(AGENPARL) – gio 19 gennaio 2023 You are subscribed to Collected Releases for U.S. Department of State. This information has recently been updated, and is now available.
01/18/2023 08:34 PM EST
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
2:18 p.m. EST
MR PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR PRICE: Welcome. Welcome to our visitors as well. A couple items before we get started. First we are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic Yeti Airlines crash over the weekend, which killed 72 people, including two U.S. citizens and two lawful permanent residents.
Our thoughts are with the families of those on board.
The United States stands ready to support Nepal in any way we can at this difficult hour.
 Similarly, I believe many of you will have heard the Secretary offer his own condolences in response to the tragic helicopter crash that took place earlier today in Ukraine, as did President Biden. We were saddened – deeply saddened to learn of the passing this morning of so many of those aboard, including some of our key partners: Minister of Internal Affairs Denis Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister of Interior Yevheniy Yenin, Minister of Interior State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovychis, and the parents and children who were also killed in that devastating crash. We have offered our full support, full assistance to Ukraine, and of course our thoughts are with them as well in this difficult hour.
With that, happy to start where you would like.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you.
MR PRICE: Sure, Said.
QUESTION: I want to start with the Palestinian issue.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the embassy issue in Jerusalem? It is alleged that it is being built on land that was confiscated from the Palestinians. There was a big op-ed yesterday in The New York Times. I wonder if you saw it.
MR PRICE: I did see it, and I appreciate the opportunity to comment on it – primarily because there has been some misinformation or some misimpressions about our plans. To be very clear, we have not decided on which site to pursue. A number of factors, including the history of the various sites that are in contention will be part of that very site selection process. We are committed, as you know, Said, to keeping the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jerusalem itself, of course, is a final status issue to be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and we’re currently considering two options for our future embassy facility in Jerusalem. One is the Allenby site and the second is the Arnona site. But again no decision has been made on site selection. In accordance with Israeli law, we started the process to amend the town plan for both potential locations. The public comment period for the Allenby site remains open. We also expect to advance the plan for the Arnona site shortly, with a separate comment period to open soon.
The reason there is a comment period is so that we can garner a fuller sense of public reaction, public response to sites that may be in contention. The public comment periods will allow the public to voice any objections to the proposed zoning changes before the district committee asks for any adjustments to those proposed zoning changes. Construction, location, and a range of other factors, including – as I said before – the history of these very sites will be part of that ultimate site selection.
QUESTION: So let me ask you, in retrospect – I mean, this has been since 2017 when the former administration recognized Jerusalem as capital. No one really has followed through, none of your allies – not the British, not the Germans – nobody did. Was it a mistake, perhaps, maybe you can nullify this and go back to Tel Aviv until the Jerusalem issue is resolved? I mean, there is an international status for Jerusalem that you could – that you have followed for a very long time – for decades – but you could redo the same thing.
MR PRICE: Said, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The last administration recognized that; this administration recognizes that. But what has not changed is the fact of the status of Jerusalem as a final status issue. This issue – the final status of the Holy City – is to be determined between and by the parties themselves, Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: One more —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: One more question on this issue. This year has been very bloody for the Palestinians, as has the last year. More than 14 or 15 Palestinians – many of them kids, teenagers, and so on – have been killed. Are you concerned that maybe the Israeli occupation army has been too trigger happy, that they shoot and then find out what was – what’s going on? And would you call on them perhaps to pull back from this shoot first policy?
MR PRICE: Said, you made reference to the tragic loss of life that we’ve seen on the part of Palestinians and Israelis over the course of the latter part of last year and then this year. Today, of course, is the 18th of January. We’re only 18 days into this month, and already, since the beginning of this year alone, 15 Palestinians have been killed. Several Israelis have been injured in the West Bank. We are deeply concerned by the situation in the West Bank. The preceding period has seen a sharp and alarming increase in Palestinian and Israeli deaths and injuries, including many children among them.
