State Dept Presser – Nov 13, 2023
U.S. Department of State held a press conference in Washington, D.C.on Nov 13, 2023 with spokesperson Matthew Miller fielding questions on a wide range of subjects. The Q- A on South Asia is tweaked to appear upfront.
MR MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone.
QUESTION: Mr. Miller, my name is Jacob Milton. I’m working for a weekly Bangladeshi and the publication called We Are the People and Nagorik TV. As you know that Bangladesh and Dhaka is another hot place like Gaza. It will become a Gaza Strip very soon if free and fair election is not going to take place. Bangladesh is a sovereign country where 90 to 95 percent of the people are in favor of democracy and free, fair, participatory, and inclusive election. Citizens of Bangladesh become very optimistic once America starts playing a role concerning human rights and the democratic process. All major political parties except Awami League are working with His Excellency Peter Haas and other diplomats from other nation. Why must the U.S. Government discuss the Bangladesh issue with India? Does it not indicate that our country has already been sold to India by the current regime of Bangladesh? Does the U.S. believe India’s conquerors do anything in Bangladesh?
MR MILLER: Let me just say what I have said many times, which is we support free and fair elections in Bangladesh. We think the future of the Bangladeshi Government should be determined by its people, full stop.
QUESTION: I have one follow-up, please.
MR MILLER: You asked three in one there. I’m going to go – go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Assistant Secretary Donald Lu has sent a letter with urging for dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition. But how can there be any dialogue when most of the opposition political leaders are in prison? And I’m wondering who received letter from the opposition as government is cracked down – government cracked down opposition and going on, and government’s workers been killed, at least five. So, what is your comment? How can be a dialogue within this scenario?
MR MILLER: So again, I welcome the attempts by various reporters to draw me into internal Bangladeshi political matters, and I’m going to continue to refrain from doing so. The United States does not take a side in Bangladeshi elections. We do not support one political party over the other. We support free and fair elections, period.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Can you give – please give us a sense if anything discussed in New Delhi 2+2 meeting on particularly Bangladesh upcoming election? Indian press and Bangladeshi press described that they had a good meeting on Bangladesh upcoming election, and we saw the Indian statement, as well as the Chinese statement terming as “internal affairs.” So, can you please give us a sense?
MR MILLER: As I said, this’ll be the last. But I’m not going to talk to the specifics of the meeting other than what we put out in our readout and the Secretary said in his statement while we were in India.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just want to ask about some of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments from last week – I’m aware that they’ve evolved. And the Secretary has also laid out a vision on what Washington thinks about the future of Gaza. But where we are, it does look like there is a disagreement with Netanyahu and U.S. on the future of Gaza. U.S. doesn’t want to – any reoccupation, and while Netanyahu has clarified some of his comments and has made different comments, it does sound like Israel does want, like, a security force and with an indefinite period of time. So, I’m just wondering what the U.S. thinking on that is. How are you negotiating with the Israelis on that, and how is that going?
MR MILLER: I will say that yes, as a first item, he has clarified some of his remarks. But you’re right, he has made comments that are different from the vision that Secretary Blinken laid out, both when we were in the region and then in a speech that he gave in Tokyo last week. Let me just reiterate – I know you know them, but just for the record – the principles that the Secretary laid out, which is that, number one: at the end of this conflict there can be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. It can’t happen now while the conflict’s happening; it can’t happen at the end of the conflict.
Number two: there can be no continued use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks, as we saw it used on October 7th. Number three: no reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict. And number four: no reduction in the territory of Gaza. Those are the principles that we believe in, and when we start to have conversations with people in the region about what the future of Gaza looks like, those are the principles we are going to lay out that we want to see adhered to.
And I would add to that, central in the question of what happens in Gaza must be Palestinian voices, who have a right to have a voice in their own future. So, we will keep making that clear. We’ll make that clear directly in conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other leaders of the Government of Israel, as we have publicly.
