Briefing with Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zuniga on Ongoing Diplomatic Efforts to Address the Root Causes of Irregular Migration from Central America (US Department of State)

MS PORTER: Hi, good evening. This is Department – State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter. Thank you so much for joining the call this evening. Special Envoy Ricardo Zuniga is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He has decades of experience with the State Department and is now serving as a special envoy for the Northern Triangle. Special Envoy Zuniga is working in coordination with Vice President Harris to address the root causes of irregular migration and leading the U.S. diplomatic efforts with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico on these issues. He’s joining us here today on the record to answer all of your questions. And as a reminder, today’s briefing is embargoed until the conclusion of the briefing.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to you, Special Envoy.

MR ZUNIGA: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. So I have a brief opening statement, and then I look forward to your questions. So over the past few weeks since mid-March when I joined, I have traveled to Central America and had a series of meetings with leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras about working together to alleviate the conditions that are driving mass irregular migration to Mexico and the United States. While we agreed that we have a lot of work ahead of us, I believe we already have a good foundation with partners in all the countries in Central America and in Mexico.

To be clear, when I’m talking about leaders in this context, it doesn’t only include government leaders. Also, very importantly, it refers broadly to civil society, from social issue groups to members of the private sector, members of the media. We’ve discussed important issues at hand, including fundamental freedoms and dealing with the acute crises that are driving so much of the migration today. We discussed improving the current conditions and the cooperation needed to reduce irregular migration, but also, importantly, we really talked about what we needed to do together to establish the favorable conditions for economic and social growth to address one of those main drivers of irregular migration from the region.

So what we’re really focused on is trying to create enabling conditions that are going to allow societies to thrive. Very clearly, these large flows of irregular migrants aren’t just something that happens in one year and now there have been – it has been happening, and happening cyclically year after year over the last decade. We’ve seen that the challenges in Central America really do present challenges in the United States. When something goes wrong in Central America, we feel it in the United States. We are very closely connected as societies. The truth is we’re very closely linked.

And so our commitment has to be not just to deal with the acute drivers of migration, but really dealing with the short-, medium-, and long-term problems if we want to see systemic and sustainable change, which, really, that’s our objective. And thanks to the leadership of the Vice President, we’ve organized ourselves as a government to make cooperation stronger and more of a reality, a tangible reality for governments in the region. We’re also addressing structural problems that have affected so many lives in Central America, whether they regard insecurity or lack of opportunities or corruption.

Our goal is to work with the people of Central America to create safe, prosperous, democratic societies where citizens can build their own lives with dignity. At the center of our efforts, again, is this fight against corruption and impunity and fostering the conditions that provide for growth, especially in the vital small- and medium-sized business sector which drives – in which so many people are employed in the region.

With that, I look forward to your questions.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, again —

MS PORTER: All right. Let’s go to the line of Christina Ruffini, please.

QUESTION: Good evening.

OPERATOR: And Christina, your line is open.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks. Ricardo, thanks for taking the time. Just to start out, I know you are the special envoy to the Northern Triangle, but I’m wondering if the State Department is considering doing away with that term. We’ve heard from the countries themselves they’re pushing back against this saying they each have their own identities. In your opinion, is the term helpful for making policy to the region or has it – has it outlived its usefulness?

MR ZUNIGA: So this is something that we certainly have gotten that feedback. Governments are dealt with as a – just as a matter of substance, we do deal with them individually. Each of the countries have particular characteristics and particular challenges that they’re dealing with. I think it’s appropriate to focus on these three countries in northern Central America as a – as a – and in particular from the U.S. perspective, because that’s the source of irregular migration that is – that is reaching the Southwest border in large numbers. But we do understand the context is Mexico and all of Central America, and so we try looking at the – at the issue that way.

I certainly am sensitive to concerns about countries feeling like they are lumped together. That’s not how we’re approaching this. There are some common challenges and there are also challenges that have to be dealt with at a regional level, but we do in our work with governments deal with them as individual governments and don’t try to treat them all as if it were the same set of circumstances.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to the line of Tracy Wilkinson.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Special Envoy.

MR ZUNIGA: Hey, Tracy.

QUESTION: You – hi.  You seem to be putting a lot of eggs in the Guatemala basket.  I say that because if – correct me if I’m wrong, but he was the only president you met with, and he is the only president that Kamala Harris has spoken to and she’s going to do this virtual summit on Monday.  And yet Guatemala arguably is just as corrupt as the other two countries, and it was Guatemala that killed the CICIG.  So why so much faith in Guatemala?  Thanks.