We continue to emphasize to both parties, Israelis and Palestinians, that we want to see a de-escalation of tensions. We want to see constructive engagement. We continue to emphasize to both Israelis and Palestinians that they both equally deserve to have equal measures of security, stability, justice, dignity, and democracy. It is alarming to see the pace of violence, the rate of deaths, of injuries. It is also incumbent on the parties to take steps themselves to see a diminution in the tensions that have spiked in recent weeks and months.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Jerusalem?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: As you know, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Brett McGurk are in Israel now. They expect also to meet with President Abbas. You know that, right?
MR PRICE: I am aware.
QUESTION: You look a bit surprised. (Laughter.)
MR PRICE: I am aware. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. So basically, John Kirby told me today that the purpose of the visit was to emphasize the U.S. position vis-à-vis the two-state solution, and also to encourage the parties, as you said, to not to undermine that prospect. So is the U. S. current policy – is to keep the status quo in the Palestinian areas or not to be involved in any peace prospect, not to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to get into any peace process or negotiation considering the – Netanyahu may have government being right wing – I mean, are there ways like basically we will be happy just to keep things as they are and not to initiate anything new?
MR PRICE: Our policy is fundamentally a pragmatic one. At the present moment – and this goes back to Said’s question – we recognize the deeply concerning trends that have taken place and, in some ways, accelerated in recent months, but also over the course of several years now. Those are the very trends that, over the course of last year and then earlier this year, have led to extraordinarily high, far too high numbers of deaths and injuries, both on the part of Palestinians and Israelis.
So task number one, as we see it, is to do what we can to help de-escalate tensions, to see to it that this alarming rate of violence is diminished, that tensions are eased, and to encourage both sides to refrain from steps that only further exacerbate tensions. Our first priority at the present moment is doing just that, is seeing if we can be a constructive voice, a constructive partner in helping the two sides de-escalate and put an end to this cycle of violence.
Now, of course our longer-term approach continues to be support for a negotiated two-state solution, a negotiated two-state solution that will bring into existence what we ultimately hope to see: Israelis and Palestinians living side by side equally, enjoying equal measures of stability, of security, of democracy, of dignity, of prosperity as well. Now, of course, this is a moment in some ways of triage. Our end goal is one that is quite far off. We recognize that at the moment. No one at the moment is speaking to the possibility of near-term constructive dialogue culminating anytime soon in a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. We acknowledge that; we appreciate that. That’s why our approach is practical, it’s pragmatic, it is focused on what Palestinians need at the moment and what Israelis need at the moment.
In delivering that, what we are trying to do is to set the stage so that the parties can, over the longer term, make progress towards what remains our goal, what has remained the goal of Israelis and Palestinians over successive decades, and that is a two-state solution to this longstanding conflict.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about Yemen unless somebody want to ask about Israel.
MR PRICE: Anything else on Israel?
QUESTION: Just one more on this Israel-related trip. Are you in a position to confirm the media reports that the U.S. has moved munitions stored in Israel to Ukraine for use in Ukraine? If so, can you speak to the significance of that, and also what other steps do you expect from Israel given the fact that there’s a negotiation going on?
MR PRICE: I’m not in a position to speak to that report. I would refer you to DOD if they’re in a position to speak to those types of tactical movements. That’s not something we would speak to from here. I suspect it’s also not something that our partners throughout the government would speak to in any detail as well.
QUESTION: May I ask (inaudible) topic, if possible – housekeeping —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Housekeeping first, you started the briefing by welcoming our guests. When it comes to foreign leaders’ trips to this building, the recent practice has been on the part – the trips from – not the countries like (inaudible) countries, but allies and partners, the practice has been the Secretary would put together a press conference along with the guest leader. The fact that there is no press conference featuring the today’s dialogue, how do you want us to read that? Is it a reflection of the nature of the trip or the nature of the relationship between Türkiye and the U.S. or the nature of the state of press freedom in Türkiye.
