fly the UN flag that are sheltering thousands and thousands and thousands of people – men, women, and children who are trying to stay alive and get some food, get some water. We have seen since the beginning of this conflict that those places that fly the UN flag” have been – “[have not been] safe either.” Your comment on that?

MR MILLER: So I will say first of all, I did not say that there were safe zones. That is a very different concept.

QUESTION: But you said there were safe —

MR MILLER: Said, Said, again, can we just establish a ground rule that –

QUESTION: Absolutely.

MR MILLER: — I won’t interrupt you, and you won’t interrupt me.


MR MILLER: I did not say that there were safe zones. That is a different concept. We have seen earlier in this conflict the idea of safe zones, and what instead we have moved to and what we have supported are areas that are deconfliction sites, and there are sites that are UN-flagged facilities that Israel is aware where those sites are, Israel has placed them on deconfliction lists, and Israel is not supposed to target those sites. That is what I was referring to. We continue to support people moving to those sites where they can be safe from harm. But again, we recognize the very difficult situation on the ground and the very difficult choices that many Palestinian civilians are having to make every day.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that.


QUESTION: You’re making a distinction between a safe zone and an area – a deconfliction —

MR MILLER: So just to be very clear, so there have been ideas at one point of safe zones, entire areas – there’s this area over near the beach – an entire area that looks more like a refugee camp that people could – people could —

QUESTION: So you’re talking basically size, then.

MR MILLER: I’m talking about – it’s not just size or – instead of, like, designated – it’s neighborhoods where  Israel is not conducting operations, right. You have seen them flag areas where they intend to conduct major combat operations, told people to leave those areas, go to other areas where they are not currently conducting operations. In addition to that, there are facilities – schools and other places, UN sites, UNRWA sites – where people are taking shelter. And those sites are on deconfliction lists and are not supposed to be struck by the Israeli army. That’s what I was referring to.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Matt, the UN secretary-general made a really rare move today to formally warn the Security Council of the global threat from the Gaza war, invoking this Article 99. He himself has done it for the first time. I’m wondering if the United States agreed with his warning that this is a threat for the entire, like, global system.

MR MILLER: So we just saw the letter; the letter came just a little while before I came out here. I  don’t have any specific reaction to the letter yet. We will continue to consult with the Secretary-General and other members of the UN Security Council on this matter, as we have in the past. But I will say of course there are threats to regional security and threats to global security that are presented by this conflict. We said that in the very aftermath of October 7th when we made quite clear that one of the things, we are trying to do is prevent this conflict from spreading. That continues to be one of our top priorities and continues to be something the Secretary and the President and other members of the administration are focused on.

QUESTION: And we understand that our states basically seek to leverage that to renew a push for the council to call for a ceasefire. We do know U.S. position on the ceasefire, but I just want to ask you again whether there is any change on that if they go for a resolution calling for that.

MR MILLER: So I will not speak to any resolution that hasn’t yet been introduced because we’d obviously want to look at the text of that and engage in consultations before we made a decision about how we might exercise our vote in the Security Council. I will say with regard to a ceasefire, we have made clear that we do not support actions that would leave Hamas in a place where it could continue to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel.

We’ve also been clear that we support humanitarian pauses, especially if those humanitarian pauses can allow hostages to come out. The seven-day pause was incredibly successful with getting hostages out, with getting increased levels of aid in. And most importantly – or I shouldn’t say most importantly, but equally importantly, allowing civilians in Gaza to move out of harm’s way and move from one area to another. And we think those – we think pauses are important and pauses should continue, and we would support further pauses.

QUESTION: Right. A couple of more. So, you said yesterday you guys have been in touch with the Israeli Government to allow more aid in, to allow more fuel. But I mean, when we look at what’s happening today, it looks like the public order is completely breaking down. There is like full chaos and UN is warning that its operation is in no shape to be able to deliver this aid to the people. So do you guys have like a solution for that, or how are you trying to overcome that? Is that something that you’re discussing with the Israeli Government?