QUESTION: And you just said, like, no forcible displacement, but we’re seeing people from north Gaza moving to south Gaza because of – I mean, what kind of assurance, if any, is the United States getting from Israelis that those people will be able to move back?
MR MILLER: So, they have said publicly that they expect those people to be able to move back at the end of the conflict. When we say no forcible displacement, there is a difference between people moving out of harm’s way – which we fully support – we want to see people move out of harm’s way, so they avoid being harmed by Israel’s military campaign – move out of harm’s way inside Gaza and being forcibly expelled from Gaza, which we very much oppose.
So Israel has said publicly they expect people to be able to return to their homes, to return to their neighborhoods, at the end of the conflict.
QUESTION: Can I quickly go to hostages? There have been different reports about different kinds of proposals. I mean, to the extent that you can share, what is the latest? Do you have some sort of renewed optimism that there could be some progress on that this week, perhaps?
MR MILLER: So, on the first question, I’m going to stick to the rule that I’ve adhered to and that Secretary Blinken has adhered to pretty rigorously, which is we’re not going to talk at all about either the substance or the status of negotiations to secure the release of hostages, including the American citizens who we know remain held hostage. It continues to be a top priority for us. Secretary Blinken had a call with his Qatari counterpart over the weekend about this. There are others in the government engaged on this, including, of course, the President himself.
So, in terms of the prospects, it continues to be a top priority. But again, we are dealing with a brutal, violent terrorist organization who’s holding them hostage, and I don’t think I want to put any kind of percentage on assessing what they may or may not do.
QUESTION: Yeah, but saying, oh, well, once this is all over, you can go back home – but there isn’t anything that’s going to be left for them to go back to.
MR MILLER: Yeah – obviously, Gaza is the location of a – an intense military campaign. When it’s over, we want to see reconstruction of Gaza.
QUESTION: All right. Paid for by?
MR MILLER: We will have conversations with partners in the region about that very question. I think it’s a little too early to say. We’re in the middle of the conflict right now. We’re just start having conversations.
QUESTION: Fair – fair enough. But I mean, it’s not – okay, but it is not just as easy as saying, oh, okay, well, you’re being told to move south for your own protection, but after – but after that threat is over, then you can go back when you have nothing to go back to – and no one is going to be stepping up to pay for the reconstruction.
MR MILLER: Matt, nothing – nothing about this process, none of the issues in this process are easy, and I did not say they were easy. All of this is difficult. Every one of these principles we laid out are – will be the subject of intense diplomacy. And none of – I think everyone that’s been paying attention to the issues we’ve been grappling with, and that Israel’s been grappling with and that countries in the region have grappled with – no one would tell you that any of these are anything but very, very difficult.
QUESTION: Okay. Last one from me. On the Shifa – the hospital, do you have any thoughts about what’s going on there?
MR MILLER: Let me say a few things. Number one, you heard Jake Sullivan on TV yesterday say that we don’t want to see hospitals be the subject of crossfire. We want to see the civilians who are sheltering in hospitals, the civilians who are being treated in hospitals, including babies in hospitals, be protected. Civilians are – hospitals are legitimate civilian infrastructure; they should be protected. At the same time, I would say Hamas continues to use hospitals as locations for its command posts. So this is – we talk about difficult issues; this is a very difficult issue.
We don’t want to see civilians caught in the crossfire. We would love to see Hamas vacate the hospitals that it’s using command posts immediately. We would love to see all the people that are calling for Israel to take steps to protect hospitals call for Hamas to vacate the hospitals, and stop using civilians as human shields. We would love to see Hamas take some of the fuel reserves it’s sitting on and use that to supply hospitals in northern Gaza. We would love to see Hamas have taken the fuel that Israel offered it yesterday – that they declined – for use at al?Shifa Hospital. So, it’s a very difficult situation. And I would say, as a principle – I’ll just restate what I said at the top – we do not want to see civilians caught in the crossfire.
QUESTION: Okay, but you say, okay, you would love to see everyone call for Hamas to vacate the hospitals, get rid of all their fighters there. Okay, but if they don’t, you’re okay with attacks on the hospitals?