MR PRICE: I certainly wouldn’t read much into it. This is a discussion we have with our guests. It is also a factor of the Secretary’s schedule, of the schedule of the visiting dignitary. Of course, you’re asking this one day after Secretary Blinken spent 45 minutes to an hour in front of all of you with Foreign Secretary Cleverly, and we were in a position —
QUESTION: No, no, hold on – let’s say you started 45 minutes to an hour late.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Matt.
QUESTION: I’m not sure that they actually spent 45 minutes to an hour in front of —
MR PRICE: I wasn’t – I wasn’t counting the time, but it was about 45 minutes, if I recall – rough estimate, at least. So as you know, with some visiting dignitaries, we are in a position to have a joint press avail with some scheduling constraints; preferences on the part of our guests or other considerations preclude that.
QUESTION: I mean – and there’s no other reason why Turkish foreign minister would be deprived of the State Department podium, right?
MR PRICE: You all heard from Foreign Minister Cavusoglu today. You all heard from Secretary Blinken today as well. These are questions that we coordinate with our visiting guests.
QUESTION: May I move to South Caucasus, if possible?
MR PRICE: Let – let me —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) something about Türkiye?
MR PRICE: Yeah, sure. Türkiye?
QUESTION: Yeah, so – specifically on Türkiye. The foreign – Turkish foreign minister said he expected the United States to approve the sale of F-16s – he said that to the Secretary, obviously. What will be the message of the Secretary, given that the U.S. Government officially supports this deal, but there’s strong opposition in Congress? So what are your expectations the Secretary will tell the Turkish foreign minister on this issue?
MR PRICE: Well, I expect our Turkish allies will be hearing – because the meeting is ongoing now – a similar message to what they have heard, President Erdogan has heard directly from President Biden, and what all of you have heard, because President Biden said this publicly in June in Madrid. When it comes to the F-16s, President Biden said that as a general matter, he believes that we should sell Türkiye the F-16 jets and modernize their existing fleet as well.
As you know, there is a process for these types of sales, these types of transfers. This is a process that involves Congress, of course, and we would decline to comment on the particulars of that process until and unless there is any formal notification to Congress. We are not in a position to do that yet; our position has not changed. It is also fair to say – and I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets, because our partners on the Hill have been quite vocal about this as well – is that there are strong opinions on the Hill.
So we will continue to engage with our Turkish partners. We will, as appropriate, engage with our partners on the Hill. We want to see to it that Türkiye, as a NATO Ally, has what it needs to be – continue to be a valued member of that Alliance and to address the very real security concerns that Türkiye itself faces.
QUESTION: Thank you, please. Senator Menendez said that he is going to block the transfer of F-16s to Türkiye, and he said till Ankara, as he said, improves its human rights record and cease threatening U.S. regional allies like Greece and Cyprus. He said that Erdogan is undermining international law, and Türkiye is not a good ally. I don’t know if you agree with the senator, but I wanted to hear your comment, please.
MR PRICE: Well, Congress has a key role to play when it comes to these decisions. This is a process that we respect. It has been a priority of this Secretary to engage with Congress not only, as he likes to say, on landing, but also at the takeoff; that is to say, at every step of the process, to have iterative engagement with our congressional overseers, but also the authorizers and approvers, including those who sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
We have a very constructive relationship with Türkiye. We are grateful for the role that Türkiye has played in helping to address many of the most pressing challenges of our time, and that includes, of course, Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that without Türkiye’s constructive role, we would not have the Black Sea Grain Initiative, certainly not the grain initiative that is functioning at the scope and scale that it is now. We’ve consistently said that we are grateful for Türkiye’s role in that. We’re also appreciative of the fact that President Erdogan and his government has used their somewhat unique position to seek to address Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Now, it is not for any lack of trying on Ankara’s part that those efforts have not diminished or put an end to this war. That is a function of President Putin – his determination to continue this brutal war despite the costs that it’s inflicting on his own people.
