WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. State Department held a press briefing on October 25, 2021, touching on subjects ranging from military takeover in Sudan, vaccination policy, cyber agenda, Turkey diplomacy, and China-Russia joint naval exercise.
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
MR PRICE: We have a few items at the top.
First, I would like to start, of course, with Sudan. The United States condemns the actions taken overnight by Sudanese military forces. The arrest of civilian government officials and other political leaders – including Prime Minister Hamdok – undermines the country’s transition to democratic, civilian rule.
The civilian-led transitional government should be immediately restored. It represents the will of the Sudanese people, as evidenced by the significant peaceful demonstrations of support on October 21st.
We recognize the legitimate grievances about the pace of the transition, but Sovereign Council Chair Burhan’s dismissal of government officials and dissolution of government institutions both violate Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration and abandon the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people.
Military officials should immediately release and ensure the safety of all detained political actors, fully restore the civilian-led transitional government, and refrain from any violence against protesters, including the use of live ammunition.
Any change to the transitional government by force risks assistance and our bilateral relationship more broadly.
In light of these developments, the United States is pausing assistance from the $700 million in emergency assistance appropriations of Economic Support Funds for Sudan. Those funds were intended to support the country’s democratic transition as we evaluate the next step for Sudan programming.
Next, today the White House and CDC announced details of the new vaccination policy that will go into effect for international travelers on November 8th.
As of November 8th, foreign national air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to the United States. This policy puts public health first. It is consistent and stringent, protecting U.S. citizens and residents as well as those who come to visit us.
Because it puts public health first, exceptions to this policy will be extremely limited: primarily children under the age of 18 and certain individuals from countries where vaccines are not yet readily accessible.
Those who are eligible to travel but not yet vaccinated will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day before their flight’s departure. For those who are vaccinated, the testing requirement remains three days before their flight.
And that testing requirement applies to everyone, not just foreign nationals but also U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. So please, everyone, make sure that when you’re traveling internationally you take your proof of vaccination with you.
You’ll find many more details in the documents published by the White House and CDC today, as well as on our website, travel.state.gov, and the next two weeks we’ll work with all of you and with the travel industry stakeholders to make implementation of this policy as smooth as possible for everyone.
But beyond the logistical details, we want to emphasize that this policy will allow the resumption of international travel for those who are fully vaccinated. Families and friends can see each other again, tourists can visit our amazing lands and our amazing landmarks. This policy will further boost economic recovery and its impact will be widespread across the United States. We’re excited to see this go into effect.
And finally, since the beginning of this administration, you’ve heard the Secretary acknowledge we are in a fundamentally new era in global affairs – a world in which the climate crisis, global health, and emerging technologies will increasingly be at the core of our common endeavors with allies and partners as well as our competition with rivals and adversaries. The power and purpose of American diplomacy will be even more critical to safeguard and accelerate our domestic renewal and deliver on the needs and aspirations of the American people.
As one element of our broader State Department modernization effort, we undertook an extensive review of cyberspace and emerging technology policy and organization. That team, led by Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman and Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Brian McKeon, consulted widely with outside experts, former government officials, partners in government, and with members of Congress and their staffs. The review is now complete, and the Secretary has reviewed the findings carefully, and decided to pursue a couple of rather historic changes.
Pending consultations with Congress, we plan to establish a Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, led by a Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large which will focus on three key areas: international cyberspace security, international digital policy, and digital freedom. This will integrate the core security, economic, and values components of our cyber agenda. We also plan to establish a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology to lead the immediate technology diplomacy agenda with our allies, partners, and across the range of multilateral fora.
Secretary Blinken will deliver remarks on this and the broader modernization agenda at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday – this coming Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 – at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. I hope many of you will certainly tune in.
So with that, I’m happy to turn to your questions.
QUESTION: Ned, just on that last one, didn’t the previous administration try to set up the same kind of thing, and you guys put the kibosh on it?
MR PRICE: So, Matt, this is – this is quite different. So what the previous administration set up – what they proposed, I should say – was to create a bureau that would be responsible for the national security aspects of cyberspace security and security-related aspects of emerging technology. The Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technology Bureau would have been placed under the under secretary for arms control and international security. So this is a very different structure. This is a bureau that is focused on the issues that are most critical to cyber, to emerging technologies, but also with the cyber envoy attached separately.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But it just seems like it’s the same kind of addition – additional layer of bureaucracy that you guys didn’t want to when it was the last administration’s idea, and now – I mean, what difference does it make which under secretary of state it reports to? It would still be led by its own senate-confirmed assistant secretary, right? I guess I just don’t understand what —
MR PRICE: So —
QUESTION: Suddenly you see value in this?
