Matthew Miller

U.S. Department of State Press Briefing in the Wake of the Russian Wagner Group Rebellion

delivered 25 June 2023, Harry S. Truman Building, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address       Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address

 

MR. MILLER: Good afternoon, everyone. I am very sorry to be late. But on the plus side, I donít have -- on the plus side --

QUESTION: On the plus side, you have so much information to impart to us that --

MR. MILLER: On the plus side, I donít have any opening remarks, so Iíll go right to your questions, to which --

QUESTION: All right. Well, letís --

MR. MILLER: -- I will try to provide information.

QUESTION: Letís start with the main topic of the day. And frankly, I donít expect that youíre going to have a lot to say, so -- but anyway.

MR. MILLER: You never know, Matt. You can always try your best.

QUESTION: Well, whatís your understanding of the situation in Ukraine, Russia, Wagner, Belarus?

MR. MILLER: So, I donít have any specific assessment to make in terms of the facts on the ground. Obviously, we all saw what happened over the weekend.

I will say, in our assessment, it remains a dynamic situation. Itís unclear what the ultimate implications of what happened will be. As it relates to United States activities and United States interests, Iíll speak to what we did over the weekend.

Number one, the President focused on convening allies and partners. You saw that he had a call with members of the Quad, Secretary Blinken had a call with members of the G7, he had a call with Secretary Kuleba of Ukraine, with -- sorry, with Foreign Minister Kuleba of Ukraine, with foreign ministers from TŁrkiye and Poland. We continue to have discussions with our allies and partners today.

We also made clear to Ukraine, as we made clear in conversations with our allies and partners, that our steadfast support for Ukraine will remain so, no matter what happens in Russia.

And I will say, with respect to the activities over the weekend, obviously they were a significant step. It is a -- certainly, a new thing to see President Putinís leadership directly challenged. It is a new thing to see Yevgeniy Prigozhin directly questioning the rationale for this war, and calling out that the war has been conducted, essentially, based on a lie, which is something that we have said previously, but we certainly have not seen coming from Russian officials previously. Those are all significant steps. And what the implications of those are, I think, remains to be seen.

QUESTION: Okay, but -- so you think that Prigozhin is a Russian official?

MR. MILLER: He is not a --

QUESTION: Iím not sure --

MR. MILLER: He is certainly a leader of Russian forces that have engaged on the battlefield, or was.

QUESTION: Or was?

MR. MILLER: Or was. I think it remains to be seen -- weíve seen the announcements, but I think it remains to be seen, the final or the -- the current or final disposition of Wagner and Yevgeniy Prigozhin.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any idea where he is right now?

MR. MILLER: I donít have any assessment about his location.

QUESTION: And then last thing is do you think that this is going to have any kind of impact on the Russian operations in Ukraine or, also, on Wagner activities outside of Ukraine, like in Syria and in Africa?

MR. MILLER: I think itís too soon to tell with respect to both of those questions. Certainly, the events we saw over the weekend, where you see Wagner forces to some extent withdrawing from Ukraine, and instead marching on and eventually occupying a Russian city, are a significant step. What happens to those Wagner forces in the wake of the announcements on Saturday and the last couple days? I think we just donít know the answer to that yet. We donít know what will happen to Wagner in Ukraine; we donít know what will happen to Wagner in Africa.

I will say that, as weíve said before, obviously, wherever weíve seen Wagner operate in the past weíve seen death and destruction follow in their wake. And we have instituted a series of policies to hold them accountable, and to counter Wagnerís influence. And to the extent Wagner continues to operate in Africa, or in Ukraine, or anywhere else in the world, or any Wagner successor organizations pick up the mantle that Wagner has carried, we will continue to take actions to hold either Wagner or their successor accountable.

QUESTION: Okay, last one. Just -- so Ambassador Tracy went to the foreign ministry, or called the foreign ministry, and there was a -- there were communications here in D.C.?

MR. MILLER: There --

QUESTION: And what were -- what were they?

MR. MILLER: We had communications over the weekend on -- actually, I will just say we had communications on Saturday with the Russian Government, both Ambassador Tracy and at other levels here in Washington, where we delivered two messages to them: number one, we expected Russia to withhold its obligations -- to uphold its obligations, I should say, to protect our embassy and to protect diplomatic personnel who are in Moscow; and two, to reiterate what we said publicly, that this is an internal Russian affair in which the United States is not involved and will not be involved.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MILLER: Andrea.

QUESTION: Matt, Senator Warner -- obviously, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee -- told me on the air that they believe, or he believes from reports heís seen, that Prigozhin is in Minsk. Do you have any indication that thatís -- of that as well?

MR. MILLER: I donít have any assessment on his location, no.

QUESTION: And do you have any indication of what concessions he may have received regarding Shoigu or anything else, for turning around?

MR. MILLER: I do not, I do not. I would note in respect to that -- and weíve gotten a lot of questions with respect to Shoigu or Gerasimov, and I will say -- it relates to the last question I answered from Matt -- that the United States does not take a position on the leadership of the Russian Federation. We do not take a position on the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Our policies have been -- always been with respect to actions that Russia has taken.

We want a Russia that is not invading its neighbors and trying to violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its neighbors. We want a Russia that is not conducting malign influence operations across the world. That has always been our policy with Russia, not the disposition of the ministry of defense or any other offices inside the country.

QUESTION: The one on-the-record statement that came out on Saturday was the confidence in the command and control of the nuclear forces. And I infer from that that there is military-to-military communication, as one would expect, between us and the Russians, in contrast to -- obviously to a different situation with China or --

MR. MILLER: I wonít speak to any inferences. I will say that I will let the Pentagon speak to any military-to-military communications, whether it happened or not. I will say, however, as the Secretary said yesterday, we do not -- did not see, do not see any change in the disposition of Russian nuclear forces and have not changed the disposition of ours.