MR MILLER: Sure. So I am, as we have done all throughout this process, going to decline to comment on specific places, always because there is a —
QUESTION: All right, let’s just talk about hospitals in general.
MR MILLER: Hospitals in general, we do not want to see hospitals attacked. We want to see hospitals protected.
QUESTION: But if Hamas doesn’t remove their people from the hospitals where you just said they are, then —
MR MILLER: Again, there are —
QUESTION: – then it’s okay for them to be attacked?
MR MILLER: I am not going to give a general answer on this because there are so many variables. Are there still wounded? Are there still civilians in those hospitals? Have they been evacuated? There are a number of things you have to consider, when you’re going to answer that type of question, which is why we, from thousands of miles away, decline to give – pass judgment or give – pass a – give a definitive answer about something that we don’t have perfect information about what’s happening on the ground.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this one, please? Can I follow up?
MR MILLER: Matt, are you – yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Now, you speak with certainty that Hamas is using al-Shifa Hospital as a command post.
MR MILLER: I did not speak to al-Shifa. I said —
QUESTION: No, you spoke with certainty, and you said it’s —
MR MILLER: I said hospitals. Just to be clear, Said.
QUESTION: Let me ask about the Shifa Hospital.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You speak – you know for certain – you know for certain the United States of America, the Intelligence Community, knows for certain that Hamas is using that as a command post?
MR MILLER: I am going to use my own words, because you just misstated what I said.Let me just be clear what I said. I am not going to comment on any specific hospital. To do so would require me to get into intelligence matters, which I’m not going to do from the podium. I will say, as a general matter, yes, we do know that Hamas uses hospitals.
MR MILLER: And there is plenty of public reporting about this. You can read about in the press, using hospitals as command centers.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me rephrase my question. Do you have, does the United States have, any evidence that Hamas is using this particular hospital or the other hospital as a command post? Do you have – do you have evidence?
MR MILLER: With respect to a general matter, I will say yes, we do. With respect to a specific hospital, I’m not going to get into an intelligence matter.
QUESTION: Okay. But all the hospitals are completely out of service right now. So, let me just – if you indulge me to a few more questions on – on this particular issue.
MR MILLER: You want me — yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. On this very issue. So why don’t you rely – I mean, as – there are region doctors that served in that hospital that came out and said, foreign – European doctors – and say this is nonsense, there is no command posts, and so on. Why don’t you send them a commission or the Red Cross or ask anyone to go and see? Because that’s what they said. Come and see it. Come and see it, and see if it’s being used as a command post. Why don’t you do that?
MR MILLER: So I would just say we feel fairly confident in the judgment we’ve passed. We would welcome truly independent observers going – I think that’s a little unrealistic to ask for in the middle of a conflict, Said.
QUESTION: But they are willing. The Red Cross said they are willing to do that.
MR MILLER: I think it’s – we have seen – we have seen Hamas at times break its agreements that it’s had with the Red Cross and other – I think it’s a little bit much to ask for somebody to go make an assessment like that.
QUESTION: Okay, now you talk about the fuel. You’re saying that that Israel offered Gaza, like – or offered the hospital something like 200, 300 liters of fuel, and they requested that it be – somebody would come in the middle of the night and pick it up at two in the morning and so on. They said, do it through the Red Cross, do it so through the agencies. Why wouldn’t they do that?
MR MILLER: So —
QUESTION: Why must they have Hamas people go and pick it upin the middle of the night at two o’clock in the morning? Isn’t that a bit cynical?