MR MILLER: We are discussing it with the United Nations agencies on the ground. We’re discussing it with the Government of Israel. It is the focus of Ambassador Satterfield’s work. I can tell you we’ve – I talk to him all the time and hear the incredible amount of focus he’s put on trying to improve the situation on the ground, and that it’s the same thing that you see the Secretary and other members of the administration engaging in.

So, it is something we’re focused on, and it – and I will say, when I say focused on, it’s not just on getting the – increasing the amount of aid that comes in, but improving the ability of aid workers inside Gaza to then deliver that aid to the people who need it most.

QUESTION: I saw that there’s reporting about Kerem Shalom opening. Just want to give you an opportunity to clarify that. Is the United States pushing Israel to get Kerem Shalom opening for the trucks or for inspections? Like can you give us the latest on it?

MR MILLER: So we continue to think that Kerem Shalom would be a good facility to use for increased inspections of trucks. I’ve said in the past that Israel has had security concerns about that. We’ve been trying to work through those security concerns with Israel. I don’t want to get too much into the specifics of those conversations, but all of these issues you raise are things that we are talking about them with directly – or talking about with them directly.

QUESTION: Matt, Amnesty International put out an investigation saying that U.S.-made weapons were used by Israel in strikes that killed nearly four dozen civilians. Do you have a comment on this investigation?

MR MILLER:  We are reviewing that report. As the President and Secretary have said on multiple occasions, it is a tragedy any time a civilian is killed. We have made clear in our discussions with Israeli leaders that we are deeply concerns about the protection of civilians in this conflict. We expect Israel to only target legitimate targets and to adhere to the laws of armed conflict; that includes taking measures to reduce the risk of harm to civilians. I’ve talked before about the very real challenges that Israel faces because Hamas uses humans – civilians as human shields.

I would say we will continue to engage with the Israeli Government on all those things. And of course, the Israeli Government has a professional military, and so when they get these types of reports, they should do what our military should do, which is investigate them. That’s something every military should do, and we would expect them to do so as well.

QUESTION: Have they given you any commitment to investigate?

MR MILLER: I’m not aware of any conversations we’ve had. It doesn’t mean they haven’t gone on, but I’m just not aware of them.

QUESTION: And is the U.S. undertaking its own investigation or inquiry into whether U.S.-made weapons have been used in a disproportionate way?

MR MILLER: So we continue to monitor everything that happens with regard to this conflict, but again, I’m not going to speak to any internal deliberations.

QUESTION: And then can I get your assessment – I mean, we’re several days into the renewed offensive in southern Gaza, and the Secretary said last week that it cannot be prosecuted in the same way it was in the north. Do you feel that the Israelis are fulfilling this?

MR MILLER: So again, I think we are still at an early stage of this part of the conflict, this part of the conflict in southern Gaza. You heard the Secretary say that too many Palestinian civilians have been killed. That remains the case: too many Palestinian civilians have been killed, too many Palestinians have been killed – or I should say too many Palestinian civilians continue to be killed. We want to see the civilian death toll lower than it has been. We want to see the civilian death toll lower than it is today, lower than it has been the past few days.

Again, this is – a good component of this is the problem presented by Hamas embedding in civilian sites in Kha Yunis just as it did in Gaza City, but that doesn’t lesson the burden that’s on Israel to do everything it can to reduce civilian harm. So we had some very frank conversations with the Government of Israel about that when we were there last week. We continue to have very frank discussions with them about this question, and I think I’ll leave it at that.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Matt, I had asked you about if State was aware of any reports or emerging evidence of Americans being sexually assaulted by Hamas on October 7th, as there are claims that multiple — many Israeli women were. You said you weren’t aware of reports. Can you say anything about – we heard from the attorney general a few minutes ago that they’re now investigating Hamas war crimes. Do you know if that will include like this – looking at potential sexual crimes as well or is State still following that?