MR PRICE: Well, we’ve always seen value in prioritizing cyber and emerging technologies. The point we have made is that even with the creation of this new bureau, even with the creation of the new cyber envoy, these issues are going to be pervasive across the department, across the government.
QUESTION: I get that, but —
MR PRICE: So it’s not going to be squarely confined, solely confined, to one bureau, to one special envoy, but we do see tremendous value in ensuring that we have a bureau that is focused on these issues squarely, on some of the most important elements of these issues. The Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, that will include three sub-units focused on international cyberspace security – that’s cyber policy and negotiations, cyber deterrence, cyber operations, and capacity building – international digital policy – and so that includes, for example, engagement with the ITU, standard-setting bodies, promotion of trusted telecom systems, digital technology tracks and multilateral agenda – and digital freedom.
QUESTION: Okay, but —
MR PRICE: But then, of course, with a cyber envoy that comes on top of that. Both of them reporting to the deputy secretary for at least the first year. So these are two empowered components, components that will oversee some of the most critical elements of our work – and again, work that is pervasive across the department, across our diplomacy, and across this administration – allowing us to harness some of the most important tools that will really shape our ability to deliver for the American people in the years to come.
QUESTION: I really don’t – I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but I – maybe the Secretary or maybe someone else could explain to me exactly what it is that’s different about your idea than what was the idea of the previous administration, because frankly it sounds almost exactly the same to me, except that instead of reporting to the under secretary this one is going to report to the deputy secretary. All right, let’s move to – so perhaps we can get an answer as to how this is different and why this is better, you think, than the previous idea?
MR PRICE: Well, I think we’ve – I’ve just told you about how this is different from CSET. The new bureau that we’re establishing, the ambassador-at-large that we’re establishing —
QUESTION: Okay, let’s go —
MR PRICE: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Let’s go to Sudan. So the – it’s a portion of the 700 million that you’re suspending, right, or pausing?
MR PRICE: It is a pause of the 700 million.
QUESTION: Of the entire 700 million.
MR PRICE: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. So how much of that do you know had already been sent?
MR PRICE: We are pausing that full amount. Yes.
QUESTION: So none of it has been sent.
MR PRICE: Correct.
QUESTION: All right. And that’s just ESF, right? So that’s just direct assistance to the Sudanese Government?
MR PRICE: That was assistance for the transition. That’s correct.
QUESTION: Right, okay. And what about other things that are covered under the quote-unquote coup – one, does that mean that you have determined that what happened is a coup? And secondly, is there anything else that’s been suspended? Usually IMET, non-humanitarian stuff gets suspended. Has any of that been done too?
MR PRICE: Well, so let me make a couple points. One, we’re in the very early hours of this, and we are watching very closely. We are making clear where the United States stands. We are making very clear not only where we stand, but our international partners have done the same. We have seen statements from the UN secretary general. We’ve seen statements from the EU, from Josep Borrell, from the Arab League, from the AU, from France, from Germany, from the UK, from any number of international allies and partners echoing many of the same points.
So we are closely monitoring the events in Sudan. But most importantly, the actions to seize power are an unacceptable contravention of Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration, which is the agreed framework for the transition as well as the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people.
Now, the question about a coup determination – as you know, when these events transpire, we typically do undertake a coup determination. However, Sudan has been subject to the military coup restrictions since the 1989 coup by the Bashir regime, and it will continue to remain subject to that restriction until the Secretary determines that a democratically elected government has taken office.
QUESTION: Okay. Does any of what you’re considering – will any of what you’re considering to do – unless, of course, things change – affect the rescission of the state sponsor declaration, or the compensation that the Sudanese had been paying or did pay or are in the process of paying for the ’98 embassy bombings? Is any of that affected or potentially affected?
MR PRICE: Potentially, of course. Our entire relationship with the – with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated in light of what has transpired unless Sudan is returned to the transitional path. That is what we are calling for. The civilian-led transitional government should be immediately restored because it represents the will of the Sudanese people. You don’t have to take our word for that. You can look at the outpouring of support that the transitional government has received, including in recent days the peaceful protests across the country where hundreds of thousands, if not more, turned out to show their support for their transitional government.
So we are very much standing with the people of Sudan. The people of Sudan have made clear their aspirations for the continuation of a transition to democracy, and we will continue to support that, including, if needed, by holding accountable those responsible for these anti-democratic actions.
QUESTION: All right, last one. Ambassador or Special Envoy Feltman was just – was there just yesterday and met with both Hamdok and Burhan. Should we take it from the fact that this happened even after he was there urging calming of the situation and reconciliation that his advice at least to Burhan was not heeded and – or was he given a heads-up that they were going to go ahead and do this regardless of the message they were getting from the U.S.?