QUESTION: And the Secretary did say in some of his interviews that Putinís influence, power, whatever, has clearly been shaken by this, by his speech, by the whole nexus of what has happened. Can you speak to that?

MR. MILLER: Yeah. I will say, as I said a moment ago, this certainly was a new moment in -- if you look -- think of the events of the last few years. As the Secretary said, 16 months ago the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin envisioned that Russian forces would be taking Kyiv, and instead over the weekend we saw Russian forces taking a Russian Ministry of Defense office inside a Russian city. We saw the entire pretext of this war being questioned openly -- something we have done, something our allies and partners have done, something that you have not seen inside the borders of Russia. In fact, you can be thrown in jail for taking that step as an ordinary citizen inside of Russia. We saw Yevgeniy Prigozhin directly questioning not just the ministry of defense officials, as heís done for some time, but really directly challenging President Putinís leadership.

Those are all significant steps and a significant change from what weíve seen certainly in the last 16 months, but over a number of years. Where that -- what that means going forward, we donít know.

QUESTION: Has Vladimir Putin, as you know him and as this Administration knows him, tolerated this kind of insubordination? Whether in the immediate future or long term, would he tolerate this kind of challenge to his authority?

MR. MILLER: I would not ever want to speculate on how Vladimir Putin might respond to any event, certainly not an event inside Russia.

QUESTION: Follow-up on Russia?

QUESTION: Iíd like to follow up.

MR. MILLER: Kylie. Kylie.

QUESTION: On the diplomatic efforts that were made over the weekend, did Russians respond to those messages from U.S. diplomats, Ambassador Tracy, and the others?

MR. MILLER: I wonít speak to the Russian response; Iíll just speak to the messages that we delivered to them.

QUESTION: You -- Iím not asking you to characterize them. Iím just asking you to say yes or no if they responded.

MR. MILLER: Well, it was a conversation. They -- I mean, it wasnít a one-way --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MILLER: These werenít one-way conversations that we delivered, and the other side hangs up.

QUESTION: [Off-mic]

MR. MILLER: There -- it was a conversation, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then one thing that the Secretary said over the weekend is that, to the extent that Russia is now distracted by whatís happening internally in its country, that could create an additional advantage for the Ukrainians. How exactly is the United States encouraging the Ukrainians to take advantage of this moment?

MR. MILLER: So, I would say that I would frame it slightly differently. We continue to supply the Ukrainians with the equipment they need to conduct the counteroffensive, and to defend themselves long term. We continue to have intelligence-sharing channels with the Ukrainians. We continue to have military-to-military channels, we continue to have diplomatic channels that are open with Ukraine.

What the Secretary was speaking to is the fact that you did see Wagner forces withdraw from Ukraine and instead move on a Russian city. How that shakes out, what happens in the coming days with respect to Wagner forces or other Russian military forces I donít think we can say. But certainly, we are in close consultation with Ukraine and the Ukrainian military about the ongoing counteroffensive.

QUESTION: Follow-up on Russia?

MR. MILLER: Go ahead, yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. Last time White House and State Department said that Prigozhin and North Korea had an arms deal. What change do you see in the arms trade between Prigozhin and North Korea? Is there any change, in your opinion?

MR. MILLER: I think itís too soon to tell. Itís too early to tell how any of the existing Wagner operations or Wagner arrangements will change, if at all, moving forward.

QUESTION: And the Chinese foreign minister and the Russian foreign minister had a meeting yesterday. Do you know about the contents of their meetings?

MR. MILLER: I do not know the contents of those meetings. I will say -- will reiterate what Secretary Blinken said when he was in Beijing and in a number of interviews afterwards, which when we were in Beijing -- this was last -- over a week ago now, or a week ago Sunday and Monday -- the issue of Ukraine and Russiaís invasion of Ukraine did come up in our meetings, and Secretary Blinken was quite clear with the Chinese officials that he met with that if they wanted to play a constructive role in helping find a just and lasting peace that recognized Ukrainiansí -- Ukraineís territorial sovereignty -- territorial integrity and sovereignty, we would welcome them playing such a role. But I donít have any readout of those meetings that took place.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. MILLER: Iíll come to -- and Iíll come to you next.

QUESTION: Yes, just to follow up on that, do you think -- is there anything you can sort of parse from Chinese statements about the mutiny? And, I guess, do you think that this -- seeing this instability and the cracks in the Russian regime might give China sort of pause in their support for the Russians over the war in Ukraine?

MR. MILLER: I wouldnít want to speculate on how they might read this situation. I would say that -- I would just reiterate what Secretary Blinken said directly in his meetings to them, which is we would urge them to continue to not support Russia with direct military assistance. Weíve obviously made our concerns about potential support public in the past. We have not seen them take that step. They discussed that in their meetings.

And whether it changes how theyíve approached this conflict or not, I donít know. But if they did want to play a constructive role that recognized the need to preserve Ukraineís territorial integrity and sovereignty, itís a role that we would welcome them playing.

QUESTION: Could I ask about the Belarusian -- the element of Belarus in this? Has there been any direct contact with the United States and Lukashenka or people in the Lukashenka regime over this?

MR. MILLER: Not that Iím aware of.

QUESTION: Is there any message or is there any impact there would be on relations? Obviously, theyíre already quite bad with Lukashenka, but is this -- how do you see the fact that Prigozhin supposedly is going to Belarus?