MR MILLER: I think I should defer to the Department of Justice to speak to its investigations and what they may or may not include.

QUESTION: I know that you don’t comment on university campus-level goings on, but yesterday a group of Ivy League presidents on Capitol Hill in sworn testimony declined to condemn calls by their own students for the killing of Jews. I’m wondering if, more broadly speaking, outside of college campuses and universities if the State Department has a position on calling for the murder of Jews. Is that something that the department considers antisemitic?

MR MILLER: Yeah, absolutely. You’re right. When it comes to matters inside the United States, there are many agencies inside this government that would comment on it, but that is not the remit of the State Department. But obviously, calling for the murder of Jews is antisemitic. It’s horrific. We have a special envoy here dedicated to combatting antisemitism around the world. In addition, you’ve seen the Secretary speak about this and call it out, as I have from this podium, and we will continue to do that.

QUESTION: But you would oppose the calling of the murder of anyone, right?

MR MILLER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Not just Jews?

MR MILLER: Yeah – yes.

QUESTION: I mean —

MR MILLER: Quite obviously. Yes.

QUESTION: One last question, if I may. Quite a few localized menorah lighting celebrations ahead of the start of Hanukkah tomorrow have been cancelled by local officials, citing threats from pro-Palestinian protestors that are scheduled for the area. Now, in California, Gavin Newsom has cancelled a – some kind of a Christmas tree lighting ceremony as well. I’m wondering if the State Department has concerns about the impact of the war in Gaza and the political fallings out on religious freedom for Americans ahead of the holidays.

MR MILLER: So let me just say that when it comes to the specific incidents you cite, I think I will defer to the Department of Homeland Security, maybe to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for comment on those as those are obviously local matters inside the United States. But I will say that generally we have seen a rise in antisemitism around the world since October 7th. We have seen a rise in Islamophobia around the world since October 7th. And we will continue to do everything in power to call those – call that out when we see it, to make clear it is objectionable, and to align our policies to fight it wherever we can.

Leon, go ahead.

QUESTION: If I may come back to Sudan, I have a hard time – you’ve taken months to determine – to make the determination that there were war crimes and even crimes against humanity regarding the FSR forces. And you come out and give the statement and all that, but you don’t announce any sanctions. And you haven’t – the sanctions that have been in place have not hit the highest level. So I have a hard time understanding how at the same time you come out, make the determination, and don’t come with something more forceful in terms of sanctions. And then aside from that, just if you know, are there any – as of now, are there any ongoing talks? There were – the general talks, but that was months ago or what have you. Is there anything ongoing in terms of U.S. involvement with the two parties?

MR MILLER: I will say we have imposed sanctions in the past, and just because we are not announcing sanctions today does not mean we will not impose additional measures in the future. I will also say I think it’s important that the United States speak with moral clarity about what we see happening and what we can document, and that’s what we’ve done here. We think there’s real value in that, and we’ll continue to do it.

And then I’ll say with respect to the talks, the talks in Jeddah broke down because both parties, the SAF and RSF, repeatedly refused to adhere to the commitments that they made at those talks. So what we will do is continue to work with our partners in the region to make clear that there is no – there can be no military solution to this conflict, to make clear that civilians continue to suffer multiple atrocities, and to try to continue to work with our partners in the region to bring an end to the conflict. But ultimately, that takes the two parties coming to the table, and not just coming to the table, but adhering to the commitments that they make. And so far, that they have been simply unwilling to do that.

QUESTION: So right now, there are no talks whatsoever?

MR MILLER: There are no talks whatsoever, but we would always support talks that would lead to an actual breakthrough, and, as I said, the parties adhering to the commitments that they make.


QUESTION: Yeah, Israeli defense minister has said that today two mayors and heads of councils located in the border with Lebanon, that they’re communities will not be returned home until Hizballah is driven north of the Litani River. He added that the best option for Israel is to reach a diplomatic solution or arrangement. If it doesn’t succeed, Israel will act with all the means at its disposal to push Hizballah by military actions. What’s your comment, and do you support such a move?