MR PRICE: To be clear, we were not given any heads-up about this. Clearly an action like this is something that the United States would and now does oppose and condemns in the strongest possible terms. As you know, Ambassador Feltman has regularly traveled to the region. He has consistently engaged with the prime minister, with other actors in the Sudanese political system. His recent trip there was in furtherance of that.
QUESTION: A couple of practical questions on Sudan. Does the United States have an idea on the whereabouts of Prime Minister Hamdok?
MR PRICE: We have not been in touch with the prime minister. We have not been in touch.
QUESTION: Can you verify the casualty numbers that’s been out there?
MR PRICE: We’ve seen the reports that – of the use of live fire. As we said, violence on the part of the regime is something we condemn in the strongest terms. The regime must not resort to violence against peaceful protesters. The right of peaceful assembly is something that we defend, that we protect, that we promote the world over, whether that’s Khartoum or anywhere else.
So, again, we have made very clear where we stand. There needs to be a return the civilian-led transitional government. The military is responsible for the health and the safety of the prime minister and the others in their custody. The military must not resort to violence. Peaceful assembly, the right of peaceful assembly must be protected. And again, a full restoration of the civilian-led government is what we are supporting. It’s what the people of Sudan aspire to as well.
QUESTION: A couple more quick ones. Have you gotten in touch with the military, or is someone from the U.S. side in any way in communication with the military?
MR PRICE: So we have been in close touch with partners and allies both in the region and well beyond. We are very closely coordinating our messaging, our approach, our actions vis-à-vis what we’ve seen transpire in Sudan over the past 16 hours or so with our partners, friends, and allies in the region and well beyond. And if it would be constructive for us to be in touch with actors, including elements of the military in Sudan, we would do that, but I’m not going to read out any of those overtures or diplomatic conversations.
QUESTION: My final one on Sudan is a little bit of a follow-up of Matt’s question. So there was a statement from Hamdok’s office from a senior official basically saying the military carried out the takeover despite the positive movements towards an agreement after meetings with Jeffrey Feltman. So does the United States have an understanding of what went wrong there and what happened that derailed these positive movements?
MR PRICE: Again, we did not receive any sort of heads-up from the military that they would be undertaking these anti-democratic actions.
QUESTION: So (inaudible) – did the ambassador or did – did Jeffrey Feltman have an understanding or have a sense of things turning for the worse after his meeting?
MR PRICE: For – in recent days and for quite a while now, you have seen us engage with the civilian leadership, with the military leadership in an effort to improve relations within the civilian leadership and between and among the civilian leadership and the military leadership. That has long been an objective of ours to try to solidify Sudan’s transitional path to democracy. Obviously, this is an action that moves it in the wrong direction, in the opposite direction. It is not something that we were apprised of beforehand by anyone, and we would have made very clear of the profound implications that any such move would have and now that such a move has had.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR PRICE: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: Are there specific consequences for the military should there be violence against protesters? Have you made that clear to them? And then secondly, you talk about coordinating with other countries, but are you worried that Egypt, which is a neighbor, is playing a different game there?
MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to what we have made clear, we have made very clear – including in the topper I read just a moment ago – that military officials should immediately release all detained political actors, they should fully restore the civilian-led transitional government; they should refrain from any violence against protesters, including the use of live ammunition. We will and we already have, including with the pause in the $700 million of assistance, hold accountable those who are responsible, including for – including those who may be responsible for violence against peaceful protesters.
We’re not going to preview policy actions that we might take. Again, it’s very early hours. We are watching very closely to see how the military responds to do everything we can to see to it that the military respects the right of peaceful assembly and, ultimately, to see to it that the military respects the aspirations of the Sudanese people to restore the country’s path to democracy. So again, we have made very clear where we stand. Our allies, including the UN, including several of our European allies, including the Arab League, the AU, and others have made very clear where they stand, and we stand together on this. And together we’ve sent a very clear message to the military about what they should and what they should not do.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, on the 700 million economic assistance that’s paused, in order to get that pause lifted, do they – does the country need to restore a civilian-led government? Or is there parts that could be lifted if they take certain actions? What does that look like?
MR PRICE: Well, again, I’m not going to negotiate with the military from the podium. We have made very clear what should happen, what needs to happen. Our allies and partners have made very clear what should happen and what needs to happen: the release of all those detained, the political actors who have been detained; the full restoration of civilian-led transitional government; and a refraining from any violence against those who are exercising the right to peaceful assembly, a right that as is valid – as – is as valid in Khartoum as it is anywhere else in the world.
QUESTION: How long is the U.S. willing to wait?
