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Department Press Briefing – August 16, 2023

MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR PATEL: I have one brief thing at the top, and then I’m happy to dive right into your questions.

The United States condemns Russia’s continued attacks on Ukrainian grain infrastructure and calls for Russia to immediately return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Today, we are learning that multiple Russian drone attacks damaged warehouses and granaries in a Ukrainian port on the Danube, near the Romanian border. This is in addition to previous Russian attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure in Odesa, Reni, and Izmail.

This escalation demonstrates Moscow continues to prevent grain and foodstuffs from reaching those who need it most throughout the world. It is unacceptable. Putin simply does not care about global food security.

Such actions by the Kremlin negatively affect Ukrainian farmers and all those around the world who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure facilities have destroyed hundreds of thousands of Ukraine’s grain, grain bound for global markets. This further escalates global – the global food crisis, and it keeps food prices high. These attacks are in addition to the loss of a quarter of the arable land in Ukraine, a vital global breadbasket, as a result of Russia’s illegal war. The contrast here is quite sharp. Our Ukrainians are inspiring the world, while Russia starves it by weaponizing food.

So with that, Matt, please.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, just on that. I suppose this is kind of self-evident, but, I mean, do you have any indication that the Russians are willing to go back or at least even start talking about going back into the BSGI?

MR PATEL: I’m not aware of any indication. Obviously, this is something that we’re continuing to press for. We know that the Black Sea Grain Initiative worked. It worked —


MR PATEL: — to the tune of nearly 33 million metric tons. In the meantime, though, we’re working with partners in Europe to —


MR PATEL: — identify other potential options to possibly find ways and corridors in which we can continue to get grain to the places it needs to go.

QUESTION: Right. But would it be accurate to say that you calling – you condemning the attacks today and then again calling on Russia to immediately return to the BSGI, would it be accurate to say that you don’t really think that those calls are going to go anywhere?

MR PATEL: Well, you have seen the Russian Federation kind of flail its arms about the Black Sea Grain Initiative, complain about it, threaten to pull out and remain in. I think the truth is in the numbers and in the metrics about how beneficial this has been to global markets. And when I say that global prices are impacted by this, that also means for consumers in Russia itself. So it is in the self-interest of the Russian Federation to rejoin this initiative. We know it works.

QUESTION: Okay. On a different topic —


QUESTION: — can I just ask you if you have – and I don’t expect that you do, but if you have anything new you can update us on on the status of Private King in North Korea?

MR PATEL: I have no updates. If you’re referring to some of the comments that have been in public reporting overnight and this morning, what I can say is that we cannot verify the comments attributed to Private King. What I will say is, though, that we remain focused on his safe return. And our priority is to bring Private King home, and we are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome. And his well-being continues to be a top priority for us as well as his safety.

QUESTION: And since this morning there hasn’t – you’re – are you aware of any contact that there’s been between —

MR PATEL: No. There has not been.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that one?


QUESTION: You say that you remain focused on his safe return and pursuing all available channels. Can you be any more specific as to what those channels that you’re sending these messages through actually are?

MR PATEL: So these are sensitive diplomatic conversations, Kylie, so I’m not going to get into the specifics of them. But what I will just say – and you’ve heard us say this before – is that we retain a number of channels through which we’re able to send messages and communicate to the DPRK. As is widely known, Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in the DPRK, and we’re working in close contact with our Swedish counterparts on this regarding this case. But I’m just not going to get more specific or into the details beyond that.

QUESTION: And then just one more question. As the U.S. is trying to engage North Korea on this, are you guys offering North Korea anything to partake in these engagements or are you just saying that you really would like to have these conversations without any —

MR PATEL: Right now our top priority as it relates to Private King is the same that it has been for a number of weeks now: wanting to get assertation on his safety, on his well-being, and on his status. And that continues to be what we’re trying to pursue.

QUESTION: Not in return for anything, right?

MR PATEL: That is correct.

