Government

Department Press Briefing – February 22, 2021 – United States Department of State

2:37 p.m. EST

MR PRICE: Good afternoon. We actually don’t have anything at the top today beyond I hope you all had a good weekend, happy Monday. And with that, Matt.

QUESTION: Thanks. So I’m kind of a little bit surprised you don’t have anything to say, because I don’t think you have said anything – sorry, let me just turn my recorder on here – about the agreement that was reached yesterday in Tehran between the IAEA and Iran. So do you think that this is a good thing, what was agreed to? And if so, why?

MR PRICE: Well, Matt, thanks for the question. First, we do commend the professionalism that the IAEA has shown in its efforts to engage Iran on maintaining the necessary cooperation to verify Iran’s nuclear program in light of Tehran’s announcement that it will cease implementation of the Additional Protocol and JCPOA verification measures on February 23rd.

We are, of course, concerned to hear that Iran intends to cease implementation of the Additional Protocol and other measures this week. We note the announcement that Iran will continue to implement its obligations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements with the IAEA fully and without limitation, and that the IAEA and Iran have reached a temporary bilateral technical understanding regarding verification and monitoring activities. We fully support the IAEA director general’s efforts to this end while also reiterating the call on Iran to fully meet its verification and other nuclear nonproliferation commitments.

QUESTION: Okay. But so, since you took the steps that you did last week, you revoked the snapback provision, you rescinded the restrictions or most of the restrictions on Iranian diplomats at the UN, you said that you —

MR PRICE: Well, they’re still under restrictions. But yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the most onerous ones. You have said that you’re ready to go back to the P5+1 table. You also revoked the FTO designation of the Houthis – an Iranian proxy, I think you’ll accept – and you removed the Houthi leaders from their terrorism designation.

Have things gone forward? Have things gone in the direction that the administration wants since those things – since you have done those things? Or have the Iranians not responded to these – and I won’t use the word, but some people have used the word – “concessions”?

MR PRICE: I’m glad you’re not using the word.

QUESTION: Have – some people have. Have the Iranians responded to these things in the way that you would have liked?

MR PRICE: Matt, I think as a general matter, and we have been clear, Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon. President Biden has been unequivocal on that. We are, of course, going back to what I was saying just a moment ago, concerned that Iran has moved further away from compliance with its nuclear commitments. This, of course, has been the case since the last administration pulled out of the JCPOA.

That is precisely why, and you heard us say this last week – I guess it was last Thursday now – that we are prepared to meet with the Iranians in the context of the P5+1 to start to undertake this diplomacy, to start to undertake these talks, to move forward with the proposition that has been on the table for some time now, a proposition that predates this administration when then-candidate Biden made clear the deal of compliance for compliance: If Iran returns to full compliance with the Iran deal, the United States would be prepared to do the same. We would then use the JCPOA as a basis for a longer and stronger agreement and negotiate follow-on agreements to cover other areas of concern, including Iran’s ballistic missile program.

I don’t think we’re measuring this in minutes or hours, Matt. We are measuring this in terms of looking forward. And the Iranians know that we are prepared to undertake these discussions. We made that offer in the context of working in lockstep with our European allies and our closest partners. I made the point last week that there was a lot of attention paid to the very short statement we issued from here in my name regarding our willingness to undertake in these – to undertake these discussions with Iran.

But in some ways, the much more significant, much more momentous element we released that day was the joint statement that emanated from Secretary Blinken’s participation in the meeting with the EU3. For the first time in quite a long time, the United States is not working at cross-purposes with our European allies. We are, in fact, working together. This consultation, the consultation that took place with Secretary Blinken and our European allies, there was a joint statement, and that joint statement made clear that we see this challenge through the same lens, and that we are going to approach it in the same way, and we’re going to approach it together.

And so I think if this does come to fruition – the talks with Iran in the P5+1 context – we will, of course, be there with our European allies, and we will be there to undertake the hard diplomacy, the discussions that can lead us to that point where Iran can resume full compliance and the United States would be prepared to do the same.

QUESTION: Has there been any movement on that?

MR PRICE: I don’t believe there’s been any – any formal response from the Iranians. Yes, Humeyra.

QUESTION: Ned, I’m sure you’ve seen Khamenei’s comments about it won’t be limited to 20 percent enrichment, it might go up to 60 percent. Obviously, they’re not there, and one can say that this is posturing, but what is your view of those comments? Does that kind of rhetoric concern you?