MR PRICE: Again, we are watching very closely. It is very early hours. But again, the United States will not hesitate to hold accountable those who are engaged in violence, those who are responsible – who may be responsible – for derailing Sudan’s path to democracy. But —
QUESTION: Are sanctions on the table?
MR PRICE: I would say all —
QUESTION: Could they come back as quickly as they were halted?
MR PRICE: All measures to hold accountable, if appropriate, those responsible for what we’ve seen and for anything that we may see that is an affront to the rights, to the aspirations of the Sudanese people – we will consider all appropriate measures to respond to that.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t it be considered appropriate to reimpose some of these sanctions right away, given that they are violating the spirit of the Juba accords?
MR PRICE: Rosiland, it is very early hours. This happened overnight. We are evaluating the situation on the ground. We are watching very closely. We are communicating and coordinating very closely with our allies and with our partners around the world. So I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. But suffice to say that we are willing to resort to any and all appropriate measures to hold accountable those who may be attempting to derail the will, the aspirations of the Sudanese people, and those who may be responsible for violence, for violence that we may yet see.
QUESTION: Why is the embassy cautioning Americans to not try to leave the country, to not go to the airports?
MR PRICE: So as we always do in situations where security is tenuous, the embassy has been in regular touch with the American citizen community in Sudan. Of course, the protection of U.S. citizens overseas is among the highest priorities of this department, and that is why the embassy in Khartoum has issued multiple security alerts today, advising U.S. citizens to shelter in place and to remain aware of their surroundings. We will continue to be in touch with American citizens in Sudan as the situation continues to unfold.
QUESTION: And then – the last one for me – in terms of humanitarian aid, is it possible for USAID to continue its aid mission right now given how precarious the security situation is?
MR PRICE: We have been very clear in different contexts, including in recent days alone, that bilateral assistance, bilateral support is very different from humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: But logistically actually getting things in – of having people who work for USAID or for affiliated NGOs, it may be very dangerous for them to be trying to help people right now in a place where you have near-famine conditions.
MR PRICE: The Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, we are accustomed to working with our implementing partners on the ground around the world, in some cases operating at some degree of risk, to provide needed humanitarian assistance to those who are most in need of it. So we will continue to do that. That will not change; our humanitarian commitment to the people of Sudan will not change.
QUESTION: When you call for restoring the transitional government, General Burhan was a part of that government. Do you have faith in his ability to be a part of the government still if it is restored?
MR PRICE: Well, again, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. I wouldn’t want to offer an opinion of a makeup of an entity that currently doesn’t exist in that current form.
QUESTION: But when you call for it to come back, then what – would – could —
MR PRICE: Well, the transitional government had both civilian and military elements. As of just a few hours ago, many of those civilian leaders are in custody – reportedly in custody. That must change. The military must restore the civilian-led transitional government. The transitional government was civilian-led; that was the key. Right now that government appears to be led by the military.
QUESTION: Is Special Envoy Feltman still in the region? Was he —
MR PRICE: He’s still in the region.
QUESTION: Was he on the ground when this unfolded?
MR PRICE: He had already left by the time this transpired. He is in the region. He has been coordinating with our allies and partners this morning. The Secretary was briefed first thing this morning on the overnight developments. Ambassador Feltman, Assistant Secretary Phee, and others gave him a comprehensive update of what had transpired overnight, what we knew, what we were doing, and what we would be doing going forward.
QUESTION: Can I just have one more?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Sorry, on the coup determination – so because there already was one in 1989, you don’t have to make a determination about this one?
MR PRICE: That’s right, because we were already operating under the coup restrictions that were in place from the previous regime, the Bashir regime coming to power in in 1989. Those coup —
QUESTION: Will you make one about whether or not what has unfolded is a coup?
MR PRICE: Well, again, we are already operating under those coup restrictions. That determination was made in the aftermath of the 1989 emergence of the Bashir regime. And so I, this was – I’ll make the obvious point that the transitional government was not elected. Those coup restrictions were still in place. Those coup restrictions will continue to be in place until we see a transition to democracy in Sudan.
But I’ll make one other point that I think is not irrelevant to this. As you all know, in similar cases, we do undertake a coup determination. In some instances, those can take some time to study what has transpired. In this case, it is not a – so much a legal question; it is a policy question. And with all due deference to my legal counterparts, policy can sometimes move faster than the speed of law. And so already–
QUESTION: Already, within – already this morning, we have spoken to a pause of that $700 million that was to assist the transitional government. This gives us the ability to enact measures at a – with some degree of alacrity given what we’ve seen.