QUESTION: Just a couple of follow-ups on that, Vedant.


QUESTION: Just so I’m clear, are you trying to say through various channels you are – you guys are trying to communicate to the North Koreans, and so far they have not responded?

MR PATEL: That is correct.

QUESTION: Great. And there is an active effort going on as well as we speak?

MR PATEL: We have raised this case through the appropriate channels that exist to send messages and communicate to the DPRK. We have done so over the course of this process and have not gotten – aside from that one confirmation message to UN officials, have not received any communication from the DPRK on this.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a follow-up on the grain deal, a quick one. You said you’re – U.S. is working with partners to identify other potential options to find corridors. Can you talk a little bit about those? What exactly are those?

MR PATEL: Again, I just – I don’t have specifics to lay out for you. Obviously the Danube is a potential option, and we’re working in close concert with our European partners, with our Ukrainian partners, to find avenues to get the Ukrainian grain to the places it needs to go. I don’t have a new avenue or mechanism to announce today.


MR PATEL: What I will reiterate, though, just again is that we know that the Black Sea Grain Initiative worked, and we would call on Russia to rejoin it. But also as equally important is ensuring that this grain can get to the places that it needs to go. Food insecurity is something that is quite important to this Secretary – addressing it – and so we’ll continue to work through channels to see what other avenues and options are out there.

QUESTION: How mature or promising is the Danube, the river? And like, I reckon through the national – through the coast and —

MR PATEL: Yeah, what I would say, Humeyra, is that unfortunately for you, I’m not a shipping or a grain expert, so I can’t put a metric on it today.

QUESTION: Me neither.

QUESTION: But you are a geographic expert. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Me neither. Just looking at the map —

MR PATEL: But what I will say is that it’s obviously one that many of our partners and we’re talking about or having coordination, but I just – I don’t have anything to announce. What I will say is that we share a commitment to find an avenue, whether it is re-entry into the Black Sea Grain Initiative, whether it be other avenues to make sure that the Ukrainian grain can get to the places it needs to go.

QUESTION: Do all the people – all the countries involved in that, are the sympathetic to this idea?

MR PATEL: I think the – what I will just say, and I won’t speak for other countries, but what I will say is that the withdrawal of Russia from the Black Sea Grain Initiative has left some clear markers on the world, and one of the biggest of those being that according to the IMF, Russia’s withdrawal from the BSGI will drive up global grain prices 10 to 15 percent. It’s not – that’s not something that just impacts the United States; it impacts countries around the world.

So any country that is – that cares about food security, that cares about feeding its people, which I would hope is every country on the planet, should be deeply concerned about this and be working to get Russia in – back into the Black Sea Grain Initiative or work with us to find other avenues to ensure that the grain can get to the places it needs to go.

QUESTION: Follow-up?


QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. Damaging grain infrastructure intentionally – is that a war crime?

MR PATEL: Alex, what I will just say is that throughout the entirety of this conflict, we have seen Russian security forces commit atrocities. I am not going to assign a label to the activities that I described in my topper. What I will just say, though, is Russia’s continued disregard for food security, whether it be through the withdrawal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, whether it be through its continued strikes on grain infrastructure, just continues to make clear that food security and making sure that food and grain are not weaponized – it’s clear that that’s not something that the Russian Federation or President Putin care about. And so —

QUESTION: Have you —

MR PATEL: — we’ll continue to – we’ll continue to work – work towards that.

QUESTION: Have you conveyed this concern to the Turkish partners given the fact that Erdogan is expected to meet with Putin in Ankara?

MR PATEL: So as you know better than a lot, Alex, our Turkish partners have been integral to getting the Black Sea Grain Initiative turned on in the first place, and they, of course, are important partners in the region, and we think that any country that can play a role in getting the Russian Federation back into the Black Sea Grain Initiative would be a good thing.