MR. MILLER: I think before I comment on that Iíd want to wait and see what actually happens --where Prigozhin actually does end up, before I make any kind of speculatory comment about what -- a speculative comment about what may occur.

QUESTION: So, you think itís possible he wonít wind up in Belarus? Is that --

MR. MILLER: We just donít have any assessment, at this time.

QUESTION: Sure. And can I follow up?

MR. MILLER: Yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned earlier on Africa, the Wagner operations there, that you donít -- you canít say yet whatís going to happen. But is there a message the United States has to countries -- say Mali, Burkina Faso allegedly, some other countries that have partnered with Wagner -- about what this unrest shows about Wagnerís activities and which direction they should go?

MR. MILLER: I will say two things. Number one, to reiterate the message that we have given to these countries publicly and privately in the past, which is that any time Wagner enters a country, death and destruction follows. We see Wagner exploit local populations. We see them extract local wealth. We see them commit human rights abuses. So, we have always encouraged any country not to engage with Wagner forces because of the deleterious effects it will have on their countries and most specifically on their people.

And then second with respect to this, I would say -- just what happened over the weekend, it would just -- it would reinforce the concerns weíve stated about the instability that Wagner brings with it when it enters any country.

QUESTION: Just a couple of questions to follow up on what you just said. To backtrack a little bit, what is the State Departmentís definition on what happened, nearly happened, or failed to happen over the weekend?

MR. MILLER: What do you mean?

QUESTION: You just -- you just said the events that happened. Do you have any definition? How do you call it?

MR. MILLER: I think the events that happened were Yevgeniy Prigozhin took a group of his forces and marched on Rostov and then continued to Moscow and then stopped.

QUESTION: Was it a coup attempt or is there any other --

MR. MILLER: I will say no one in the United States Government has used that term. I wonít speak to what his eventual motivations were, what his intentions were. Iíll say it is only -- it is Vladimir Putin that raised the specter of 1917, not someone from -- not anyone from the United States Government.

QUESTION: And can you tell the timeline -- can we be precise on when did exactly your ambassador reach out to Russians, and what did she convey? Everything we have heard from Lavrov today quoting her, was it accurate?

MR. MILLER: Iím not going to speak to Lavrovís characterization. The conversations that we had with the Russian Government were on Saturday, and they were along the lines that I just outlined a minute ago. Iím happy to go through them again if you want.

QUESTION: And finally, the Secretary said yesterday that we havenít seen the last act yet. Iím just curious how much does it reflect sentiment on your end that this might be just an episode of what can be a long-running internal fighting in Russia.

MR. MILLER: I think the -- what the Secretary was speaking to was quite obvious, in that this is a situation that remains dynamic, and we do not yet know how it will end.

QUESTION: How does the Secretary envision the last act?

MR. MILLER: The Secretary envisions the final act as Russia withdrawing its forces from Ukraine; and if not, Ukraine being victorious on the battlefield. Beyond that, I wouldnít want to speculate.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have an assessment on the status of the Wagner kind of forces after the weekendís events?

MR. MILLER: I do not. I do not.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So, yeah, just to summarize what happened. Whether you call it a coup or not, there was almost a coup within the worldís largest nuclear power over the weekend. And you mentioned him questioning the war as kind of a positive, but this is also the same guy -- Prigozhin -- who has criticized Putin for not being aggressive enough in the war of Ukraine -- and has even said things like Russia should become more like North Korea to have success in this war.

So, he took over Russiaís Southern Military District. That district is 60 miles away from one of their nuclear airbases. So, in general, this seems like an incredibly dangerous situation. I see youíre viewing some of the developments in a positive light, but it -- to me it just seems like this was the most dangerous situation that has happened since the beginning of the war.

And my question is: given how much funding weíve provided in this war -- weíve provided more than any country in the world, more than the two countries that are even fighting the war -- we could end this diplomatically to avoid another situation like this. But youíve said weíre still steadfastly supporting Ukraine until the end. Was there no consideration of how differently this coup could have gone, how out of hand it could have gone? And then does that affect your consideration into like -- is it worth it? Is it worth this nuclear risk? Is it worth a mercenary getting access to Russiaís nuclear arsenal? Are the Crimea and the Donbas -- who rules those regions -- worth it?

MR. MILLER: Wow. Let me -- that was a lot. Wow. I will say a few things. First of all, I do not agree with your characterization of how we interpreted the events here. Number two, I will say there are no heroes on either side of this conflict, between the Russian regime and Yevgeniy Prigozhin. Weíve seen both Russian military forces and Yevgeniy Prigozhinís Wagner forces commit brutal atrocities in Ukraine -- attacking civilians, attacking civilian infrastructure.

Second, that we do not take any position -- as I said a number of times, on what is an internal Russian matter, which is ultimately a decision for the Russian people to make.

Third, I will say when you look at the events over the weekend, it only reinforces the need for us to continue to support Ukraine, which is the country that was invaded by Russia -- by Russian miliary forces and by Wagner forces. If anything, our support for Ukraine in the wake of this event is more steadfast than itís ever been.

QUESTION: Right. Well, so -- so I wasnít trying to say that you -- just real quick, though. I wasnít trying to say that you were supporting Prigozhin in any way. Iím just saying this development was extremely dangerous, and I -- do you at least admit that? This guy was 60 miles from their nuclear airbase.

MR. MILLER: The Secretary said yesterday that instability in a major country is always a concern. Itís something we monitor closely.

QUESTION: In the worldís largest nuclear country.

MR. MILLER: Yeah, I think I answered the question. Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to change topics.