MR PRICE: Well, I think I would reiterate what I said before. We are, of course, concerned that Iran has over time moved away from its commitments under the JCPOA. This, of course, started long before this administration and, in fact started in the last administration when the last administration left the JCPOA.

That said, there is now a proposition on the table. There is a broad proposition at play: If Iran returns to full compliance, we will prepare – be prepared to do the same, with the caveats that I noted before. But there is also a specific proposition on the table: The United States will be willing to engage the Iranians in the context of the P5+1. So rather than posture from this podium, I think we are going to reiterate the proposition that is on the table. We certainly hope the Iranians will be willing to be there, because we believe that together, in the P5+1 context, that is where we can make progress on these difficult issues and questions that remain.

QUESTION: And then on the same thing. So this kind of rhetoric makes everyone think that they’re going to take quite a hard line. Is there any plan, or is there any consideration on the side of U.S. perhaps to provide some goodwill gestures that could be, like, the IMF loan, or the European credit facility? Any consideration towards making any of those?

MR PRICE: I think what we have said still stands. The United States is willing to meet with the Iranians in the context of the P5+1. There is a lot that would still need to be worked out. This is a broad proposition that is on the table, the shorthand being compliance for compliance. It is complicated. It’s complex. The way in which we get there is what we would want to discuss in the context of that P5+1 discussion.

Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: But don’t you have any comment or reaction to Khamenei’s statements when he said that Iran could boost uranium enrichment to 60 percent? And any reaction to the attack on the American embassy today after Erbil attack last week?

MR PRICE: My comment is precisely what I told your colleagues Matt and Humeyra that over time we, of course, are concerned by the steps Iran has taken to move away from its compliance with the JCPOA. In this case, this is what sounds like a threat. We are not going to respond in specific terms to hypotheticals, to posturing. What we are going to do is to reaffirm the proposition that is on the table. The United States is willing to meet with the Iranians to hash out these difficult, complex questions, how we get to this end goal of compliance for compliance, and compliance for compliance plus, meaning how we use the JCPOA as a platform to both lengthen and strengthen the JCPOA itself, but then to use it as a platform to address Iran’s broader malign activities. So we’re not going to respond to hypotheticals when – in that context.

We’ve seen the reports of the rocket fire today. We have – as you heard us say in the aftermath of the tragic attack in Erbil, we are outraged by the recent attacks. And the attack in Erbil, of course, harmed civilians and coalition forces, including an American service member. As you have heard me say many times before, ensuring the safety and the welfare and the health of our personnel and citizens and the security of our facility – we have no higher priority. The Iraqi people have suffered for far too long from this kind of violence and this violation of their sovereignty.

When it comes to the attack in Erbil, I would just add that we are still determining precise attribution. But we have stated before that we will hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans. It is – it – I can add that the rockets fired in recent attacks on the coalition and citizens of Iraq, including this attack I referenced, are Iranian-made and Iranian-supplied.

When it comes to our response, we will respond in a way that’s calculated, within our own timetable, and using a mix of tools at a time and place of our choosing, as you’ve heard me say before. What we will not do is lash out and risk an escalation that plays into the hands of Iran and contributes to their attempts to further destabilize Iraq. You have also heard me say that any response will be done in coordination with our Iraqi partners and in coordination with the coalition as well.

QUESTION: And do you have any update on the investigation?

MR PRICE: No specific updates. I think, broadly, what we have said is that we will hold Iran responsible by the attacks, by the provocations of its proxies. We know that many of these attacks have used Iranian-made, Iranian-supplied weapons, but this is something that remains under active investigation by —

QUESTION: I thought you had said that this one did. So have you determined that the rockets were Iranian, and which one are you talking about, today’s or the Erbil?

MR PRICE: No, I’m saying that broadly speaking we have seen that many of these attacks have used Iranian-made, Iranian-supplied weaponry.

QUESTION: But not this one or the previous one?

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t want to get ahead of the investigation.

QUESTION: Can I stay on Iran?

MR PRICE: Staying on Iran for one moment.

QUESTION: Yeah. The – Dr. Namazi was – the Iranian courts dropped his case or commuted his sentence over a year ago and he still hasn’t been allowed to leave the country. I wonder if you have any specific comment on that? And also, the Iranians have denied that they’re in talks with you about hostage swaps, so I wonder if you can just clarify are these direct or indirect discussions?