QUESTION: Should they roll a red – let me take it back. Should they call Putin, even invite him to Ankara, if he continues doing it between now and —

MR PATEL: That is for our Turkish partners to decide.

QUESTION: One more question on that, Vedant. We heard from Ambassador Beth Van Schaack yesterday; she gave an interview to Ukrainian media saying that we are preparing for Putin’s day in court and of course following other pathways as well. Can you just cue us in on where you’re standing in terms of, first of all, sharing your knowledge with the ICC? And secondly, can you expand – elaborate a little bit on that statement?

MR PATEL: What I will just say broadly, Alex, is that we have been clear about the need for accountability for the perpetrators of war crimes. President Biden has also noted that the warrant issued against President Putin by the ICC is justified, and so we’re going to continue to work with Ukraine and other partners to expose what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Barbara, you had your hand up.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Can you confirm that the new U.S. ambassador to Niger will be arriving there by the end of the week, and if so, why you are sending an ambassador when there’s been – just been a coup in the country and you haven’t had one there for the past two years?

MR PATEL: So first let me just say we are pleased to see that Ambassador FitzGibbon was confirmed in late July after what was a yearlong confirmation process, and we do look forward to Ambassador FitzGibbon’s arrival in Niamey. She is going there to lead the mission during a critical time and to support the American community and to coordinate on the U.S. Government’s efforts. What I will also be very clear about, Barbara, is her arrival does not reflect a change in our position, and we continue to advocate for a diplomatic solution that respects the constitutional order in Niger, and for the immediate release of President Bazoum and his family. And we remain committed to working with African partners to promote security, stability, and democratic governance in the Sahel, and Ambassador FitzGibbon will be an integral piece of that when she gets to post in Niamey.

QUESTION: But it is suggesting, perhaps, a direction of travel, given that the French have pulled out but you’re sending an ambassador there. So is it sort of like a signal of – not confidence but of continued engagement over the longer term?

MR PATEL: It is a signal of the United States continued engagement in this situation. It is not a signal of any change in U.S. policy as it relates to the circumstances in Niger. We have been quite clear of what we want to see happen. We want to see President Bazoum and his family released. We want to see the constitutional order in Niger respected. That was the case this whole time, and that will be the case whenever Ambassador FitzGibbon gets to Niamey as well. And so I just want to be very clear about that, that this is not a change in policy or posture.

QUESTION: And do you expect – finally, do you expect her to present her credentials to the new military leader of Niger? And also, do you expect her to be able to meet with the imprisoned former president?

MR PATEL: So I’m just not going to speak to any immediate tasks that she has on hand. Of course, when Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland was in Niamey, she made an effort to try to meet with President Bazoum. I imagine we will continue to make efforts to have contact with him; the Secretary has had the opportunity to speak with him, of course.

As it relates to any provision of credentials, at this time there’s no plans for that. What I will say is that the provision of credentials does not – is not a necessary requirement for any of the work that happens at embassies to take place. And we look forward to Ambassador FitzGibbon getting there and doing – and taking part in some of this very important work that we have ongoing to respect the constitutional order in Niger.



QUESTION: I presume – but please correct me if I’m wrong – that agrément for her job was given by President Bazoum’s government.

MR PATEL: That would be my understanding, given the time she was nominated.

QUESTION: And this has not – and that it has not been withdrawn —

MR PATEL: That would be correct.

QUESTION: — by the new – well, by the —

MR PATEL: Yeah. I’m not going to speak to any —

QUESTION: So there’s no issue in terms of her actually getting in there? Whether or not she presents her credentials in a day or three months from now, there’s no issue with her actually entering the country and taking up the – taking up the job?

MR PATEL: Correct. But again, I want to be very clear that her arrival does not reflect any change —

QUESTION: I’m not suggesting that —

MR PATEL: No. I know you’re not. I just —

QUESTION: I just wanted to know. But, I mean —

MR PATEL: People like to clip certain parts of —

QUESTION: Well, but there has been a potential change in government, right? So if it was President Bazoum’s government that formally accepted – gave agrément for her, then I just wanted to know if it was still valid and – at least as to what —

MR PATEL: Well, in our view, the democratically elected government of Niger is still the democratically elected government of Niger. Yeah.