QUESTION: [Off mic]

MR. MILLER: Before we -- Iíll come --

QUESTION: On Russia.

QUESTION: Also, on Russia.

MR. MILLER: One more. Kylie first, and then go to you, and then weíll change topics.

QUESTION: Just one thing that you mentioned is -- sorry, Iím just figuring exactly what you said. You said --

MR. MILLER: Me, too.

QUESTION: -- the United States will continue to -- sorry. The United States will continue to impose costs on Wagner or its successor. Is there any indication right now that Wagner is actually standing up a successor organization?

MR. MILLER: I think I said or its successor, if any.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MILLER: Weíve noted the announcements by the ministry of defense that Wagner forces are supposed to be absorbed into the ministry of defense. We donít have any assessment of what will happen to the Wagner Group either in Ukraine or elsewhere around the world. But whether itís Wagner or whether itís a successor or whether itís any other organization that conducts the activities that Wagner has conducted to destabilize countries, we will hold that -- those organizations accountable.

QUESTION: But no indication that Prigozhin is actively forming a successor organization at this moment?

MR. MILLER: I just donít have any assessments at all at this time.

QUESTION: Sure, okay.

MR. MILLER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. There are media reports that the Biden Administration had intelligence about the mutiny rebellion, how you call it, since mid-June. Is that correct? And also, if thatís true, why didnít the Administration issue any warnings to its citizens inside Russia since mid-June?

MR. MILLER: So, a few things. Number one, Iím not going to speak to any intelligence matters, as I never do from this podium. I will say you didnít exactly need a classified briefing to know that there were tensions between Yevgeniy Prigozhin and the Russian Ministry of Defense. Heís been quite open about those, and those tensions have been escalating in plain sight for anyone for the last several months.

I will say with respect to American citizens in Russia, separate and apart from this matter we have been quite clear for some time that any American citizens considering travel to Russia should not do so, and any American citizens who are in Russia should depart immediately.

All right. Anything else on this topic? Or Iíll go to Said, if not.

QUESTION: One more. One more?

MR. MILLER: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: There is another report, media report, that State Department / Treasury decided to postpone announcing new sanctions against Wagner, following the mutiny. Can you confirm that?

MR. MILLER: No. We never comment on the timing of sanctions actions. I will say generally we always time the sanctions actions that we take for maximum impact and maximum effect, and we will continue, as I said a moment ago, to hold Wagner or any other organization that conducts the destabilizing activities that Wagner has done across the world, we will continue to hold any such organization accountable.

Russia?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MILLER: Okay, I promise -- I promised Said he gets the first non-Russia question, so --

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to follow up. So, the Russians, are they responding in real time to all the outreach that the President ordered, and are you confident that they would respond similarly if it escalated to a nuclear crisis?

MR. MILLER: I certainly wouldnít want to speculate about the second part of your question. These were conversations that we had with Russians -- Russian officials. So, you know the way a conversation works: you say something; they respond. So yes, weíre responding.1

QUESTION: Can I get one last follow-up on --

MR. MILLER: You had -- youíve had a few already. Russia?

QUESTION: Thank you. How do you view the possibility -- I know youíve said you donít want to speculate -- but the possibility of Putin adopting more aggressive tactics in Ukraine as an attempt to consolidate his strength after this event?

MR. MILLER: I wouldnít want to speculate about that at all. We have seen him take a number of aggressive actions. Even over the weekend they continue to launch missile strikes on Ukraine. All I can say are the -- all I can speak to are the actions that we will take, which is to continue to provide Ukraine what it needs to defend itself and reclaim its territory.

All right.

QUESTION: Okay, on that --

MR. MILLER: Iím going to go --

QUESTION: Iím sorry. You said it demonstrates --

MR. MILLER: You donít have to. Said. Said, the --

QUESTION: You said it demonstrates --

MR. MILLER: Said, the floor is yours.

QUESTION: You said it demonstrates the need for us to continually support Ukraine.

MR. MILLER: I --

QUESTION: But youíre not acknowledging that -- how does this not demonstrate the need of how dangerous and how quickly this war can get out of hand?

MR. MILLER: War is certainly dangerous, which is why we think Russia should end this war immediately, as weíve called --

QUESTION: We think they should, but --

MR. MILLER: -- as weíve called on them to do for some time. Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Matt. Iím going to switch to the Palestinian issue. Iím tempted to ask about Russia; I have many questions, but let me --

MR. MILLER: You can ask a question about Russia, Said. Youíre not -- youíre not pigeonholed.

QUESTION: Let me stick to the -- to the Palestinian issue. Over the past few days, there were many attacks by settlers on Palestinian villages and towns. Iím going to ask you about one of them, Turmus Ayya, really almost -- largely owned by U.S. citizens and so on, maybe something -- 85 percent of all homes are owned by U.S. citizens. I want to ask you about two people: Omar Qatin, who was killed by a policeman; he is a U.S. resident, has a -- he has an alien card in the U.S. His wife is an American citizen. His children were American citizens. And my question to you: Have you been in touch with the family?

MR. MILLER: I wonít speak to any private conversations we have. Obviously, we always loss -- or lament the loss of any civilian life. Itís a matter we take very seriously, and our condolences certainly go out to his family.

QUESTION: Thereís also a U.S. legislator, whoís from the town. Heís there, Abdelnasser Rashid. Heís an Illinois state representative, and apparently his home was also attacked, his family was stoned and so on, and escaped being torched -- just barely. Are you in touch with him?

MR. MILLER: Again, I wonít speak to any private conversations we might be having.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the Israelis ought to compensate the Palestinians for their loss of property?