MR MILLER: So – I don’t think so. I’m not going to – I – first of all, the idea would not be that Hamas people would come pick it up, but that people —
QUESTION: Well, whatever. I mean, officials – official —
MR MILLER: Hold on. But the people – hold on. Said, just let me finish my answers – that people from the hospital would come and pick it up. I would say that they should’ve accepted the offer. I will let Israel speak to the exact specifics of it, but if – but if they clearly – if they need fuel, which they clearly do, they should’ve taken the offer from the Government of Israel. But to the larger point, Hamas is sitting on fuel reserves in northern Gaza. Hamas is using fuel reserves to ventilate its tunnel – tunnels. If Hamas truly cared for the people in al-Shifa and in other hospitals in the north, it could take the fuel that it’s using to protect its fighters and send it to the hospitals so the hospitals could protect patients. They are not doing that.
QUESTION: Right. And so, you think that by this continued assault and so on that Israel will achieve its goal of, let’s say, providing care for those who need it, and at the same time disarm the hospital? I mean, what is the end, what is the vision as far as the hospital is concerned?
MR MILLER: So I am going to let Israel speak to its exact campaign. I will speak to U.S. principles; they can speak to their campaign.
QUESTION: Okay. There has been – since we don’t know what happened after Friday, after Saturday. Because the Shifa hospital quit counting. They don’t have the means to do it anymore. But until then, there were about 11,400 Palestinians who have died. That’s about one in 200 – doctors, lawyers, teachers, mothers, fathers, babies. We have – every 10 minutes we have a child killed in Gaza. So what is the end game? What – how do you see this thing ending? Or must the slaughter go on?
MR MILLER: So Said, let me start by just reminding you of what the Secretary said on Friday, which is that far too many Palestinian civilians have been killed as a part of this conflict. We want to see the Government of Israel take steps to minimize civilian harm. We would love to see Hamas stop using civilians as human shields, which they very cynically do. They’re the ones that continue to put civilians in harm’s way. They obviously have shown no sign of changing that longstanding, abhorrent practice of theirs. And we want to continue to get civilians out of harm’s way into places where they can be safe from harm, and we want to continue to get them humanitarian assistance. That has been – if you were paying attention to the Secretary’s trips around the region, as was true about his first trip to Israel and other countries in the region, that has been our primary focus from top to bottom. And let me – we’ll go —
QUESTION: My last one, please allow me. When the Secretary says far too many Palestinians have died, does that mean enough is enough by now? Is that the end?
MR MILLER: It means exactly what it says, that far too many have died. We want to see fewer civilian casualties. We want to see the Government of Israel take steps to minimize civilian casualties. And we have direct conversations with them all the time about that. And we want to do all these other things I just talked about to get civilians out of harm’s way, and get them the humanitarian assistance they need.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Just to pick up on where you have left off, is it your understanding that Israel is trying to minimize civilian casualties? Is it your assessment?
MR MILLER: It is. It’s our understanding that they do attempt to minimize civilian casualties. They’ve talked about that publicly. We think there are additional steps that they can take. The Secretary communicated that to them very clearly when he was in Israel, and we’ve had continued ongoing conversations with them about that.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. If hospitals are indeed sanctuaries for Hamas, which Israel says it is, is there any active discussion over creating field hospitals and potentially U.S. involvement in it?
MR MILLER: Not U.S. involvement inside Gaza, but yes, there have been conversations with our allies and partners about setting up additional field hospitals. There’s been conversations about setting up additional facilities where people either in southern Gaza, or people who have moved to southern Gaza from the north, can seek medical care. As you – as I think you probably know, there are wounded Palestinians from northern Gaza who have been evacuated and left through Rafah gate to seek medical care. So yes, that is something we continue to work on.
QUESTION: Can I just have one more on this hospital issue? Given what you just said, what Jake Sullivan has said, and what the Secretary said about far too many Palestinians killed – we’ve asked you this question in previous weeks, but in light of all of these new developments and the targeting of the hospitals, is there any intent in this department or the administration to take a look at, in a formal way, whether Israel has followed the rules of war?
MR MILLER: Again, we all – we are monitoring the situation very closely, as we always monitor conflicts. But I don’t – I am not going to provide any update on internal deliberations.
QUESTION: I should not be interpreting that the “internal deliberation” part as there is an internal deliberation on this?