MR PRICE: Well, I understand that our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens issued a message this morning. Today I believe is five years since the elder Mr. Namazi has been in Iran. You also heard National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issue a very strong message to the Iranians yesterday. What he said was, we will not accept a long-term proposition where Iran continues to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner. It will be a significant priority of this administration to get those Americans back home safely. As Jake – National Security Advisor Sullivan – also said yesterday, we have channels to communicate with the Iranians about the unjust, unlawful detention of American citizens in Iran and we are using them. I wouldn’t want to go beyond that, however.

QUESTION: Just on Nord Stream 2. Some of us heard over the weekend about the report that went from the State Department to Congress not sanctioning or identifying for sanctioning any other entities involved in Nord Stream 2. On Friday, you mentioned the possibility without confirming of private discussions about Nord Stream 2. Would those be negotiations among two more democracies about whether the pipeline can go forward? Is the State Department taking the lead or is it another branch of the Executive Branch? And then what are the overall parameters of those talks, and is Ukraine included?

MR PRICE: Well, let me just say broadly, we have said across every challenge and opportunity we face that we will take them on in close coordination and consultation with our allies and partners. So I think it is fair to say that nothing we would do in this context would take our close allies and partners by surprise.

Let me just give you a little bit of background because I know we haven’t been able to go into this before, so I do want to give a little bit of background on the report you mentioned. So on Friday, as you alluded to, the department did submit a report to Congress on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project as required by the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act, or PEESA, as amended.

QUESTION: Very late Friday.

MR PRICE: But it was still Friday.

QUESTION: Yeah, it was.

QUESTION: For some of us.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR PRICE: This is a report for Congress. I know we’re – there’s —

QUESTION: Some of us had to stay up and work —

MR PRICE: There’s intense interest in the report. The United States identified Russia-based KVT-RUS as an entity knowingly selling, leasing, or providing the vessel Fortuna for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. The department determined that the vessel Fortuna was engaged in pipe-laying or pipe-laying activities at depths of 100 feet or more for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline during the relevant time period. Pursuant to PEESA, as amended, KVT-RUS is therefore subject to U.S. sanctions.

The report also includes a list of entities that have engaged in good-faith efforts to wind down activities related to the Nord Stream 2 project during the relevant time period and, therefore, are not subject to U.S. sanctions at this time. This is a list that includes over 15 entities and it demonstrates that the legislative goals and our actions are having a good effect. We continue to examine entities involved in potentially sanctionable activity. We have been clear that companies risk sanctions if they are involved in Nord Stream 2, and this gets to your question. In the initial weeks of this administration, we conducted this assessment. We consulted with our European allies and partners, and we delivered this report to Congress on Friday, as I said.

QUESTION: Are there more talks going on? And is Ukraine involved in those talks on Nord Stream 2 since that would be the primary transit country that the gas would go through?

MR PRICE: So, of course, energy security is a constant topic of discussion with our closest allies and partners. I wouldn’t want to detail or read out any of those beyond that we’ve already spoken to, but again, when it comes to our allies and partners, it is fair to say that they would not be taken by surprise at any action we would take, nor would they be surprised by any approach or strategy we are taking to this issue broadly, whether it’s Nord Stream 2 or energy security across the board.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: On Iran, some reports indicate that there is an appeal now from the Biden administration about Iran’s foreign minister’s suggestion of synchronized approach. Is this something now the U.S. Government will consider?

And also, on Yemen, the special envoy to Yemen will travel today to the region, and State Department statement said he’s going to travel to the Gulf countries, some Gulf countries. Can you give us specifics about which countries he will visit during this travel? And what has been changed since last visit that would bring him back to the region?

MR PRICE: Let me start with your second question first, and we did put out a media note just a little bit ago. But as that announcement says, U.S. Special Envoy Lenderking is traveling to several Gulf countries this week. He will be meeting with senior government officials in the region, as well as with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths. U.S. Special Envoy Lenderking’s discussions will focus on our dual-track approach to end the war in Yemen, a lasting political solution to the conflict, and humanitarian relief for the Yemeni people.