QUESTION: That’s – I know, in your view. But the military leaders might have a different view, so – but they haven’t told you?

MR PATEL: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR PATEL: Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. Two quick questions on the – on Israel.


QUESTION: The Israeli press is reporting that Israel may uproot ancient Christian mosaic near Megiddo. It’s a site that – bearing an early reference to Jesus, peace be upon him, as God. So are you aware of this report, and do you have any comment on that?

MR PATEL: I’m aware of the report. What I would say, Said, is that the U.S. Government is not involved in this at all.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MR PATEL: And I would refer you to the Museum of the Bible, which is a privately-run museum, as well as the Israeli Antiquities Authority, to discuss any exchange of artifacts or things of that nature. This is not something that the United States is party to. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. But – and there are no regulations against bringing – this presumably is some art that is being mutilated, uprooted, and relocated?

MR PATEL: To my knowledge, there is not some sort of restriction. But again, this agreement is not one that the federal government is party to, so —

QUESTION: Okay. And very quickly, they are – also, the Israeli press is reporting that some Democrats are, like, dumbfounded that the administration, or the Biden administration, is willing to hand what they call a major gift to Netanyahu, and that the timing is bad. And in particular, they’re talking about the visa waiver and this relentless pursuit of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Do you have a comment on that? Do you think that the timing is proper now to pursue those two issues?

MR PATEL: Said, the foreign policy that we pursue and the policies that we pursue bilaterally with any country are because they’re in the interest of the United States. The United States isn’t Santa Claus, handing around things like Visa Waiver Program or something else. We are pursuing these things and engaging on these things because they are in our interest —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Santa Claus (inaudible). (Laughter.)

MR PATEL: We are pursuing these things because they are —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) give you access to the North Pole and the elves?


QUESTION: You mentioned it, not me.

MR PATEL: I perhaps should not have been so glib. What I would just say, though, Said, is that we pursue these things because they are in the U.S.’s national interest to do so, all of these things. First, as you’ve heard me say before, entry into the Visa Waiver Program for Israel is not going to happen until and unless we see reciprocity and the many prerequisites that myself and Matt and Ned and others have spent a lot of time up here talking about. Things like normalization and integration into the region we view as a good thing, as a good thing for the important opportunity to further collaborate on a number of areas, including trade and people-to-people and the flow of goods and ideas. And we also remain equally committed to a negotiated two-state solution between our Israeli partners and the Palestinians. And that’s something that we’re going to continue to pursue as well because we think it is an important step that is good for the region, and good for national security interests in the region.

QUESTION: On the other hand, the administration has also expressed clear displeasure with the judicial reform, which passed the Knesset on the 24th of last month and so on. And you would like to see those reforms either thrown out or frozen, or as the President said, garner consensus among Israelis and so on – none of which are happening. So why not use this kind of – you refuse to call them gifts, but that’s kind of benefits for Israel, until such time where these expressed also American goals are achieved?

MR PATEL: Look, Said, we continue to engage our Israeli counterparts to strengthen the special bond between the United States and Israel, and to advance democratic values that have long formed – been the basis of this relationship. And you quoted the President aptly and accurately, and that continues to be what we’re going to pursue here as well.

Diyar, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. Iran has said (inaudible) security in Iraq and Iran, which demands disarming the Kurdish opposition, the Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, and also moving out the refugees in their current camps. And I’ve learned that during the past months, you met the Kurdish Iranian opposition here at the State Department. My question is that: What’s your position on that, and how do you see the disarming the Kurdish opposition in Kurdistan region, and moving out the civil refugees in their camps?