Now, as allies, where and when we have disagreements, we can be candid about those disagreements, and we’ll speak clearly when it comes to shared values and shared interests. We’ve said this many times before: We remain deeply concerned by the continued judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Türkiye, including through prolonged pretrial detention, overly broad claims of support for terrorism, and criminal insult cases.
The people of Türkiye, like people everywhere, deserve to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of retribution. The right to exercise freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association is enshrined in Türkiye’s constitution, and in its international law obligations, and in its OSCE commitments.
We urge Türkiye to respect and ensure freedom of expression, these very fair pretrial guarantees, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, and other human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we urge the government to cease prosecutions, these prosecutions, and to respect the rights and freedoms of all Turkish citizens. Our Turkish allies know where we stand on this; the message we convey in private is precisely the message we’ve consistently conveyed in public.
QUESTION: Another question, please. You said that you are happy, of course, with the role that Türkiye has played with the Ukraine. But are you happy with the role that Türkiye is playing in northern Syria? I mean, Mr. Kalin said two days ago that they are going to invade.
MR PRICE: And this is an area where we’ve also been in a position to have candid conversations with our ally, precisely because we are allies. And when you’re friends, let alone when you’re allies, you have the ability to sit down together and to be frank with one another, and we’ve done that. But we’ve also recognized that Türkiye faces legitimate threats to its own security. Türkiye has endured more terrorist attacks on its soil than any other NATO Ally. This goes back to the point I was making before about our desire to see Türkiye continue to be an important, constructive NATO Ally with the means by which to participate meaningfully in that Alliance, as Türkiye has.
When it comes to Syria, we’ve been clear publicly – also privately – that we don’t want to see any unilateral actions that have the potential to set back the tremendous progress that the international community has achieved in the effort to counter ISIS, counter Daesh, over the past several years. The so-called territorial caliphate of ISIS has been virtually destroyed. It has been virtually destroyed because of the stalwart coordination and cooperation on the part of dozens of countries who are part of the global coalition to counter ISIS or Daesh.
We are concerned that any unilateral moves have the potential to set that back and have the potential to set back the prospects for a political resolution to the longstanding – 12 years now – conflict in Syria in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
QUESTION: Sorry. At the very beginning of your – you said you are grateful for the – I think this is a quote – “grateful for the role that Türkiye has played in helping to address many of the most pressing challenges of our time.” You named one, which was the Black Sea initiative. But then after that, you listed a whole bunch of problems that you have with Türkiye, including the human rights situation, Syria just now. You didn’t mention but it’s clear that there are differences over NATO expansion as well. So can you name – I mean, you only named one. So when you say “many of the most pressing challenges of our time,” I’d like to give you the opportunity to identify another —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: — other than the Black Sea initiative.
MR PRICE: So embedded in what I said were two high-profile priorities of ours. Number one is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and I believe I mentioned this, but Türkiye has played a very helpful, meaningfully helpful role in seeking to put an end to this conflict, or at the very least diminish the violence. They have —
QUESTION: Well – okay. But whatever they’ve done, as laudable as it might be, it doesn’t seem to have worked.
MR PRICE: And again, that is – that is not – that is not for lack of trying on the part of Ankara. That is —
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re – so you’re giving them credit for trying to push the Russians to stop —
MR PRICE: Of course.
QUESTION: – their aggression against Ukraine. And you’ve got – okay. So that’s two.
MR PRICE: And dealing with the implications of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, food insecurity being one of them. That’s embedded in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
QUESTION: Okay, but that’s – that’s the second one. So there’s two. But you said “many of the most pressing challenges of our time.” So give me another example.
MR PRICE: Another example, Matt, is terrorism and the joint efforts that we’ve —
QUESTION: You just went after them about Syria, which —
MR PRICE: — that Türkiye has taken, including the steps that we announced together just a couple weeks ago now to go after a network of ISIS facilitators.
QUESTION: That was, like, four people.