QUESTION: I’m just confused. I mean —
QUESTION: Does that mean that there was no – that because they were still under the ‘89 restrictions, does that mean there was no IMET to be suspended? No anything – the only money they were getting was 700 million plus humanitarian assistance?
MR PRICE: Every form of bilateral assistance was done pursuant to the notwithstanding authorities in the coup determination.
QUESTION: So there was no – so there really isn’t anything other than the 700 million in ESF to – that you’re able to suspend?
MR PRICE: There may be other – there may be other forms of bilateral support, other forms of bilateral assistance. We are taking a close look not only what has transpired, but a close look at any and all forms of support that we have provided to the transitional government to determine what might be appropriate given what has transpired, and what might be appropriate given what may transpire in the coming days.
QUESTION: I’m just confused. To clarify, the restrictions aside and aid aside, does the United States currently consider what happened overnight a coup?
MR PRICE: We consider it to be a military takeover.
QUESTION: Which is a coup.
MR PRICE: A coup is a legal determination that the department makes. We are not undertaking a – such a determination in this case, because we were already operating with – under the auspices of the previous coup designation dating from 1989.
QUESTION: And that previous designation has to be lifted?
MR PRICE: For what to happen?
QUESTION: Well, I guess just to make the point really crystal clear, you said a moment ago the transitional government was not an elected government. So does that mean that in order for the 1989 designation to be no longer relevant, that there would have had to have been a free and fairly elected government in place in order for what happened today to now be considered a coup?
MR PRICE: The coup restrictions that date to 1989 would remain in place until the Secretary were to determine that a democratically elected government had taken office.
MR PRICE: Francesco.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Humeyra’s question, you said you have not been in touch with the Prime Minister Hamdok. Have you tried to and not been successful? And do you have any idea of his whereabouts and how is he – if he’s fine, if he’s in good conditions, et cetera?
MR PRICE: We don’t have anything to share regarding his whereabouts or his condition. What I will say is that given the reports that the military has taken the prime minister and other civilian leaders into their custody, the military is responsible for their safety, for their health, for their conditions. We will hold accountable those military leaders for the health, for the safety of Sudan’s civilian leadership.
QUESTION: Any idea where Bashir is?
MR PRICE: Where Bashir is?
MR PRICE: Nothing that I am in a position to share.
QUESTION: Can I switch topics?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m curious of what the status is of the U.S. ambassador in Turkey, if you’ve resolved that issue with Erdoğan and – well, anyway, his status.
MR PRICE: Well, Ambassador Satterfield is in Turkey. He is serving as the United States ambassador to Turkey. We’ve taken note of President Erdoğan’s most recent remarks. We will continue to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights globally. The Biden administration seeks cooperation with Turkey on common priorities. And as with any NATO Ally, we will continue to engage in dialogue to address any disagreements. We believe the best way forward is through cooperation on issues of mutual interest, and we know that we have many issues of mutual interest with Turkey.
QUESTION: Speaking of diplomatic presences, there are reports that the EU is going to reopen a diplomatic presence in Kabul. Does the U.S. support that, and where do you guys stand on conversations about a U.S. diplomatic presence in the country?
MR PRICE: Well, I don’t have any reaction on the EU’s plans. What I can say is that we coordinate closely with our European allies on a bilateral basis and with the EU as a bloc when it comes to our approach to Afghanistan. And that approach to Afghanistan is essentially one and the same. We have both made clear, including in some of the same fora, the expectations that we have for any future government of Afghanistan. That is that any future government and the Taliban now uphold its counterterrorism commitments, that it uphold – it upholds the right of free passage for those who wish to depart Afghanistan; that it protects the rights of all of its citizens, including minorities, including women and girls as well; and that it allows much-needed humanitarian access for the people of Afghanistan who are in many cases in dire need of that assistance. So that is our approach. That is the approach of many of our closest allies and partners. We’ll continue to work very closely with the European Union.
You know that just the other week there was a senior-level delegation that traveled from Washington to meet with Taliban leaders in Doha, Taliban leaders who had traveled in from Kabul, and the agenda was really predicated on those expectations. Those expectations were addressed in some detail. The following day, there was a meeting between the United States and with many of our closest European allies with the Taliban. And the Taliban in the context of that session – the U.S.-EU meeting with the Taliban in Doha – heard the same message from the United States and the EU because, again, we have a common approach to dealing with the Taliban, and that is an approach that, because it is shared with many of our closest partners, we think will be more effective.
QUESTION: And what’s the status of the shuttered embassy in Kabul? Is it safe? Do you know if anyone’s tried to break in?
MR PRICE: We have seen no reports of anyone attempting to breach the embassy itself.