MR MILLER: I will say that one of the things that we have made clear from the beginning is that we don’t want to see this conflict expand, and that includes expanding to the north of Israel. We do not want to see increased military activity between Israel and Hizballah in northern Israel. There continues to be a very real problem, a security problem, faced by the Israeli people in that you have Israelis from southern Israel who live near Gaza who don’t feel safe because of ongoing rocket attacks, not – never mind the events of October 7th, but the ongoing rocket attacks into their communities. And so they have relocated to elsewhere in Israel. You have people from northern Israel who don’t feel safe to return from their – to their communities because of the attacks that have happened, that have been ongoing by Hizballah across the border. So it is a very real security problem that the Israeli public and the Israeli Government faces. We want to see a diplomatic solution, as we have said, and we would oppose any widening of the conflict and urge Israel not to widen the conflict.

QUESTION: What’s the diplomatic solution, in your view?

MR MILLER: Again, we’ll continue to pursue diplomacy. We have, I will say, been pretty consistent – and you’ve seen the Secretary focus on this in his travels around the region in trying to keep the conflict from expanding from, as I said, in northern Israel, in the West Bank, to involve other countries. I don’t want to get into all the details, but that will continue to be the focus of our efforts.

QUESTION: And do you support change – changing rules of the UN Security Council 1701?

MR MILLER: I do not have any new announcements about new Security Council resolutions or changes to announce today.

Shannon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. There’s a lawsuit filed in federal court alleging that the State Department has treated Israeli Americans and Palestinian Americans inequitably when it comes to evacuations from around the conflict zone. Do you have a response to that broad statement, that brought claim?

MR MILLER: I’ve seen the lawsuit, but, as always with ongoing litigation, I’m going to refer to the Department of Justice for comment.

QUESTION: And is it still the case that the State Department’s aware of more than 1,000 individuals, and including around 350 American citizens, who are still waiting to evacuate from Gaza? And is it doing anything to speed up that kind of trickling pace?

MR MILLER:   We have seen a number of American citizens and their family members and legal permanent residents coming out in the past few days. We now have gotten over 1,100 American citizens and family members out through Rafah, and we continue to work with the Government of Israel, with the Government of Egypt to try to get more Americans out. We have a number of Americans who were on the list who are cleared to leave who have not yet left. We’ll continue to try to get them out.  And with respect to the numbers that remain, it is a little under a thousand that remain, with about 350, 370 of them being American citizens. But I will note that that number fluctuates. You’ve seen times where, despite us getting more people out, the number goes – the number of remaining goes up because there are Americans who are in Gaza who identify other family members that want to come with them.

QUESTION: But any efforts to speed that up through specific talks?

MR MILLER: Yeah, we continue to work – it continues to be something that we are focused on and trying to get. There’s obviously a difficulty of people moving around Gaza right now, so you have not just the problem of getting people onto the list so they’re cleared for departure – there’s only so many people that can go out through Rafah every day – but also people actually being able to make it to Rafah to get out. And that is why we focus on the humanitarian efforts I was talking about earlier in the briefing.

QUESTION: And just finally, has the State Department confirmed any deaths of American citizens in Gaza, or is it investigating any reports of deaths at this point?

MR MILLER: We are still investigating the one report that I’ve mentioned on previous days, but we have not yet confirmed whether that death actually happened or whether the person was an American citizen.

QUESTION: I have a question about the post-war Gaza option. Both the Secretary and yourself have mentioned a revitalized Palestinian Authority. What’s expected of the PA in that context? Could you explain what they’re supposed to —

MR MILLER: There are a number of additional measures that we think the Palestinian Authority could take in terms of cracking down on corruption, in terms of increased engagement with civil society. We had a very open discussion with this – or I should say the Secretary had a very open discussion about this with President Abbas when he was in the West Bank next[1] week. And in addition to that, revitalizing and increasing the capability of the PA’s security forces – if you envision in the post-conflict environment, as we do, a Gaza and West Bank that are united under Palestinian Authority leadership, you would need to see an increase in the capability of the PA’s security forces. So, it’s those types of reforms and increases in capabilities that we have in mind.