MR PRICE: Yes, Matt. But Türkiye has been a valued member of this coalition. Its efforts have been —
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not saying that they’re not doing any of this. I’d just like to have another example. When you say “many,” does “many” mean two?
MR PRICE: Many ways —
QUESTION: Does it mean – does it mean three? Okay. So you’ve got Black Sea and then they attempt to get the Russians – not successfully, but they attempt to get the Russians to ease up in Ukraine. You don’t like what they’re doing or what they’re threatening to do in Syria. On terrorism, yeah, okay, so you have one joint statement over the course of the last year about sanctions. I’m just wondering where the “many of the most pressing challenges” are, and I’m not – again, I’m not saying the Turks aren’t doing anything about this, but I’d just like you – I’d like to give you the opportunity to explain what those are.
MR PRICE: And I think we’ve just gone through a number of them, not to mention Türkiye’s role in NATO over the course of several —
QUESTION: Türkiye’s role in NATO – they’re stopping —
MR PRICE: Over the – over the – over the course —
QUESTION: They are the main obstacle to NATO doing what it wants to do right now in expansion.
MR PRICE: Over the course of several decades.
QUESTION: Can you explain that deal —
MR PRICE: Yes. Let me move around to someone who hasn’t had a question yet.
QUESTION: On the Turks —
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you. Let’s do a – different issues, please. Thank you. Yeah, I have two questions for the North Korea. North Korea refuted the message from the UN Security Council that it should return to denuclearization negotiations. At the same time, the North Korean foreign ministry announced that their status as a nuclear power was a stark reality. Do you think North Korea declared itself a nuclear state? How do you see this?
MR PRICE: Well, it doesn’t change our overarching goal, and that remains the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Of course, the DPRK has demonstrated its capabilities when it comes to its illegal nuclear weapons program, when it comes to its ballistic missile program. We continue to be concerned that the DPRK may make additional provocations, and “provocations” is probably too euphemistic of a term for it. Each and every one of the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches – certainly each and every one of the DPRK’s six tests of its nuclear weapons – pose a profound and, in some cases, grave threat to international peace and security, certainly to the security and to the peace of the Indo-Pacific region.
So despite the comments that we’ve heard from the DPRK, despite the provocations that we’ve seen from the DPRK and that we may yet see, our approach will remain steadfast. It’s an approach that we honed early on in this administration, but just as importantly if not more importantly, it’s an approach that we’ve adopted jointly with our treaty allies – in this case, Japan and the ROK.
We are committed to the security of our treaty allies. We will take steps as appropriate in response to any additional provocations by the DPRK, and we’ll continue to work with partners and allies around the world to see to it that the DPRK is held accountable for its unlawful programs – its ballistic missile program, its nuclear weapons program – and to do everything we can to see to it that especially members of the UN Security Council uphold the commitments that they’ve made – the binding commitments that they’ve made in successive UN Security Council resolutions – to impose cause and – costs and consequences on the DPRK for these illegal acts.
QUESTION: The last one – this is very serious issues; maybe you (inaudible). Recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has purged many North Korean officials who led the dialogue between the United States and North Korea in the past, including the North Korean foreign minister and the highest-ranking officials. How do you see the future prospect for dialogue between the United States and North Korea?
MR PRICE: I’ve seen those reports; I’m not in a position to confirm them. But the latter part of your question is really a better question for the DPRK, because we have a vision for what could be if only the DPRK would agree to engage in the pragmatic, practical discussion and dialogue that we’ve put on the table for months and months now. We have made no secret of the fact we wish to engage with the DPRK on the basis of the ultimate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to discuss how we might – again, with practical, pragmatic steps – advance that vision that we’ve put forward that would be in the interests of the United States, of our partners and allies, of the broader region, and, we think, in the interests of the DPRK itself.
Of course, the DPRK has to date shunned those offers. It has responded to our repeated statements that we harbor no hostile intent towards the DPRK, to our repeated offers to engage in dialogue, with only more provocations and more threats. That is a dynamic that we are using various tools at our disposal to seek to change. It’s a dynamic that we would like to see changed.