QUESTION: Go back to Turkey for a second. It was characterized in Turkish state media that the U.S. and these other countries took a step back. You stand by the original statement, though, calling for the urgent release of Mr. Kavala?
MR PRICE: What we issued was a statement to underscore that the statement that we put out on October 18th was consistent with Article 41 of Vienna Convention. We are steadfast in our commitment to promoting the rule of law, to promoting respect for human rights globally. This commitment is unwavering and we will continue to engage with Turkey as consistent with Article 41.
QUESTION: Was the State Department ever contacted at all in the last few days by the Turkish Foreign Ministry about the president’s comments, President Erdoğan’s comments?
MR PRICE: Look, we regularly engage in diplomatic dialogue with our allies and partners. Of course, that is no different with Turkey, a NATO Ally. Our embassy is regularly in touch with their interlocutors; others, including others here at main State, are often in touch with their Turkish interlocutors, but just wouldn’t speak to any engagement in this context.
QUESTION: Except that on Saturday you guys said you were going to reach out to the Foreign Ministry to get clarification of what Erdoğan had said. Did you ever get any clarification from the Foreign Ministry? Or are you taking the president’s most recent comments as that clarification? And what do you understand that clarification to be?
MR PRICE: The president’s most recent comments were clarifying, and Ambassador Satterfield is in Turkey, where he is our ambassador in Turkey.
QUESTION: That’s not the question. What do you understand that clarification to mean, that they are not going to be declared PNG?
MR PRICE: Look, I am not going to speak to the intent of President Erdoğan. I’m —
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speak to the intent. I’m asking you to speak to the U.S. – to your understanding of what the situation is right now at this moment, not on Saturday, not yesterday.
MR PRICE: The bottom line, speaking for our equities and our entities, is that Ambassador Satterfield is in Turkey, where he is serving as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey.
QUESTION: Ned, something on that: So is it fair to say that you guys don’t agree with Turkish President Erdoğan’s characterization that this is a step back?
MR PRICE: What we issued was a – was to underscore that the statement that we issued with nine other embassies on October 18th – that, very simply, it was consistent with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention. The principles that we have put forward in the context of Turkey and also around the world – those are principles that we are committed to.
QUESTION: Will you continue to ask the Turkish Government to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights decisions or not in the context of this?
MR PRICE: We are as committed to human rights in the context of Turkey as we are anywhere else around the globe.
QUESTION: So you will – you stand by your October 18th statement and you would republish it today as it was on October 18th if needed?
MR PRICE: The statement was published on October 18th. That was less than a week ago. So the principles, the commitments that are in that statement, those are universal principles and commitments that the United States shares – that we share in this case with the nine other signatories.
QUESTION: It wasn’t. It was not less than a week ago.
MR PRICE: Well, October 18th. I —
QUESTION: That was exactly a week ago.
MR PRICE: Exactly a week ago. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Do you – does the State Department have any information whether after this saga Biden will meet with President Erdoğan in Rome?
MR PRICE: I would leave that to my White House colleagues to address.
QUESTION: Nearby, the Israelis seem pretty convinced that they did tell you that they were going to designate these Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations and that they informed you well before the announcement was made. Is that correct, or is there a miscommunication someplace?
MR PRICE: Well, Matt, we had an opportunity to discuss this on Friday. We believe that respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong, independent civil society – we believe they are critically important to democracy and to responsible and responsive governance. And so we are currently engaging our Israeli partners for more information regarding the basis for these designations. At this time, we would refer you to the Government of Israel for an explanation of their rationale for making these designations.
QUESTION: Okay, but that’s not my question. I’m not asking you to – for an explanation of why Israel did it. I’m asking you if you were or not actually told about these designations before they were made.
MR PRICE: Matt, as a matter of course, we just don’t get into —
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but on Friday you said that you hadn’t been told, that you were not informed. So the Israelis dispute that and say – said on Saturday in a public statement that they had told you. And now they’re sending a delegation here to further – according to them, to further explain and inform to you.
MR PRICE: And —
QUESTION: So was it —
MR PRICE: We look forward to hearing more details from this delegation.
QUESTION: Okay. But the – go ahead.
MR PRICE: I know that we will be receiving that delegation and hearing what they have to say. But it is – it is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate that we did not receive a specific heads-up about any forthcoming designations.
QUESTION: Well, okay. Well, what does that mean? I mean, you personally did not get one, or that this building did not get one? Because they insist that they told you, and it was during – when the —
MR PRICE: We look forward to engaging with the delegation to hear more about it.
QUESTION: Ned, I have something about – so China and Russia held their first joint naval exercise on Sunday. So they just circled around Japan. Do you have any comment on that?