MR MILLER: You should interpret it exactly the same way you should’ve interpreted it two weeks ago when I gave the same answer, which is I am not going to comment on internal deliberations.
QUESTION: So you’re saying there is a – so, okay. But you’re saying there is no change in the thinking in light of the recent developments, either?
MR MILLER: I am saying what I just said, not what you are claiming I said. What I’m saying is – (laughter) – so I will use my own words, and what I said is we’re monitoring, of course. We monitor this situation as we monitor any conflict. But in terms of our internal decision-making process, internal deliberations, I’m not going to – I’m not going to – I’m not going to speak to those.
QUESTION: But you were asking what – I mean, you understand why I am asking this, right? Because you were saying there are additional steps that they can take, but they don’t seem to be taking them right now. And all of this is unfolding with the hospital, so I’m wondering if there is any change in the administration’s thinking on this.
MR MILLER: I’m just not going to – I’m just not going to talk about internal matters.
Go ahead, Michel.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions, Matt. First, are you on the same page with Israel regarding how to deal with Hizballah? Did you ask or did the administration ask the Israeli Government not to escalate the situation with Hizballah, and to drag the U.S. to a new war or broader war?
MR MILLER: So I’m not going to get into internal conversations with the Government of Israel. I will say that you have heard us say publicly a number of times one of our primary objectives is to keep this conflict from widening, and that means to keep it from widening both in terms of preventing an additional conflict in the north of Israel with Hizballah, and to prevent conflict widening to other countries in the region.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports that Israel targeted journalists in south Lebanon today, and do you have any comment on that?
MR MILLER: I am not aware of those reports today. It must – if it just came in the last bit while I was coming out here, I haven’t seen it.
QUESTION: And finally, in the supplemental package request, the OMB stated that the crisis in Gaza could result in displacement across borders and higher regional humanitarian needs, and funding may be used to meet evolving programming requirements outside of Gaza, and including Israel, West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. What does the administration mean by that?
MR MILLER: So I think you should take in it that we are doing prudent planning, as we always do in these situations. It’s not a prediction about what might happen or what will happen in the future. As I – as I said a moment ago, we’ve made very clear that Palestinians should not be displaced from Gaza, but as part of our planning we’re planning for any number of scenarios. We want to keep this conflict from widening, but we have to be prudent and plan for any potential humanitarian scenarios should they emerge.
QUESTION: Right. you’ve put yourself in the position, or you leave yourself open to never having a position on it at all.
MR MILLER: I think we’ve made pretty clear – we’ve made clear what our overall position is. Again, we lay out our general principles, but I’m thousands of miles away from Israel right now. We get conflicting information. You hear – we get conflicting information in press reports. You get conflicting information from people on the ground. It is difficult to pass a definitive judgment about what has happened, what should happen, so I’ll decline to do that other than going beyond what our principles are regarding civilian protections.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just wanted to quickly follow up on the civilian casualties, and I will have one more. You said you have been calling on Israel for quite a long time to minimize harm to civilians, but I just wanted to make sure, like, do you really think that Israel is doing everything it can to minimize harm to civilians? And what are the other steps that Israel can take?
MR MILLER: So – so we do, as I said, think there are additional steps that they can take. What those additional steps are, we’ve had very direct conversations with them about that, but I will keep those conversations private.
QUESTION: Okay. One more, please. During the Arab-Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia this weekend, Turkish President Erdogan said that the Israeli minister’s remarks about a nuclear strike on Gaza revealed the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons, and called on an international investigation on that. What is the U.S. position on this call for an international investigation? And do you – I mean, is the U.S. aware of any potential nuclear weapons owned by Israel?
MR MILLER: I don’t have any comment on an investigation or the underlying question. I will say that the remarks by that minister were completely unacceptable, and we are glad they were immediately repudiated by the prime minister.
QUESTION: But you don’t support any investigation on that?
MR MILLER: I’m just not going to comment on that at all.