MR. MILLER: With respect to --

QUESTION: With respect to all these homes that were torched, and property destroyed -- cars destroyed? All this stuff happened, transpired, over the past few days.

MR. MILLER: I will say that we condemn all acts of extremist violence and incitement to violence, whether they be either Israel or Palestinian. And we remain steadfast in our work to promote de-escalation, and beyond this, an environment in which Israelis and Palestinians alike are afforded equal measures of security, prosperity, and dignity.

QUESTION: Yes. But do you believe that Palestinians that lost property ought to be compensated?

MR. MILLER: Iíll take --

QUESTION: By the Israelis?

MR. MILLER: Iíll take that one back, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, a couple more questions. There were announcements today about maybe an additional 5,000 housing units -- I donít know how many. I mean, you issue a lot of statements against settlement. But the Israelis are just moving right ahead, like a bulldozer. That does not stop them. I mean, weíve raised this issue many times in this room by not only me but other colleagues as well. So, what should the U.S. Government do to drive the point home that this is really -- itís reckless. Itís driving the whole region into a total explosion. I mean, especially when itís compounded with statements like Netanyahuís statement to a panel in the Knesset, saying that we ought to suppress any notion of a Palestinian state and so on.

MR. MILLER: I will just reiterate our longstanding position which we have said publicly from this podium. I can assure you that privately we say this directly to Israeli officials, that we believe that settlements are an impediment to a negotiated two-state solution along 1967 lines, which ultimately we believe is the best way to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

QUESTION: And finally, I want to ask you about the decision to reverse a decision taken by the Trump Administration on stopping all scientific aid to the settlements. I mean, I donít know what kind of scientific research takes place in the settlement that is aided by the U.S., other maybe than wine, to quote a friend of mine. So, does that mean a reversal of the decision that was taken under the previous Administration to allow products made in the settlements to be called ďMade in IsraelĒ?

MR. MILLER: Let me speak to the first announcement, which is, the United States strongly values scientific and technological cooperation with Israel, and robust scientific and technological cooperation with lsrael continues. The State Department recently circulated foreign policy guidance to relevant agencies in the United States Government, advising that engaging in bilateral scientific and technological cooperation with lsrael, in geographic areas, which came under the Administration of Israel after 1967 and which remain subject to final status negotiations is inconsistent with U.S. foreign policy.

I want to make one thing clear: that the guidance is reflective of the longstanding U.S. position, going back decades -- reaffirmed by this Administration, that the ultimate disposition of the geographic areas which came under the Administration of Israel after 1967 is a final status matter. Essentially, we are reverting to U.S. policy to longstanding pre-2020 geographic limitations on U.S. support for activities in those areas, a policy that goes back decades, as I stated.

QUESTION: So -- well, hold on a second. Because unless you reinstate the findings of the Hansell memorandum, this is just a minor glitch. How many institutions in the West Bank, Israeli institutions, are affected by this, and whatís the amount of money?

MR. MILLER: I believe there are three institutions. I donít know the amount --

QUESTION: Three?

MR. MILLER: I donít know the amount of money.

QUESTION: Three?

MR. MILLER: Thatís what I believe, yeah.

QUESTION: And one of them is Ariel University, right?

MR. MILLER: I think thatís right.

QUESTION: And what are the other ones?

MR. MILLER: I donít know.

QUESTION: You must have it there.

MR. MILLER: I donít know. Happy to get back to you.

QUESTION: Itís a pretty minimal amount, no?

MR. MILLER: Certainly, by the criticism weíre getting from a number of officials not treating it like a minimal amount --

QUESTION: Well --

MR. MILLER: But --

QUESTION: Well, obviously, yeah. The critics are going to say that itís -- but Iím just trying to figure out what the actual impact of this specific decision is without a reversal of the Trump Administrationís rescinding of the Hansell memorandum, which you recall was the memorandum that said that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank or in the occupied territories, which then included Gaza, was illegitimate. Is that happening?

MR. MILLER: We have not taken that step.

QUESTION: No, you havenít. Okay. So, whatís -- why do this and why do it now?

MR. MILLER: We are doing this because we believe itís important to take this step consistent with longstanding United States policy going back decades, and Iím happy to follow up after and get the -- see if I can get the exact dollar amounts.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Follow-up on something --

MR. MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to check back if -- you were responding to whatís Saidís question. But did you have a -- were you specifically concerned about this announcement today about -- I think itís around 5,700 housing units approved by -- in occupied West Bank by the Israeli Government? And weíve obviously heard these expressions of concern a lot, but since this sort of keeps happening against what you guys have been asking for from the Israelis, is there -- at some point youíre going to do something different than express concern both publicly and privately, I guess?

MR. MILLER: I will say that we are deeply troubled by the Israeli Governmentís reported decision to advance planning for over 4,000 settlements in the West Bank. We are similarly concerned by reports of changes to Israelís system of settlement Administration that expedite the planning and approval of settlements. As has been longstanding policy, the United States opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve, and are an obstacle to peace, and we call on the Government of Israel to fulfill the commitments it made in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh and return to dialogue aimed at de-escalation.

And I will say the -- for the United -- from the United States standpoint, we do think itís important that we continue to make these statements clear publicly, what our position is; that we continue to raise them privately with Israeli officials. And we will continue to do so. I think we -- our opinions about this are quite clear and we will continue to make it known.