MR PRICE: I don’t.
QUESTION: You don’t? Why? So can I ask – so how does the State Department assess their, like, objectives?
MR PRICE: Look, I’m going to leave it to you to ask both Beijing and Moscow about the objectives of any cooperation between them. We are fortunate and one of the core sources of strength that we bring to all of the challenges we face, including our efforts to reinforce and to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific is our system of partnerships and alliances, a system of partnerships and alliances that is unparalleled. It is, again, something that is the envy of countries the world over. We are very honored to have many countries, partners, allies who work with us closely, including on issues of a free and open Indo-Pacific. When it comes to other countries’ cooperation with their partners, I would leave that to them to characterize.
QUESTION: Ned, can we go back to Sudan? Do you have any deadline for the military officials to reinstate a civilian government, or they have an open-ended type of —
MR PRICE: We have made very clear what we believe should happen, and not only what we believe should happen but what any number of countries the world over have made clear should happen. And that is an immediate release of detained political actors, a full restoration of the civilian-led transitional government, refraining from any violence against protesters, including the use of ammunition.
All of these things are tremendously important to the United States. They are tremendously important to the relationship that – any relationship we might have going forward. But again, the immediate release of all detained political actors and a full restoration of the civilian-led transitional government is something that we are calling for and that our allies and partners are calling for as well.
Yes, please. Joel.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to go back to China, about Taiwan, actually. On Friday the – you were asked about President Biden’s comments when he was asked can you vow to protect Taiwan and are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked, and he said yes to the first and said yes, we have a commitment to do that. Then you said that the President was not announcing any change in our policy, and there’s no change in our policy, and the U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act.
The relevant part of the TRA says that the President will inform Congress if there’s any threat, and then, “The President and the Congress shall determine, in accordance with such constitutional processes, appropriate action by the United States in response to any such danger” to Taiwan. So does the Biden administration interpret the TRA as a commitment to come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacks?
MR PRICE: President Biden is deeply committed to the Taiwan Relations Act. It is an act that he voted for as a senator at the time. It is a key element of our approach to Taiwan to cross-strait relations.
Two principles that I would highlight of the TRA: One is that the United States will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability. Another is that we would regard any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means as a threat to peace and security of the Western Pacific and of grave concern to the United States. That has been our policy; that is our policy. There is no change in that policy.
QUESTION: Right. I just wanted to drill down specifically, though, like, was the President’s comment on – in that town hall an exposition of the administration’s interpretation of the TRA? Or was that a statement that does not – or does the statement that “We have a commitment” not reflect U.S. policy?
MR PRICE: The President was not announcing, as we said, any change in our policy, and there is no change in our policy. We are committed to our “one China” policy which is itself guided, as I said before, by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances.
QUESTION: Just one —
QUESTION: On —
QUESTION: Sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: No —
QUESTION: Speaking about the “one China” policy, you had the – you announced this working group meeting with Taiwan about their international space. The PRC is displeased by this meeting and – we’ve heard from the foreign ministry and also from the recent Chinese ambassador to the U.S.
Does this administration interpret UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 as affirming what Beijing calls the “one China” principle? Because they are saying that this – these activities are in defiance of that.
MR PRICE: Our policy is guided by our “one China” policy. What you are referring to is the U.S.-Taiwan Working Group Meeting that took place on October 22nd. It was a virtual meeting between AIT and TECRO, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, here in Washington. It convened high-level representatives of the U.S. Department of State and the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a forum on expanding Taiwan’s participation at the United Nations and in other international fora.
The discussion focused on supporting Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN and contribute to its – contribute its valuable expertise to address global challenges. Those include public health, the environment and climate change, development assistance, technical standards, and economic cooperation. This administration believes Taiwan, as a leading democracy, has a lot to offer to the world on these key challenges, including within international fora.
QUESTION: All right – just back to the African continent for a second. This just happened, so I don’t know if you have anything on it, but apparently President Sisi has said that he’s going to end the state of emergency in Egypt, which has been pretty much there for decades. This comes obviously as, just to the south, Sudan has declared a state of emergency, which you’ve already gone over.
If you don’t have anything on Egypt, it would be great if you could get something, but in the meantime, you now have two of the three – well, actually, three of the three countries who are involved in the negotiations with you guys and others over the GERD, over the Nile dam in, if not crisis, not in great graces with the U.S. Obviously, Sudan, Ethiopia is facing potential sanctions for the situation in Tigray, and Egypt, obviously, there’s the human rights concerns that have always been there.
But anyway, so do you think or is there any concern that negotiations over the GERD or the dam would be affected or at least your involvement in them would be affected by developments specifically in Sudan but also Ethiopia and Egypt?