QUESTION: Thanks so much. There is a dissent – internal dissent memo that’s saying the administration’s spreading misinformation. I know you won’t comment on the actual memo.
MR MILLER: Correct. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But you have protesters out here on Thursday yelling “shame” at employees as they walk out the building, saying “quit your job.” I mean, how is morale in this – inside this building and how is it affected by all of the kind of noise around it?
MR MILLER: So I would say that the State Department, like every organization not just in government but around the world, contains people with a diversity of views. And one of the things that we think is one of our strengths – you’ve heard me talk to this before, you’ve heard Vedant talk to this last week, I think you’ve heard the Secretary talk to this at times – one of our strengths as an organization is that we have that diversity of views and that we welcome people to make those views known. The Secretary has met with a number of people from all ranks of the department, from different bureaus in the department, to hear exactly what they think about our policy both with respect to Israel and its conflict with Hamas and with respect to other matters, including very controversial matters, and he encourages people to provide feedback. He encourages people to speak up if they disagree. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to change our policy based on their disagreements. He is going to take their recommendations and make ultimately what he thinks is the best judgment and make his recommendations to the President about what we ought to do.
So, I would just say that with – it goes to this question of morale. We see the diversity of opinions as a source of strength of this department, not as a source of weakness.
QUESTION: Okay. I wonder, sir, how can Palestinian accept the offer of fuel – Israeli offer for them? The people who leave – the patient who left the hospitals targeted and killed by Israeli soldiers, and as well, Red Cross, they said – they declared it’s very difficult to them to do their duty. And also, UNRWA, they lost 99 of their employees. So, it’s difficult to accept this offer.
MR MILLER: The point you just made, I think. gets to the difficulty I was speaking to a minute ago about finding definitive judgments when facts are so hard to ascertain. You mentioned reports that the Israelis were firing on people near the hospital or relief workers. There are reports that Hamas fighters are firing on Israeli soldiers from inside the hospital, so that —
QUESTION: The civilian —
MR MILLER: So, my point being that in such a difficult situation, it’s why I’m declining to pass judgment. But I would say in general if it is so important for this hospital to have fuel – which it obviously is, I would think that they – I would hope that they would take the Government of Israel up on its offer to provide fuel as well as, of course, as I said earlier, that Hamas would just start turning over some of its own. Now go ahead with your question, yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. My question – my question about the – Israel planning to build a buffer zone north end of Gaza, the north part of Gaza, and Gaza cities. There is – reports talk about that, that Israel planning to build a buffer zone to took and make – build buffer zone in the northern part of Gaza. So, are you sure or guarantee people, civilian people who left their homes in Gaza, northern part of Gaza and Gaza City, to – after the war is end, they will go back to their homes? Are you guarantee that?
MR MILLER: So what I can guarantee is what United States policy is, and what United States policy is, is that there should be no reduction in the territory of Gaza. And that’s a matter that we will continue to make clear to the Government of Israel, and to other partners in the region as we start to have these conversations about the future of Gaza.
QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. I know you won’t comment on the reported cable or memo or the many reported cable and memos of dissent, but is the Secretary aware of dissent, particularly on this issue? And would you say that this issue has drawn dissent like perhaps others haven’t in his tenure here?
MR MILLER: So, I’m not going to characterize this issue versus other issues. There are, of course, a number of controversial issues that we deal with. And at any time, on a big controversial issue, of course not everyone in the department agrees with the given policy that we decide to pursue at any one point. So comparing this issue to others, I don’t think I’m able to do. I will say, as I said before, that this is a difficult issue where people have very strong feelings for very good reasons.
That’s not true just at the State Department. You look at the protests that have happened around the country, the protests that are going to happen in Washington this week. You look at the very strong feelings that this issue has aroused in the United States and around the world. Of course, that extends to inside the State Department where people have very strong, strong opinions.