QUESTION: The last one – China. And China said that there are limits to – persuading North Korea. Would Secretary Blinken discuss these issues during the – his visit to China this time?
MR PRICE: I am certain that the challenge that the DPRK poses to the Indo-Pacific region and beyond will be on the agenda when Secretary Blinken travels to Beijing.
QUESTION: A China question?
MR PRICE: Okay, one more —
QUESTION: China? China?
MR PRICE: China, and then I’ll come back.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Last week we heard a lot about what the U.S. and Mexico can do to stop fentanyl to arrive to the Western Hemisphere. But we didn’t hear that much about what the U.S. and Mexico are doing to press China on the illegal exportation of precursor chemicals to produce fentanyl. Can you describe what’s the current status of any dialogue between the U.S. and China on precisely this issue, the illegal exportation of fentanyl precursors?
MR PRICE: Sure. Let me start by saying that this is a priority of Secretary Blinken. He consistently brings up to his senior team the threat that fentanyl poses to the international community but, in very real terms, poses to the American people. It is the leading killer of Americans between the age – ages of 18 to 49. It presents a clear and present danger to our people but, to your question, to people around the world. This is the very definition of a transnational challenge because it is a drug whose precursors originate in various places around the world. its manufacturing takes place in very places – various places around the world, and it kills far too many people around the world as well.
 That is why he has directed his team to do everything we can, often in concert with our partners in the U.S. Government – whether that’s the DEA, whether that’s customs – the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border enforcement#post-411994-footnote-1, whether that is other partners as well – to address the challenge that fentanyl poses.
 When it comes to the PRC, since the PRC scheduled fentanyl and related substances as a – as a class in 2019, the PRC is no longer a major source of fentanyl flowing into the United States. We continue to see PRC-origin precursor chemicals being used in illicit fentanyl production. Though its past action has helped to counter illicit synthetic drugs, we continue to urge the PRC to take additional meaningful concrete action to curb the diversion of precursor chemicals and equipment used by criminals to manufacture fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.
We are committed to working with the PRC. We often talk about the areas in which the United States and the PRC can work together constructively to deepen that collaboration to the betterment of our two peoples but also to the betterment of people around the world. This is very much one of those areas. It is a challenge for the Chinese people, it is a challenge for the American people, and we hope that we can continue to collaborate effectively and constructively with the PRC to take on this challenge.
QUESTION: Over the last week there’s been a little bit more data sharing from China on COVID after a back and forth with the WHO. Is the U.S. satisfied with the level of transparency in recent days from China on COVID, or would you like to see more transparency over data on illnesses and infections and deaths?
MR PRICE: So this is really a better question for the WHO. The WHO is in the best position to judge the level of transparency that the PRC is exhibiting. They’ve made various statements. There was a session between WHO officials and PRC officials early this year. In the aftermath of that session, the WHO issued a public statement. Over the weekend, I believe it was, the PRC provided additional data, and that was welcomed by the WHO. We continue to urge transparency on COVID-19 data, including from the PRC. Our position is the position of scientists; public health experts around the world that without this data, it will be difficult for public health officials to ensure they will be prepared to reduce the spread and identify any new potential variants.
So we continue to urge the PRC to be fully transparent. The measures that we put in place, the measures that we announced just before the new year and put into place earlier this year, the pre‑departure testing for individuals traveling from the PRC to the United States also made this point. Those measures are based on both the prevalence of COVID in the PRC, but also what we were seeing at the time – or namely what we were not seeing at the time – the lack of transparent data distribution from the PRC, principally to the WHO, including the genomic sequencing so that the WHO could have an early warning should any new variants develop and be spreading beyond the PRC’s borders.
(AGENPARL) – gio 19 gennaio 2023 You are subscribed to Collected Releases for U.S. Department of State. This information has recently been updated, and is now available.