MR PRICE: When it comes to the GERD and the implications owing to what we’ve seen in the past 12 to 16 hours here, it’s just too early for us to offer a reaction there. Right now, we are focused on the near term. We are focused on seeing to it that civilian leaders are released, that the transitional civilian government is restored, and that the military doesn’t resort to violence against those exercising the universal right to peaceful assembly. There will be time as we watch very closely what unfolds in Sudan to offer you any context, any indication that our approach to the GERD may be changing.
QUESTION: Also – somewhat related but not to the GERD, but to Sudan’s diplomacy in the region – what are you saying or what are you hearing from your counterparts in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel about their partnership with Khartoum and what effect this may have on the Abraham Accords? And if – not just in Israel, but if there are also conversations happening in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere with other partners on this accord.
MR PRICE: The many partners and allies we have spoken with have expressed a similar degree of alarm, concern, and condemnation of what we’ve seen take place in Khartoum in recent hours. Similar to the approach to the GERD, I think the normalization effort between Israel and Sudan is something that will have to be evaluated as we and as, of course, Israel watches very closely what happens in the coming hours and the coming days. I wouldn’t want to weigh into that just yet.
Okay. Seeing no other – yes, I see one more hand.
QUESTION: Yes, sorry. Just one thing on Iran. Iran will hold a second meeting this month with the European Union’s Mora. I remember you saying previously that U.S. doesn’t see these meetings as particularly necessary. And this morning we’ve heard Rob Malley basically saying the efforts are now in this critical phase. So, in light of that, do you think these meetings are – I mean, accidentally helping Iran further stall the process? And if that’s the case, how in your opinion in any way they can help wider process for Vienna?
MR PRICE: Well, the EU is the JCPOA coordinator, and we are very supportive of the EU’s engagement with Iran in that capacity. That said, as I made the point the other day, the ultimate destination needs to be Vienna. The ultimate destination cannot be any other European capital or European city. What we believe, what our European allies believe, what our other P5+1 partners – in this case Russia and the PRC – believe is that the JCPOA, a mutual return to it, continues to be the best and the most effective means to ensure that once again Iran is subject to permanent and verifiable limits on its nuclear program and can never – can never acquire a nuclear weapon.
Look, if Iran’s goal, as they say, is a return to the JCPOA, they need to engage, and they need to engage in the Vienna format. No other participant can provide answers on the questions Iran reportedly wants to raise, such as guarantees and sanctions and issues pertaining to the lifting of sanctions. Those are issues that need to be worked out in Vienna with the United States at least in the indirect format that we had during the first six rounds of negotiations.
QUESTION: Sorry (inaudible) going too long, but I do have a question about the Afghanistan announcement that you made on refugees today. Can you just explain what this new program is —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: — why the need to get more volunteer groups involved in this effort?
MR PRICE: Well, the fact of the matter is that we have seen a tremendous outpouring of public support from Americans across this country. And so what we announced today is a collaboration with the Community Sponsorship Hub, which is itself a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy. And together we’ve launched the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans. And what the Sponsor Circle Program will do is to enable individuals to get directly involved in welcoming and integrating some of our newest neighbors. In addition to involving Americans in this, the Sponsor Circle Program expands the country’s capacity to resettle arriving Afghans, complementing the work of the nonprofit resettlement agency partners that PRM and the department and our partners work very closely with.
This is just another reflection of the tremendous sense of goodwill and generosity of spirit that we have seen from across this country as we have welcomed these Afghan newcomers. And so this program with its launch, it will allow individuals to form what are called sponsor circles to provide initial resettlement support and services to Afghans as they build their new lives and join communities across the country.
CSH will manage the application process for sponsor circles. CSH will vet, train, and certify sponsor circles, and then match certified sponsor circles with Afghans who in turn agree to take part in the program. There is a website that has been set up. The website details the criteria for sponsor circles who may be interested in supporting Afghans through the Sponsor Circle Program.
QUESTION: I mean, just to be clear, the State Department already works with like six NGOs to resettle refuges from around the world. Is this because there wasn’t enough capacity to – with this massive number of Afghans coming in?
MR PRICE: This is a way to harness the tremendous enthusiasm, including from private individuals, that we’ve seen across the country. As I said as well, it will expand the capacity of our ability to ensure new Afghan arrivals are welcomed, that they are integrated into their communities. So this is not a substitute for our resettlement partners with which PRM works day in, day out. This is complementary. This is additive. This is a new mechanism that will expand capacity and that will leverage, again, the goodwill and generosity of spirit that we’ve seen across the country from Americans who want to get involved.
Thank you all very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:18 p.m.)