As we have spoken about from this podium and as you heard, Special Envoy Lenderking – it was last week now – we see this as an urgent priority. It is urgent for the humanitarian implications, for the security implications, for the geopolitical and geostrategic implications of this conflict in Yemen. And that is precisely why that early on in his presidency, President Biden appointed a career official, special envoy – now Special Envoy Lenderking to take on this role, to prioritize the diplomatic approach. You’re right that Special Envoy Lenderking was in Saudi Arabia a week before last, I guess it now was, but I think this just shows the urgency with which we are approaching this challenge, the fact that he is returning to the Gulf this week.

When it comes to Iran and what the foreign minister may have said, I think our response will be very similar to what I have told your colleagues: We’re not looking to posture from podiums. We are looking to engage in discussions and to start those discussions in the construct of the P5+1, precisely what we announced last week now – that the United States would be willing to meet with the Iranians in the context of the P5+1, again, having reached that conclusion following Secretary Blinken’s meeting with his E3 counterparts and after weeks – several weeks – of close consultations with our allies, including our European allies; with our partners; and, of course, with members of Congress.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Iran?

QUESTION: Ned, hasn’t the situation in Yemen gotten demonstrably worse over the course of the last two —

MR PRICE: Matt, the situation —

QUESTION: Well, has it not – forget about – I’m not trying to make – draw any causal link. Hasn’t the situation gotten worse? Is that your understanding?

MR PRICE: The situation in Yemen has been heartbreaking. It has been tragic for years now. I wouldn’t want to measure it, again, on the basis of hours or even days. What we are looking to do is to bring an end to this conflict in Yemen, Yemen now being the home to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe; to bring relief to the long-suffering people of Yemen; and to put an end or at least to diminish the humanitarian plight under which they live.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Follow-up on Iran.

MR PRICE: Let’s – we’ve done a lot on Iran. Maybe let’s move around. Lalit.

QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to ask you about India-China disengagement. The two country has completed their disengagement, one part of the border there between Leh and Ladakh. Do you have any comments on that? How do you see the development?

MR PRICE: Well, we are closely following reports of troop disengagement. We welcome the ongoing efforts to de-escalate the situation. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation closely as both sides work towards a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: Do you think China should withdraw its troops from the rest – other part of the border where it has enclosed upon in recent months?

MR PRICE: We’re continuing to monitor the situation. We certainly welcome the reports of de-escalation and we’re closely following those initial reports of troop disengagement.

QUESTION: I have one more India question about the COVID-19 vaccines. In recent months and weeks, India had supplied or donated COVID vaccines to several countries – in fact, dozens of them. The last one landed today in Mongolia. How do you see that, India offering its vaccines to other countries where people need it very badly? And is there any score for cooperation between India and the U.S. on coronavirus pandemic, and which areas they are?

MR PRICE: When it comes to the broad issue of coordination between the United States and India on COVID-19, I would say that cooperation between our two countries builds on decades of successful partnership in health and biomedical research. We are partnering to strengthen the global response to COVID-19 on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks, of strengthening health systems, to securing global supply chains.

The United States and India recently welcomed an initiative to collaborate through an International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious disease, including COVID-19 and other emerging threats. We look forward to an overarching MOU to enhance health cooperation between our two countries. We are working together on developing diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines to combat the disease and to recognize the importance of manufacturing critical drugs during this time and making them accessible globally.

India’s pharmaceutical sector is strong and well-established and has long played a central role in manufacturing lifesaving vaccines for global use. We are pleased that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry has been coordinating with Indian companies since the beginning of this pandemic.

Yes.

QUESTION: This is on the Quad. How does the U.S. see the Quad succeed? Will it see India and U.S. work together using force or tactics that sit above or slightly below an armed conflict to keep a fair and free Indo-Pacific?

And also, the – a top Chinese diplomat said that the United States and China could work together to – on issues like climate change and coronavirus. If the damage has been, you know, ironed out, is there anything on that initiated?

MR PRICE: When it comes to the Quad – and I think you’ve heard me say this before, but it bears repeating – it’s an example of the United States and some of our closest partners pulling together for the good of a free and open Indo-Pacific. We view the Quad as having essential momentum and important potential, so we’ll build on it by deepening cooperation on areas of traditional focus – that includes maritime security – while also working closely with Quad partners to confront some of the defining challenges and even opportunities of our time. That includes COVID-19. It includes climate. It includes democratic resilience.

Of course, Secretary Blinken had the opportunity – last week now it was – to confer for the first time with his Quad counterparts. I suspect you will be seeing Secretary Blinken be – continue to do that in the weeks and months ahead, given the central role of the Quad going forward.