QUESTION: In response to a class action suit in Iran, with regards to the elimination of the former Quds commander, Qasem Soleimani, a court has decided that the U.S. should pay $5 billion. Any comments on that?

MR MILLER: Yeah, we don’t have any reason to believe these are legitimate proceedings. The Iranian judicial system is widely regarded to be lacking any independence from the Iranian regime. So, I don’t have any comment on this specific verdict. We obviously don’t have any people participating in judicial proceedings inside Iran, but the United States will continue to do everything that’s necessary to protect our people and our interests.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the Secretary’s meeting with the members of Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Friday? What does the Secretary hope from – expect from the meeting, and what message he has, especially in response to their call for a ceasefire?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to telegraph too much about that meeting two days before it happens, but obviously these are counterparts with which he has had a number of engagements since October 7th. You’ve seen him in – both in his trips to the region and at a meeting in New York engage with counterparts in the region, as well as a number of phone calls that we’ve read out the specifics of over the past two months. So, he will continue to engage with them about what we can do to get increased humanitarian assistance in. He’ll continue to engage with them about how we can get hostages out. He will, of course, want to talk about the end of the conflict and lay out the principles that he laid out in Tokyo, as he did in a meeting he had in Dubai, and continue to talk with them about how we can move forward, prevent this conflict from widening, and ultimately find a solution in the long term that leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

QUESTION:  Going back to the Iranian sanctions. Russia and Iran signed a declaration to counter the Western and also the U.S. sanctions. Does that declaration concern you? Do you believe that this would have an impact on your sanctions on both countries when we are talking about both conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine?

MR MILLER: I will say we have long seen both Russia and Iran attempt to evade our sanctions, which is why you see us, with respect to both countries, at times announce both new sanctions and measures that we take to crack down on sanctions evasion.

QUESTION: And today Iranian IRGC announced that they seized two vessels with 34 foreign crew members in the Persian Gulf. Do you have any reaction and comments on that? And do you think that the Iran is taking advantage of the situation in the Middle East?

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any specific reaction to that report, but we have seen them continue to try to take advantage of instability and try to foment additional instability, which is why we have been quite clear with the Iranian Government that they shouldn’t do anything to add to instability in the region. It’s why we’ve been quite clear with our partners in the region, anyone that can get messages to Iran, that they should deliver that message very clearly, and why you’ve seen us take steps to protect our interests in the region.

QUESTION: If I may ask the last question, going back to a very old question in this room, are you still looking to go back to the JCPOA through diplomatic with Iran, or can you call the JCPOA a dead deal now?

MR MILLER: I certainly don’t see that on the table.

Janne, go ahead.

 QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. Two questions on Russia, North Korea, and South Korea. It was reported that North Korea transhipped 10,000 containers to Russia yesterday. And why can’t United States stop North Korea’s weapons from continuing to be supplied to Russia?

MR MILLER: We have made clear that we oppose the transfer of additional weapons from North Korea to Russia and oppose the transfer of weapons from Russia to North Korea. We have imposed sanctions on both of these countries, of course. When it comes to Russia supplying North Korea – not the issue you asked about but the reverse side of this trade – we’ve made clear that it violates multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, and we will continue to take actions to hold both of those countries accountable.

QUESTION: Follow-up, one more question. And Russian President Putin wanted to restore relations with South Korea and saying it depends entirely on South Korea. Do you think this is Putin’s strategy to create a rift in U.S. and South Korea relations or other —

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

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Can you speak to the Secretary’s level of alarm following yesterday’s interactions on the Hill? There are reports that some senators left the briefing. And I’m also asking because the Secretary just noted in his statement that today’s package will, he mentioned – be one of the last security assistance packages we can provide to Ukraine without congressional approval. Can you unpack it, please, for us?