I’ll just reiterate that the Secretary wants to hear from those employees. He wants to hear what their opinions are. I won’t comment on any dissent memos, but he has spoken in the past about how he welcomes the dissent channel, and thinks it’s a very valuable channel, and that he likes to get feedback through it. And he hopes that people will use it. And he hopes that it continues to be protected. One of the reasons we generally don’t talk about it is we want people to feel that they can use that channel confidentially without fear that somehow it would be used – their participation in that channel would be used against them with respect to employment or promotion decisions down the road.
It’s a channel that we – that the Secretary finds very valuable, as he finds valuable his meetings with employees – as I said, at all ranks to talk about their opinions on this issue and many others.
QUESTION: But beyond the channel, has he on this issue spoken to employees or diplomats or anybody at State who have raised disagreements with how the U.S. is conducting foreign policy on this issue?
MR MILLER: Of course, he has. He’s talked with people inside the building who very much support the policy – policies that we have undertaken, as well as people that disagree. And what he does in those meetings is explain how he came to the decisions that he’s come to, explains our conversations with the Government of Israel, outlines our entire policy – which is not just support for Israel’s right to continue to hold accountable the terrorists that attacked it on October 7th – and have continued to attack it, but also all of our work to protect civilians and to get humanitarian assistance to civilians, our work calling for humanitarian pauses.
I think one of the things he makes clear anytime he has a conversation about these issues is it is the United States of America, not any other country, that was able to secure an agreement to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza. It was the United States of America that was able to secure an agreement to get humanitarian pauses so people could move through these humanitarian quarters that have now been set up to move to – from north to south. So, he will continue to make that clear in all of his conversations.
QUESTION: Has it changed his decision making at all?
MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to impact on his decision making. But he is someone who wants to have his opinions challenged, wants to have his positions challenged, wants to engage in a good-faith back and forth, because he believes that that strengthens his ability to make good decisions on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: Yes, this is a question about the APEC Summit this week. How – do you expect there could be a trilateral space to talk about fentanyl in APEC, considering that the leaders of Mexico, China, and the U.S. are in the city of San Francisco? Today, the mayor of San Francisco said she would like to hear some progress on this issue.
MR MILLER: So I won’t speak to any specific meetings that we haven’t yet announced. But I will say that curbing the trafficking of fentanyl and the devastating impact it’s had on American citizens is something that the Secretary raises in his meetings with officials from the Government of China. It’s certainly something that was on the agenda when we’ve met with officials from the Government of Mexico. You can very much expect that it will be on the agenda for a number of his meetings at APEC.
QUESTION: Just – you framed your response earlier that it was the U.S. who was able to bring – get humanitarian aid into Gaza, the U.S. —
MR MILLER: Broker an agreement, is what I meant, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, and who was able to get these three to – or four- to five-hour pauses. So how much responsibility do you take, then, for the 11,100 lives that have been lost, if you are in a position to stop that today?
MR MILLER: I would reject the premise of that. The Government of Israel conducts its military campaigns. We talk to them about how to minimize civilian casualties. We talk to them about what they can do to protect civilians and how to get them out of harm’s way. We do everything that we can to broker agreements to get humanitarian assistance in. But ultimately, this is a campaign that’s being conducted by the Government of Israel. We will continue to make our policies clear to them. We will continue to offer our best advice to them, as you’ve seen the President do, and we will continue to work to get humanitarian assistance in.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. To Ukraine-Russia, if you don’t mind. Secretary met with Ukrainian —
QUESTION: Can I just – one thing on this.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you saying that without the United States there would be no humanitarian aid going into Gaza?
MR MILLER: So it’s a – you never know what a counterfactual is. Had we not brokered that agreement, you have no idea whether someone else would have come —
QUESTION: But no one —
MR MILLER: Hold on – hold on, let me – let me —
QUESTION: There was no one else – no one else out there doing it?
MR MILLER: Let me finish. You have no idea whether someone else would have come in and brokered an agreement. What I’m saying is what did happen is that it was the United States that brokered that agreement that allowed humanitarian assistance to come in.
QUESTION: But – okay. Well, was there anyone else that you were aware of who was in a position to be able to broker an agreement?