Remind me of your first question?

QUESTION: On China, working with the U.S., ironing out any issues in the in the coming days.

MR PRICE: Right. Look, I think – you’re referring to State Councilor Wang Yi’s comments?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR PRICE: I think his comments reflect the continued pattern of Beijing’s tendency to avert blame for its predatory economic practices, its lack of transparency, its failure to honor its international agreements, and its repression of universal human rights.

We’ll continue to stand up for our democratic values when human rights are being violated in Xinjiang, Tibet, or elsewhere in China, or when autonomy is being trampled in Hong Kong. You’ve heard us speak before about the way in which we will approach China and – China through the prism of competition from a position of strength.

And again, you’ve heard me say in this briefing that we will work closely with our allies and partners across the board. That’s precisely what we’re doing with the Quad. It’s precisely what we’re doing with our allies and partners in Europe. It’s precisely what we’re doing with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific to approach China from a position of strength.

Yes.

QUESTION: So – Ines Pohl from Deutsche Welle. This is a question regarding China and Germany. So Germany has not yet made a final decision on whether to exclude Huawei from its critical 5G infrastructure. Does the State Department think that Angela Merkel or chancellor should block Huawei?

MR PRICE: Well, I think what is true is that there has been a rather frequent dialogue on the security challenges and the technological challenges that China poses. We know that especially when it comes to countries with whom we have a close alliance or partnership – and of course, that includes Germany – that we have to confront this challenge together: China’s abuse, China’s predatory practices, China’s export of tools it uses to further its brand of techno-authoritarianism. It is something we are working very closely with our partners and allies, and that includes Germany.

QUESTION: But what exactly does it mean when it comes to the 5G infrastructural rollout in Germany? If Huawei would be in the game, what would that mean?

MR PRICE: Well, we advocate for a vibrant digital economy worldwide that enables all citizens to benefit from the promise of 5G networks, but, to get to what I was saying before, the stakes for securing these networks could not be higher. 5G is transformative, it will touch every aspect of our lives including critical infrastructure, and it’s something that, of course, we are discussing very much with our partners and allies. We’re deeply concerned about the dangers of installing networks with equipment that can be manipulated, disrupted, or controlled by the PRC, which, as I was alluding to before, has no conception of privacy or even human rights in that extent. So it will be a continued area of discussion and cooperation.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, on the Western Sahara, any update on the review that you’re making towards the policy there?

MR PRICE: No. No update for you at the moment. I think what we have said broadly still applies. We welcome the new steps Morocco is taking to improve relations with Israel. The Morocco-Israel relationship will have long-term benefits for both countries. We will continue to support the UN process to implement a just and lasting solution to this longstanding dispute, the dispute in Morocco. We’ll also support the work of the mission of the United Nations for the referendum in Western Sahara to the – to monitor the ceasefire and to prevent violence in the area.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan —

QUESTION: Sorry. You said you would support the —

QUESTION: The process – UN process.

QUESTION: The UN process.

QUESTION: The UN – well, yeah, but the UN process leading to a plebiscite?

MR PRICE: No, I said we will support the work of the mission.

QUESTION: Wait, does that mean that you don’t recognize the Western Sahara area as a part of Morocco?

MR PRICE: It means I don’t have any updates for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: If I could follow up on Nord Stream 2?

MR PRICE: Yes.

QUESTION: So you said you had consulted with your allies ahead of the report, but does it concern you at all that Ukrainian and Polish foreign ministers wrote an op-ed calling for further action? And what is your response to Republicans who say this just doesn’t go far enough to actually halt the pipeline?

MR PRICE: Well, I think I said before that we will continue to monitor activity that could lead to additional penalties, including sanctions, but I think it would be wrong to think of sanctions as the only tool in our toolbox here.

But the other element that I would stress – and I said this earlier – is that yes, we did announce the designation of KVT-RUS, but the part I don’t want to get buried is that the report that we sent to Congress last Friday also includes a list of entities that have engaged in good faith efforts to wind down activities related to Nord Stream 2 during this relevant time period. Of course, those entities are not subject to U.S. sanctions precisely because they have taken these good faith steps, steps in the right direction. There are 15 – there are over 15 of them and I think that demonstrates that our strategy, including the legislative strategy, the strategy that of course Congress is – has been behind has been working to good effect.

So we’ll continue to work closely with Germany, we’ll continue to work closely with our other allies and partners in Europe to uphold Europe’s own stated energy security goals.