MR PATEL: So first, I would just say we urge respect for human rights and for Iraq to protect all refugees and asylum-seekers on its territory, and to refrain from forcible relocation. Beyond that, though, I would refer you to the Government of Iraq to speak to any understandings that they might have.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PATEL: Go ahead, Julia.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about – following up on the Iranian prisoner exchange, and the family of Shahab Dalili. His son said to NBC News yesterday: Secretary Blinken, you are purposefully inflicting pain upon my family by not making a wrongful designation. What’s the State Department’s reaction to that statement?

MR PATEL: So you heard the Secretary address a question about this case yesterday. You heard me address a question about this case the day before that. I will just reiterate again that this is not a case that has been determined to be wrongfully detained. But as you know, the State Department regularly reviews cases uses a number of criteria to determine if a detention of a U.S. national is wrongful, and we do so in a way that’s consistent with the Levinson Act.

Again, we’re just not going to get into the specifics of specific cases from here. But as you have seen, we assess the circumstances of detentions and look for indicators of wrongful detention, and when appropriate, we will make a determination if the indicators meet as such.

QUESTION: I know you and the Secretary have said because of privacy matters and an ongoing case, you won’t address it from the podium. But Dalili’s son said that the response is always privacy issues, but he said that you should be able to tell it to him. So what is your response to not really communicating with his family, and the fact that his son said that it wasn’t until he reached out to the State Department that he received a phone call with Abram Paley, and that’s the only communications he’s had with the department? Would you say that the department could be communicating more with his family?

MR PATEL: I am just going to leave it at that. Our – Abram Paley had the opportunity to discuss this case with the Dalili family, and we will continue to engage as appropriate. Again, I’m just not going to get into the specifics of a case from up here.

QUESTION: And then just switching topics, I wanted to see if the State Department had any reaction to the – Saudi Arabia executing an American citizen who was convicted of killing his father.

MR PATEL: So we are aware of those reports, but – and are monitoring the situation, but I don’t have any specifics to offer at this time.

QUESTION: What does that mean? The man has just been executed. You’re monitoring the situation? There’s not a whole lot to monitor.

MR PATEL: We’re continuing to monitor the situation, Matt. I just don’t have further comments.

QUESTION: Well, do you have any concerns about his trial, or do you —

MR PATEL: I don’t have specifics on –

QUESTION: He certainly wasn’t – he wasn’t identified as being wrongfully detained. So presumably you didn’t have an issue with his trial or his arrest, his trial, his sentence, and his execution.

MR PATEL: Again, Matt, I just don’t have specifics on this case to offer beyond that we’re aware of those reports.

QUESTION: Well, were you aware of his detention before he was killed?

MR PATEL: Yes, we were. A consular officer had the opportunity to visit this individual in July.

QUESTION: Okay. And – okay, and that was the last one?

MR PATEL: Correct.

QUESTION: That was while he was awaiting execution?

MR PATEL: Correct. But I don’t have any further specific updates on this.

QUESTION: So no, like, current objections to how his case was handled?

MR PATEL: I just don’t have specifics to offer on his case at this time.

Jahanzaib, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News. This morning, there was a radical Islamic mob attack on a Christian neighborhood in Pakistan. So far, eight churches burned down, there’s too much tension in that area. What is your message to the Pakistani authorities are currently already including to CPC countries?

MR PATEL: So we are deeply concerned that churches and homes were targeted in response to reported Quran desecration in Pakistan. We support peaceful freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion and belief for everybody. And as we have previously said, we are always concerned of incidents of religiously motivated violence. Violence or the threat of violence is never an acceptable form of expression, and we urge Pakistani authorities to conduct a full investigation into these allegations and call for calm for all of those involved.

QUESTION: I have one more question —


QUESTION: — about the Voice of America news service, which plays a critical role in U.S. diplomacy. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul has opened an investigation into allegations of corruption at VOA. Is the State Department aware about it or cooperating with the congressman in these investigations?