QUESTION: A separate issue with Israel: Thereís some reporting that -- regarding the -- Israelís hopes of getting on the visa waiver scheme, that there will be a pilot project next month that will involve Palestinian Americans being able to fly into Ben Gurion. Can you tell us whether thatís -- is that something thatís happening? If -- and I guess if itís -- by the terms of the Visa Waiver Program, isnít it sort of pretty simple what the Israelis need to do in terms of -- they basically need to allow -- to treat Palestinian Americans in the same way as they treat other Americans. Why do you need a pilot project to see if they are capable of doing that?

MR. MILLER: So, I wonít speak specifically with the report -- with respect to the reports of a pilot program. I will say we do believe that steps in the bilateral relationship that would be beneficial to U.S. and Israeli citizens are something we support. That would include working with Israel towards fulfilling -- towards Israel fulfilling all the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program. We continue to work with them on this, and to the point of your question: yes, that includes extending reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans, to travel to and through Israel. And that includes Americans on the Palestinian population registry. So yes, I donít have anything to announce with respect to a pilot program, but the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program are quite clear.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you on the reciprocity issue?

MR. MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now, reciprocity is indivisible as far as youíre concerned, right? You cannot treat Palestinian Americans somewhat less than other Americans. You have to treat them equally. All Americans -- Arab, Muslim, Hindu, whatever -- all of them must be treated exactly the same, right?

MR. MILLER: Correct.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On the same subject.

MR. MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I was interviewing the ambassador from the kingdom to the U.S., Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, this weekend in Aspen, and she said that the developments by the current Administration in Israel regarding the settlement expansion were unfortunate, and suggested that it would be very difficult under these circumstances -- she didnít say impossible, but she was suggesting problems in normalization of relations if this continues.

MR. MILLER: I would say generally -- obviously, stepping back, normalization of relations between Israel and its neighbors in the region continues to be a goal for the United States. That said, we understand the many obstacles, the many difficulties, certainly with respect to Saudi Arabia. Itís something that we continue to work on. Secretary Blinken raised it in his conversations when he was in Saudi Arabia, and as we said, afterwards spoke with the -- with Prime Minister Netanyahu about that. But we certainly understand the many difficulties and the challenges to achieving that goal, but itís something that we think is important and weíll continue to work on.

QUESTION: Have you communicated to Israel, to the government there, that given the historic record of the kingdom and their relationship with the Palestinians -- especially under the previous reign of King Abdullah, where it was a top priority -- that it would be very difficult to achieve normalization, if this were to continue?

MR. MILLER: I will say we have communicated our concerns about settlements and increased settlement units directly to the Israeli Government, and I suspect they can figure out the broader implications.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. On -- couple of question on Bangladesh. During a recent press conference, Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina alleged that the U.S. wants to grab the small island of St. Martin. And main opposition BNP wants to sell it to the U.S. Thatís why she will be ousted from the power. Last 15 years she is in power without reflection of the will of the people of Bangladesh, though. The AL wants to purchase or grab this small island, or is all this a disinformation spreading by the top regime people? Why it is so important for no reason, the St. Martin Island?

MR. MILLER: I will just say that it is not accurate. We respect Bangladeshís sovereignty, and we have never engaged in any conversations about taking over St. Martinís Island. We value our partnership with Bangladesh. We strive to bolster our relationship by working together to promote democracy, including by supporting free and fair elections.

QUESTION: And one more on -- the state junior minister of foreign affairs, on Sunday, reacted to the letter of six congressmen calling as enemy -- as you know, the six congressmen wrote a letter to the president and six congress -- and other six Foreign Relations Committee member sent a letter to the secretary of state. So, what is your reaction about the foreign minister is saying that is enemy of those who are urging to take action against the authoritarian regime of Bangladesh?

MR. MILLER: I havenít seen that letter. Iíd want to review in detail before I commented on it. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, as of yesterday, as you know, Greece has a stable government. Can you tell us how you see here at the State Department the new government and, of course, your relations with Greece?

MR. MILLER: I will say that on behalf of the American people, we warmly congratulate prime -- the prime minister on his re-election yesterday. The United States views Greece as an indispensable NATO Ally and partner. Together, we will continue to advance our shared goals for peace and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Balkans, Black Sea region, and beyond, united by shared democratic values.

QUESTION: I have another question. Secretary Blinken met last week with the foreign minister of TŁrkiye. As you told us, they discuss the issue of Sweden joining NATO. I really have a simple question. Is the Secretary more optimistic after the meeting with Mr. Fidan than before the meeting? I mean, is he more optimistic that TŁrkiye is going to give the okay to Sweden to join NATO?

MR. MILLER: I wonít speak to the level of optimism or not by anyone in this building. I will just state what our policy is, which is we do believe that TŁrkiye raised legitimate concerns in the NATO accession process. We believe that Sweden has answered those concerns. Theyíve changed their constitution, theyíve changed their law, theyíve indicted individuals. And we believe they have met the concerns that TŁrkiye raised and itís time for the accession process for Sweden to be concluded.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MILLER: Go ahead. Andrea.

QUESTION: A quick question about Ukraineís accession to NATO, especially given what President Zelenskyy has said about not seeing a value in going to Vilnius if heís not going to see some progress towards that.

MR. MILLER: I will say this is --

QUESTION: What is -- I guess I should ask what the U.S. -- has there been any evolution of the U.S. position?

MR. MILLER: I will say that we are focused on NATO unity. As you know well, that NATO -- NATO accession is a -- requires a unanimous vote by all NATO members. So, we are in conversations with our allies within NATO. Secretary Blinken discussed this in detail with NATO foreign ministers in Oslo a couple of weeks ago. And we do expect that there will be a significant package of political and practical support for NATO coming out of Vilnius, but I wouldnít want to make any statements today that would get ahead of what ultimately will be a leader-level gathering next -- later this month.