MR MILLER: I think the Secretary found it to be a frank and candid exchange of views on the Hill, mostly between members of the Senate, not involving the administration. But as we made clear in the statement we issued today about the drawdown package, we have nearly exhausted the available security assistance that is available to Ukraine. It is urgent that Congress act to support Ukraine; it is urgent that Congress act to support democracy. The President spoke to this today. We continue to watch the actions on Capitol Hill. We continue to watch the negotiations over things that are unrelated to support for Ukraine. You saw the President speak to this today and talk about how – the plan that he has laid out with respect to border security. It’s not an issue that the State Department deals with.

I will just say from our perspective, it is an urgent priority to stand with Ukraine, especially as we enter this difficult winter when we know we will see increased Russian attacks.

QUESTION: For those of us who cover U.S. foreign policy for foreign audience who don’t necessarily follow U.S. domestic policy, are we in this still zone of your normal sausage-making process, or things are out of control?

MR MILLER: I just don’t think I want to play pundit from this podium. That’s for other people to do.

QUESTION: One question about the Abraham Accord and the normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Do you think or the State Department thinks that that diplomatic relationship is almost dead, there is no any possibility that Saudi Arabia normalizes its relationship with Israel? Or there is a possibility? My first question. Then if you allow me, I will ask —

MR MILLER: Go ahead and ask the second one. I’ve got to remember them both.

QUESTION: The second one is that there are some reports and concerns that since the war broke between Israel and Hamas is some terrorist groups that belong to al-Qaida and some other groups moved out to some safe place that they think it’s safe, like Afghanistan, to launch potentially some attacks against the U.S. interest in the region.  

MR MILLER: So, these are reports that people moved from where?

QUESTION:  from the Arab countries.

MR MILLER: Oh, from the Arab —


MR MILLER: I don’t have any specific comment on that. Obviously, we take any threats to our forces very seriously. We take any threats to our interests very seriously, and we’ll take whatever steps we need to protect our forces overseas and our interests. With respect to your first question, the normalization question, we have made quite clear that we think further integration between Israel and its neighbors is in the long-term security interests of the region. It’s in the long-term economic interest of the region. It’s in the – it would further peace and stability. But it’s also no substitute for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. So, at the end of this conflict, you are going to see the United States focus – and we’ve already started conversations about this – not just on what the post-conflict period looks like, but trying to get on a path to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and hopefully along with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state would come further integration between Israel and its neighbors. We think those are both very important things that would be good for countries in the region and good for the entire world.

Let me go to someone in the back. New —

Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on President Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE?

MR MILLER: I don’t.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Thanks a lot. I know that the strategic dialogue between United States and Belarusian democratic movement started today, so my question will be about Belarus. Yesterday, U.S. put some new sanctions on Lukashenka’s – so-called President Lukashenka’s wallet. So how do you estimate their effectiveness? And how do you think if this sanction pressure can help to release political prisoners? Because we have something around or close to 1,500 political prisoners nowadays.

MR MILLER: So first of all, we were pleased to host the first strategic dialogue between the United States and the Belarusian democratic movement, and welcomed the Belarusian democratic movement leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya to the State Department.

With respect to sanctions, yesterday, as you referenced, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on 19 individuals and entities that generate revenue to support the Lukashenka regime that operate in the Belarusian military sector and facilitate Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This action is yet – is the most recent step in our efforts to promote accountability for the Lukashenka regime’s abuses in Belarus and around the world, and our message to Lukashenka and to those carrying out his repressions has been clear and consistent. We are willing to talk about changing our policies, easing sanctions, and improving our relations when the regime releases all of its political prisoners, stops its repression of the Belarusian people, and ends its complicity in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:34 p.m.)