MR MILLER: It was the United States that did it. I don’t know what you’re referring to. I’m sure you have a —
QUESTION: No, I – I just – I’m just wondering.
MR MILLER: No, I —
QUESTION: I mean, you’re taking credit for all of – it’s just like his question. I mean, if you’re taking credit for the quote/unquote “good,” that means some aid getting into Gaza, then —
MR MILLER: We take responsibility for the things that we do, correct. I am not – the —
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Okay. But if you’re – but if you’re claiming – if you’re claiming that you have influence with the Israelis, enough to get the aid in, then when —
MR MILLER: So what I —
QUESTION: Then you’re saying that you don’t have any responsibility —
MR MILLER: No.
QUESTION: — for anything else?
MR MILLER: I think – I think that you were on the last – you were on both of the last trips.
QUESTION: I was.
MR MILLER: I think it’s very clear that while we are able to make our opinions known to the Government of Israel and we are able to move them, there are issues on which we have disagreements. Started this briefing off about some of the disagreements that we have with them about – with respect to what – where Gaza will come.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it’s just that you’re taking credit for this, but then you’re not taking responsibility for other —
MR MILLER: I’m taking – I am – no, I’m taking credits for things where we have had a direct impact, where the United States Government —
QUESTION: Or where you can point to something, quote/unquote, “positive” happening.
MR MILLER: And there are other areas that we continue to – there are other areas we continue to work on.
QUESTION: But where – right, and those have – those aren’t our fault, right?
MR MILLER: There are others we continue work on.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that?
MR MILLER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Matt. I was hoping you could fill us in on this morning’s meeting on Ukraine the Secretary held with the delegation. Did he assure the Ukrainian side that the topic of Ukraine will be on top of his queue despite the challenges abroad and at home this week?
MR MILLER: We in all of our conversations with the Ukrainian Government make clear that we will continue to stand by them, that we will continue to back them, and you don’t have to just look to our private conversations. You’ve heard the President of the United States speak to the American people about exactly this question when he laid out in an Oval Office address our request to Congress to provide supplemental assistance to Ukraine, so we can continue to back Ukraine.
In addition to that, the Secretary talked with Mr. Yermak this morning about steps we can take together with Ukraine to harden its infrastructure for the upcoming winter. We of course in the last winter saw Russia trying to take down energy sites in Ukraine. They may very well do that again, so we talked to them about steps that they can take to prepare for and respond to that.
QUESTION: As I understand, you also, guys, are talking to the Russians as part of APEC talks. There was a discussion between Ambassador Matt Murray and his Russian counterpart. Is Ukraine being discussed without Ukraine on the table?
MR MILLER: Ukraine is not being discussed without Ukraine on the table. I mean, if you mean the final disposition of the conflict, we have made clear that we will never make any decisions or we’re not in a place to make any decisions without Ukraine. Of course, we will talk about the Ukraine – the war in Ukraine and we will talk about how we can best defend Ukraine. We always do that with partners; the Secretary has talked a number of times about how he’s constantly in meetings with foreign counterparts looking for ways that other countries can assist Ukraine. We will certainly do that.
QUESTION: But who is the non-sanctioned Russian deputy prime minister that will represent —
MR MILLER: I’m sorry, what was the —
QUESTION: Non-sanctioned Russian deputy prime minister will represent Russia at APEC. Who is he or she?
MR MILLER: I’ll have to get back to you on that. I don’t —
QUESTION: Have you guys invited the Ukrainians as well to the summit?
MR MILLER: I’ll have to get back to you on that as well. I’m just – I’m not aware, so —
QUESTION: There are rumours that you —
MR MILLER: I just – I don’t know, Alex. I’ll have to take it back.
QUESTION: Okay. And also, about Iran, if you don’t mind.
MR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: There are speculations on social media that U.S. is about to waive some – issue a new waiver on Iran that will allow Iran to access $10 billion. Why? When? How? Anything you can tell us?
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:28 p.m.)
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