QUESTION: Two weeks from --

MR. MILLER: Next month, next month. Trying to figure out what date it was today.

QUESTION: And what about Hungaryís opposition to Sweden?

MR. MILLER: Whatís that?

QUESTION: What about Hungaryís opposition to Sweden?

MR. MILLER: The same message applies to Hungary with respect to -- that I said a minute ago with respect to TŁrkiye, which is we believe it is time for Swedenís accession to be finalized.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: You said that --

MR. MILLER: Just let me -- okay, go ahead. Go ahead, Said, then Iíll come to you, Alex.

QUESTION: Thank you. You said that wherever they have left a great deal of death and destruction in their wake. Do you like to see them disbanded, the Wagner Group -- would you like to see them disbanded?

MR. MILLER: We would love to see Wagner Group continue to not exist.

QUESTION: Okay --

MR. MILLER: I think the implication of your question, though --

QUESTION: I mean, they exist, so

QUESTION: Iím sorry -- yeah, that was -- that was especially poorly said. Iíve poorly said a number of things. We would like to see Wagner not exist.

QUESTION: Youíd like to see them disbanded, right?

MR. MILLER: Yes. However, I think that the further implication of your question thatís been raised by events over the weekend is a Wagner by a different name is still Wagner. So yes, we would obviously --

QUESTION: So basically, you --

MR. MILLER: We would obviously like to see Wagner disbanded, and the activities that Wagner has conducted in Ukraine and around the world cease to exist.

QUESTION: And not morph into something else?

MR. MILLER: Correct. Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So how do you classify them? Are they like the Foreign Legion -- I mean, for the lack of a better comparison, the French Foreign Legion? What are they like?

MR. MILLER: They are -- I donít want to try to put an exact name on it from the podium other than to say they are an organization, as I said earlier, that has left death and destruction wherever they have operated.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. I have two questions on South Caucasus. But before that, what you just said is important on Wagner: that you donít want to see them exist. Is there anything youíre going to do between now and the next couple of weeks to help this happen faster --

MR. MILLER: Well, we can --

QUESTION: -- such as designating them as terrorist group?

MR. MILLER: So, I wouldnít want to preview any actions that we might take other than to say we have taken another -- a number of actions to impose accountability on Wagner in the past, and we wonít hesitate to continue to do so when itís appropriate.

QUESTION: Thank you. On South Caucasus.

MR. MILLER: Yes.

QUESTION: Foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia are headed to Washington to meet with the Secretary and to discuss what the Secretary described last time as last mile of the marathon. I was just wondering if you have any clear instructions or directions on it. Iím not saying plan. Directions --

MR. MILLER: If we have any clear what?

QUESTION: To discuss the last mile of the marathon. Any clear instructions or any directions for them as they gather this week in Washington?

MR. MILLER: So, we certainly have a number of items we want to discuss. Iím not going to read those out publicly, obviously. Theyíre very sensitive diplomatic discussions that will take place here. We expect the talks will commence tomorrow, on Tuesday, continue through Thursday of this week. Secretary Blinken will meet with the foreign ministers from both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Weíll have more details as the week progresses.

We continue to believe that peace is within reach and direct dialogue is the key to resolving the remaining issues and reaching a durable and dignified peace.

QUESTION: Excellent. Last question on Georgia. Ambassador OíBrien is headed to Tbilisi tomorrow, along with his European and British colleagues, to discuss sanctions. The Administration recently voiced its concern about Georgia helping Russia, along with other countries -- to skirt sanctions. The question is why now, and what tools do you have in your toolkit as these negotiations, this process starting as of tomorrow?

MR. MILLER: I donít want to speak to those discussions in detail other than to say that we have concerns with any country that would seek to evade the sanctions that we have imposed on Russia -- the sanctions and other measures that weíve imposed on Russia. And we constantly look at ways that we can either tighten sanctions or crack down on any individuals or entities that try to avoid them. But it wouldnít be appropriate for me to speak to those in detail.

QUESTION: Are you in a position [inaudible] of the dialogue, like ambassador is going along with his European and British colleagues, why --

MR. MILLER: Iím not, sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure, can I ask a couple questions about some American citizens overseas? First in Pakistan -- I know this was addressed earlier this month, but the case of Khadija Shah, who is a U.S. citizen, it was raised -- earlier this month the State Department said it was seeking consular access to her. Do you know if thatís been granted? Do you know if thereís been any discussion from the U.S. embassy there or --

MR. MILLER: I donít. Iíll have to take it back and get you an answer.

QUESTION: Okay. And could I go on to Iran? Is there anything you can say about the state of the U.S. citizens who are detained there, if thereís any progress that you can report?

MR. MILLER: No, only -- other than the -- I donít have any updates other than that it continues to be a priority for us. It continues to be a matter that a number of people inside this building and throughout our government work on. But I donít have any update on their status.

All right, a couple more.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV Pakistan. Pakistani Government has criticized the United States and India after President Biden and Prime Minister Modi called on Pakistan to ensure its territory was not used as a base for militant attacks. Pakistani foreign ministry also said that the U.S.-India joint statement about Pakistan was baseless and one-sided. Would you like to respond?

MR. MILLER: Sure. I would say, first of all, that we remain committed to working with Pakistan to address the shared threat posed by terrorist groups throughout the region. The Pakistani people have suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks over the years. We do recognize that Pakistan has taken some important steps to counter terrorist groups in line with the completion of its Financial Action Task Force actions plans. This includes the arrest and conviction of Sajid Mir. Moreover, we commend both Pakistan and India for continuing to uphold the cease fire along the line of control.