MR PATEL: So this is not a situation in which the State Department is part of. USAGM is an independent agency. It’s not really somewhere we have an equity, so I will just refer to them and HFAC to speak to the situation.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Along with this one, the outgoing Pakistani Government signed a bunch of trade agreements with Iran, and now given that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline didn’t go anywhere mainly because of the American and international sanctions, how do you see this development?

MR PATEL: So again, this is something that I will let our Pakistani partners speak to. I don’t have any assessment to offer on it.

QUESTION: But it’s – but it’s the Iran also involved in this, in this bilateral – Iran makes up —

MR PATEL: Again, this is between Pakistan and Iran.

Humeyra, you had your hand up.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you, Vedant. I guess you saw the FT story about Iran. I’m focused on this unwritten understanding, the term in inverted commas. Is there an unwritten understanding between Washington and Tehran to de-escalate, and is that linked to the hostages issue?

MR PATEL: So I’ve spoken about this a couple of times this week already, and I believe the Secretary got a formulation of this question yesterday, from you, I think. So —

QUESTION: Yeah, but the unwritten understanding – I asked him if these two things were related in any way —


QUESTION: — and I was referring to the deal, the agreement. Now there is this other term that’s not sort of my term, but —

MR PATEL: So let me just say two things. One, these issues continue to be separate, and to reiterate what the Secretary said yesterday, we are not close to any kind of deal. We do not have any kind of agreement. We are, of course, committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, and we continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve that. But we do not have – we don’t have anything to announce or any kind of agreement. And I think —

QUESTION: So you can categorically say – you can categorically deny there is an unwritten understanding or informal understanding or whatever term they refer to with Iran on the nuclear issue?

MR PATEL: What I will just reiterate is what the Secretary said yesterday, which is two things, that we have been clear that Iran must first de-escalate to create any kind of space for future diplomacy. But at this time, we have – do not have any kind of agreement on any purported nuclear agenda.

QUESTION: I’d like to note that’s not a denial.

MR PATEL: Again – again, I will just reiterate that our commitment to this has been quite clear to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PATEL: Let me let me go to Kylie, then I’ll come to you, since it’s on the same topic. Go ahead.

QUESTION: But the article also correlated or said there was linkage between U.S. conversations on the detainee issue and conversations with Iran when it comes to their drones going to Russia. Are you saying that there’s also no linkage between those two topics of conversation with Iran?

MR PATEL: That is correct that this consular – this – the news that we shared late last week about these detainees being moved to house arrest with efforts to bring American citizens home. That being said, we are going to continue to take steps to hold Iran accountable for its malign activities, for its destabilizing activities. On that long list includes the provision of drones to Russia for use in Ukraine, and that’s going to be something that we’re going to continue to take steps together with our allies and partners to counter Iran’s development, production, and proliferation of UAVs and other dangerous weapons.

Shannon, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the —

MR PATEL: Oh, can I come back to you? I promised I’d go to Said next.


MR PATEL: I’m so sorry. My bad.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Just on the status of Envoy Rob Malley, since it’s been announced that he’s going to be lecturing at Princeton, the SPIA, this coming fall, what – is there any change in his status or is he still on leave? Will he continue to be on leave throughout the fall?

MR PATEL: Mr. Malley remains on leave, and I don’t have any other updates on the situation.

QUESTION: So that is not going – that does not mean anything?

MR PATEL: I have no other updates to offer. He remains on leave.


QUESTION: On the negotiations ongoing over the Iranian detainees, now, I know that you’ve declined to share specifics. Everybody in this building basically has declined to publicly share specifics over fear that those negotiations could be derailed. Now, the Iranian Government has been much more forthcoming, putting out these statements. Do you see their candidness about the purported negotiations as being potentially detrimental?

MR PATEL: It’s really not for me to characterize. I probably would take issue with your adjective of “forthcoming.” That’s probably not the adjective that I would use. What I would take this opportunity to reiterate is, Shannon, that – and the Secretary addressed this yesterday – is that these funds will only be used for humanitarian trade such as food and medicine and other non-sanctionable transactions. The U.S. is going to continue to have oversight over how these funds are used, and any kind of public reporting indicating otherwise is just simply not true.