QUESTION: Does the —

QUESTION: Ned, don’t you think it’s a bit disingenuous to claim credit for the 18 companies winding down? All of this work was done under the previous administration.

MR PRICE: Matt, I’m not —

QUESTION: You guys have only been in a month for —

MR PRICE: Matt —

QUESTION: I mean, only been in office for a month, right? Are you telling me that in the last four weeks —

MR PRICE: Matt, I am —

QUESTION: — these 18 companies all of a sudden decided to say, “Oh my God, we better not do anything with Nord Stream 2.”

MR PRICE: Matt, I am speaking for the —

QUESTION: All of that you’re taking —

MR PRICE: I am speaking —

QUESTION: You guys are taking credit for stuff that the previous administration did, right?

MR PRICE: Matt, Matt, I am not —

QUESTION: No? Yes or no?

MR PRICE: I am speaking for the Department of State.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MR PRICE: The people who have been working this —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR PRICE: — and the people who are working this now were the same people a month ago or the same people —

QUESTION: Three months ago?

MR PRICE: Three months ago.

QUESTION: Four months ago?

MR PRICE: So I —

QUESTION: Okay, all right. So I just don’t want to – I just —

QUESTION: Just one following up on that? So the administration is committed to ensuring that that pipeline is not completed?

MR PRICE: Our position on this has not changed. To Matt’s point, we have the same position that the previous administration had. It is a bad deal, it is bad for Europe, it is in contravention of Europe’s own stated energy goals.

QUESTION: Is it a bad commercial deal or a bad geopolitical deal or a moral deal?

MR PRICE: We’re talking in terms of geopolitics. I think we are concerned about the influence that it would allow Russia and the leverage that it would give the Russian regime over some of our closest allies and partners in Europe.

Anyone who hasn’t asked a question? Have you, Kylie?

QUESTION: No.

MR PRICE: No.

QUESTION: I just am curious. We’re what, like, two months away from the deadline, essentially, for all of American troops to have to leave Afghanistan. Is the administration confident that you guys can negotiate an extension of that withdrawal deadline if that’s a direction that you need to go in? Because it’s not that long until that deadline is upon us.

MR PRICE: Well, you mentioned one possible outcome, but I would just stress that we are still very much reviewing what has been agreed to. I think it would be wrong for anyone to presuppose the outcome of that review at this point. We haven’t completed that review; it’s ongoing.

But what we have concluded is that the best way to advance our shared interests is to press all parties to advance our – to reach full and timely compliance with all of the commitments in the U.S.-Taliban agreement and the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration. You have heard me say in recent days here that the levels of violence in Afghanistan, they are unacceptably high. We are troubled by indications that violence may increase further. The Afghan people want and deserve peace, and that is precisely what we are evaluating – how best to bring that peace, that stability, that prosperity to the people of Afghanistan through a just, through a durable, negotiated political solution to this long-running conflict.

QUESTION: Okay. And I have follow-up on Iran. I know you felt we did that, but I’m curious. What you’re calling this is a temporary bilateral technical understanding reached by the IAEA and Iran over the weekend. So from your perspective, is there any significant access to verifying or monitoring Iran’s nuclear program that’s going to be denied over the next three months, or is it all there?

MR PRICE: I would refer you to the IAEA for its assessment of this deal. What we have said is that we commend the professionalism of the IAEA. We fully support the director general in his efforts to this end. The IAEA director general is a true professional, a true expert. He obviously spoke to the press over the weekend, sounded confident in the arrangement that he had been able to reach with the Iranian regime. But I would refer you to the international weapons inspectors in the form of the IAEA in this regard.

QUESTION: Has the State Department gotten a detailed readout of the trip yet?

MR PRICE: I don’t know. We’ll let you know if there have been any consultations with the IAEA since the – since the visit concluded.

Anything else? Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. You all have been saying that corruption, the fight against corruption, is at the heart of your Central America policy, emerging policy. But I haven’t seen you denouncing specific elected leaders, like the most corrupt president in in the hemisphere. Do – is that something that would be appropriate for the State Department to do? Would you do it? Would you designate him a kingpin if that were seen as a – as the appropriate step? I’m just trying to gauge what you guys are willing to do, how public you’re willing to denounce the leaders.

QUESTION: Ned, you’ve got to guess.