At the same time, however, we have also been consistent on the importance of Pakistan continuing to take steps to permanently disband all terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and their various front organizations. And we will raise the issue regularly with Pakistani officials, and will continue to work together to counter mutual terrorist threats, as we discussed during our March 2023 CT dialogue.

QUESTION: I hope you have seen the president remarks about India that -- that was going on there with the Muslims and other minorities. And we have noticed that the joint statement did not address concerns regarding human rights and religious freedom violations in India. Could you please clarify if there were any discussions on this particular topic during the meeting?

MR. MILLER: What I will say is that we regularly raise concerns about human rights in our conversations with Indian officials. And you saw President Biden speak to this himself in the joint press conference that he held with Prime Minister Modi.

QUESTION: [Off-mic]

MR. MILLER: Yeah, a couple more.

QUESTION: He mentioned President -- former-President Obamaís remarks. There has been quite a bit of response in India to that. Notably, there was a social media post by the chief minister of the state of Assam, who is an ally of Prime Minister Modi, using quite insulting language about former-President Obama. Is that something that the United States wants to comment on, the --

MR. MILLER: No, no, I donít think so.

All right, one more.

QUESTION: [Off mic]

QUESTION: Iraqi --

MR. MILLER: Youíve got one more, and then weíll come to Matt. You get to start and finish?

QUESTION: Iraqi electricity ministry, they told the state media that Iraq has paid off all the debts for gas imports from Iran, which -- about 11 trillion Iraqi dinar. How do you give Iraq a green light to pay all of this money to Iran? And were there any negotiation or a mini-deal between the U.S. and Iran to this matter?

MR. MILLER: I will just say there has been no change in our policy towards Iran or Iraq. The Biden Administration continues to implement all U.S. sanctions on Iran. Since 2018 the Department of State has provided a number of waivers -- youíve heard me speak to these in the past -- in consultation with Congress that allow Iraq to pay for electricity imports from Iran, by transferring funds into a restricted account in Iraq. Consistent with U.S. sanctions, these funds can only be accessed for humanitarian and other non-sanctionable transactions. The money only goes to approved third parties. They are not transferred to Iran directly, and we the United States continue to approve transactions for the use of funds on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: And last question. Russia is filling the gap in TŁrkiye of KRG oil export stoppage -- source with the access to the port that says that TŁrkiye has imported around 1.7 million tons of the Russian products in May. Thatís about 400K barrels per day -- and up more than 20 percent from April and doubled from previous year, May 2022. What is your reaction and comment on this exporting Russian products to TŁrkiye? And you have engaged with TŁrkiye about the KRG oil stoppage -- what their reason and whatís their justification to not let the resumption of the KRG oil --

MR. MILLER: I will say that weíre not going to discuss our private diplomatic discussions with our partners, but we have been clear on our position and our support for the resumption of oil exports from northern Iraq. Weíre glad to see that officials from Iraq and TŁrkiye met on June 19th to discuss a resumption of ITP operations, and weíll continue to urge progress.

Matt. And then Iíll come to you.

QUESTION: Yeah, I want to go -- well, before I get to my question to -- so I thought it wasnít required that you had to say ďTŁrkiye.Ē I thought you could still say ďTurkey.Ē No?

MR. MILLER: I think I -- I think we allow people to make their own decisions.

QUESTION: Okay. And so, you decided that youíre going to say ďTŁrkiye?Ē Okay, thatís fine. Whatever.

I wanted to ask about Serbia and Kosovo. You will have seen that there was a situation that was resolved with the release of three Kosovar police by the Serbs. I just want to know if youíre aware of any outside, non-U.S. governmental involvement in this.

MR. MILLER: What do you -- what do you mean? Iím not -- Iím not --

QUESTION: Mediation.

MR. MILLER: I am not aware.

QUESTION: There is certainly a former U.S. official from the previous Administration who is saying that he played a role in this. I donít know whether itís true or not, but --

MR. MILLER: Iím not -- Iím not aware of that.

QUESTION: You are --

MR. MILLER: Iím not aware of that.

QUESTION: Well, are you aware of the resolve --

MR. MILLER: You mean the release of the three police officers?

QUESTION: -- of the situation being resolved?

MR. MILLER: You mean the --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. MILLER: Yes, I am aware of that. Iím not aware of a role.

QUESTION: Okay. And is that a good thing?

MR. MILLER: It is a good thing. I will say that the United States welcomes the release of three Kosovan police officers. Weíre glad theyíll be reunited with their families. We had called for this release to happen over the past week. The United States and the EU have been very clear about our expectations from both parties. We continue to call on Serbia and Kosovo to take steps to de-escalate tensions, and I will say -- I donít know if the readouts have gone out yet, but Secretary Blinken talked today with both Serbian President Vucic and Kosovan Prime Minister Kurti to urge both parties to follow the three-point plan outlined by the EU.

QUESTION: Okay. So, youíre suggesting that this was -- that if anything was arranged with U.S. assistance, it was done by the Administration and not by anyone -- not by --

MR. MILLER: Iím not suggesting that at all. Iím saying that we urged them to do it. Iím just now aware of any activities by former officials.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. MILLER: Andrea.

QUESTION: Quick question.

MR. MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Prigozhin is, as you well know, still under indictment by the Mueller -- the Mueller probe for what happened during 2016, the election. Are there any efforts to arrest him?

MR. MILLER: Well, we donít have an extradition treaty with Russia or Belarus. Iím not going to speak to law enforcement matters. But certainly, I would expect that were he to appear in a country with which we have an extradition treaty, we would seek to enforce our indictments.

All right. End it there. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


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