QUESTION: What adjective or what adverb or descriptor would you use?

MR PATEL: I couldn’t think of a good one, Matt, so I moved past that point.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but – okay.

MR PATEL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So Ukrainian President Zelenskyy just today announced that the first civilian vessel has passed through Ukraine’s new humanitarian corridor, departing from Odesa onto the Bosporus. Do you have anything on that? Are you aware of that? Has this been discussed?

And separately, since the Secretary called on Congress yesterday to adopt a supplemental, do you have a – is there a plan B if it doesn’t get passed? Do you – can you ensure that Ukraine will get the necessary aid if Congress fails to act?

MR PATEL: What I will say to your second question is our commitment to our Ukrainian partners is unwavering, and what I can say about Congress is that throughout the entirety of this war, we have seen support from our Ukrainian partners, both bicamerally as well as in a bipartisan fashion, and we’re going to continue to engage with Congress on this supplemental. We believe that it is an important step for us to not just continue to support our Ukrainian partners as they defend their territorial integrity, but also there’s important avenues for addressing food security challenges, energy infrastructure challenges, and things of that nature.

Onto your first question, I’ve not seen President Zelenskyy’s comments, so I don’t have anything, but I’m happy to check with the team on that.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Talia Rose, Yomiuri Shimbun. So on the trilateral summit this week, given the emphasis on long-term cooperation that this administration has put on the trilateral relationship between Japan, Korea, and the U.S., how will this relationship be insulated against future political shifts from any of the parties involved?

MR PATEL: Future what?

QUESTION: Future political shifts from any of the parties involved.

MR PATEL: Well, what – let me say two things. The first is, one, I’m just not going to get ahead of the trilateral summit. I think the leaders will have a lot of important things to share on Friday, but I think an important perspective to have – and the Secretary talked a little bit about this yesterday – is that we have seen this trilateral mechanism extend from when he started in – when he started in as deputy secretary of state, and there continues to be an important opportunity to engage on areas of mutual interest between our three countries. And I know the leaders will have more to talk about that on Friday.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The UN Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting today on Nagorno-Karabakh. Do you have any updates on steps the U.S. is taking to end Azerbaijan’s blockade?

MR PATEL: So I spoke a little bit about this yesterday, and we continue to remain deeply concerned about the continued closure of the Lachin corridor to commercial, humanitarian, and private vehicles. I will let our colleagues in New York speak a little bit about the Security Council session, but Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will represent the United States and will be part of that meeting as – in her role as Security Council president for the month of August. And I will just say broadly we remain committed to promoting a peaceful and prosperous future for the South Caucasus region, and we’re going to continue to actively engage in the region with our allies and partners on this as well.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Wait, wait – I just —

MR PATEL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just back to Private King for a second.


QUESTION: Have you guys – and by “you guys” I mean the administration – given any thought to the idea that he might not want to come back? I mean, you keep – every time you’ve talked about it, you talk about how you want him back, but are you sure that he doesn’t want to stay?

MR PATEL: Matt, it’s hard to speak to a negative.

QUESTION: I recognize that, but so I want – so —

MR PATEL: And I think you and I had a similar exchange about this a number of weeks ago.

QUESTION: Right. So if you – so if you don’t know, have you at least considered what happens if he says he doesn’t want to come home?

MR PATEL: I will say two things, Matt. First, as I said to you a number of weeks ago, there are a number of issues here that we do not have visibility on. Beginning at the very top is Private King’s safety and well-being, as well as a number of other issues, so that is why our focus right now remains on getting information about his well-being, making sure he is safe, and getting as much information as we can. And once we have reached that, we can start looking at any other issues as it relates to this as well.


MR PATEL: All right. Thanks, everyone.

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