MR PRICE: (Laughter.) I was going to say, should I ask who precisely you’re referring to?

QUESTION: Juan Orlando Hernandez.

MR PRICE: Look, we have spoken about the role of corruption in the region in both South America – you’ve heard me refer to the Maduro regime – and we have talked about it in the context of Central America. And recently, we have spoken of Central America in terms of the drivers for the irregular migration that have driven so many desperate individuals from this region to undertake that dangerous journey north, a journey that is made even more dangerous at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We understand that if we are going to bring about a more stable hemisphere in terms of migration, if we are going to address those root causes, that we can’t let rife corruption go unchecked. So we will be vocal. We will support – we will continue to support anti-corruption efforts in the region knowing that it is in the interest of the people of the Northern Triangle, of Central America more broadly. But it is also profoundly consistent with our values but also our interests, given the migratory pressure that I spoke to before.

QUESTION: Okay, good goals. But you’re willing to denounce Maduro by name, but not Hernandez by name? I’m trying to understand that.

MR PRICE: We have spoken, as I have said, about corruption, including in the Northern Triangle. We are not shying away from denouncing any particular leader. We are rooting out corruption wherever it exists, whether that’s – seeking to root out, I should say, corruption wherever it exists, whether that’s in the Western Hemisphere or more broadly.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Anything new regarding the talks with Turkey regarding the S-400 and the F-35?

MR PRICE: No, and that’s precisely because our position on the S-400 has not changed, and so I don’t have any updates for you there.

Humeyra.

QUESTION: Two quick ones. On Yemen, next week there’s going to be a donor conference. They’re trying to raise, like, 4 billion. Last time it had only – they have only received half of what it was needed, and there was a big gap from the Gulf allies. How much will the U.S. pledge? And are you asking Saudi Arabia and UAE to make generous donations?

And since I’m at it, on Myanmar, why aren’t you guys sanctioning the military companies already? Because, I mean, all of these people are taking to the streets, they’re demonstrating, they’re carrying out a strike. In terms of, like, the economic damage that’s already being out there, wouldn’t it be – like, wouldn’t it demonstrate U.S. support for these people if you would take that step and impose sanctions on MEC and MEHL?

MR PRICE: Well, we have taken the step of imposing sanctions on the military, on military-associated entities. We designated both people and entities just days after we determined this to be a coup.

QUESTION: Not the actual companies, not MEC and MEHL.

MR PRICE: Well, I said people and entities. The other point I would make is that there may be additional policy levers we can pull when it comes to our goal of supporting the people of Burma, of putting pressure on the – on those behind this military coup in order to restore democratically elected governance to Burma. We, of course, as I think you saw late last week, applauded the sanctions that were imposed by the Brits, by the Canadians. We have been working with our closest allies and partners in the Indo Pacific, in North America, in Europe on this as well. We’ll continue to do so.

You raised Burma, so let me just say, since I have the opportunity, we strongly condemn any violence by the Burmese authorities against the Burmese people, including peaceful protesters, and we urge the Burmese military to exercise restraint. Over the weekend, millions of Burmese took to the streets to show the strength of their will and the power of their collective voice. We stand with the people of Burma. We call on the Burmese military to act peacefully and with respect for the rule of law and human rights, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. We stand with the people of Burma and support the freedom of peaceful assembly, including to protest peacefully in support of the democratically elected government.

One final question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Over the last few years, India has started importing oil and natural gas from the United States. Given that this administration has a top priority of climate change, will that continue to happen, or it is going to break on that? Are you reviewing this, your export policy on the oil and natural gas?

MR PRICE: Well, of course, we have worked closely with India on the challenge of climate change. It was just before November – I guess it was December of 2015 when the Paris Agreement was consummated, that the United States and India worked especially closely to usher in the Paris climate agreement, just as we did with China at that time. So we will continue to work closely with India on the challenge of climate change.

When it comes to energy cooperation more broadly, I would say that the U.S.-India energy partnership supports sustainable energy development. It harnesses energy sources to meet 21st century power needs. It protects national security and promotes regional and international stability. We collaborate on natural gas, renewable energy, nuclear energy, clean coal, technology, smart grids, and unconventional and clean energy sources research for the benefit of our people now and in the future. Our broad energy cooperation with India under the Strategic Energy Partnership is strong and will continue growing even as the administration prioritizes climate change issues.

Thank you very much, everyone. We will do this again tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:19 p.m.)

 

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