MR ZUNIGA: So the – right now the first country that I visited with – at that point with the southwest border coordinator, Roberta Jacobson, and with the senior director for the Western Hemisphere at NSC, Juan Gonzalez – it was Mexico. Mexico has really been our key partner in our efforts to manage migration. So in – the short version is that we, at this early date, have really focused on the countries that are at the center of this movement of people. Honduras certainly is the other main source, but Guatemala and Mexico are the main sources of irregular migration right now. And we’ve put a lot of focus on those, understanding that this is going to have to require a systemic approach.

I did travel also to El Salvador. I have engaged with the foreign minister of Honduras. In each of the countries, we’ve established working groups that are focused on the main lines of action that we’re going to be dealing with in this. And certainly one is migration management, but also on issues related to governance and corruption, on issues related to security, and on issues related to economic development. Those are the other areas of work.

So, again, these are areas of mutual interest. We work with all of the three countries in northern Central America and in the Northern Triangle and in – and very closely with Mexico. And at all times we’re prepared to collaborate with those who want to work with us on a broad agenda, including on governance issues.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to the line of Conor Finnegan.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. The White House implied earlier this month that the administration had reached new agreements with the three countries about border security, and some of them pushed back on that, saying any additional border security that they deployed – guards, things like that – happened before the administration even took office. So can you clarify whether or not you’ve reached any new agreements? And then, if so, what are you doing to ensure that people who have legitimate asylum claims can still make their journey north to make those claims? Thank you.

MR ZUNIGA: Thank you for that. And it is very important to point out here that we don’t have new agreements to announce. What we have are – and they’re correct. We have a long history of collaboration with the region and on trying to manage migration. What we have seen, very importantly, is that with the administration’s focus on collaborative migration approaches is a greater level of cooperation, including on issues of protection.

It’s not just the United States. When I was in Guatemala, we and the Guatemalan authorities – the Guatemalan Government hosted a meeting with the major international organizations that are our main partners in the region: IOM and certainly UNHCR and others – UNICEF – and others who have an important role to play, including on protection. And so in the case of Mexico, we also have a very strong relationship on matters related to supporting international organizations as they work with the Mexican Government. It’s correct that governments are responding to their own legitimate border security needs (inaudible).

MS PORTER: Let’s go to the line of Michelle Lee, please.

QUESTION: This is a question —

MR ZUNIGA: — in Central America – excuse me.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR ZUNIGA: Okay. And collaboration with countries in Central America has been to ensure that they have protection mechanisms that don’t require people to have to move all the way to the U.S. border to feel like they can – they can access at least protection screening. So that is the – that’s the other major effort that’s underway (inaudible).

QUESTION: Hello? This is Michelle Lee.

OPERATOR: Sir, your line cut out.

QUESTION: Oh, can I ask my question now?

MS PORTER: Hold tight with us one quick second. Thank you so much for your patience. We’re going to try to get him back on the line.


MS PORTER: Hello, Special Envoy?

MR ZUNIGA: Hi. Yes, this is Ricardo. I’m so sorry. Something must have happened with my line dropping.

MS PORTER: Oh, glad to have you back. Now, we were on Michelle Lee. If you’re back, Michelle Lee, feel free to ask your question.

MR ZUNIGA: Michelle?

QUESTION: Okay, hello. Yes, it’s Michelle. Thanks for the —

MR ZUNIGA: Hey, so sorry.

QUESTION: It’s okay. Two questions. First, you’ve spoken about the need to provide political cover and technical support in order to help create sustained change from the inside of the countries, and I was wondering if you can talk some more about what the diplomatic efforts on governance looks like, and what realistically can be done to support those internal efforts.

And secondly, you may have been addressing this earlier when your – when you dropped off, but what sort of enforcement mechanisms is the U.S. considering? What are the options that the administration is willing to take, like trying to get the governments to tighten their own borders or impose new internal controls?

MR ZUNIGA: Certainly. So on the first one, on governance, you’re right; addressing corruption is at the center of what the Biden administration has focused on in seeking to create those enabling conditions for broad-based improvement in Central America. So what that means in practice is two things. First is supporting those within the countries – and that’s civil society as well as public servants – who are involved in efforts to promote transparency and combat corruption and impunity. So that can mean some of the ongoing work that we’ve had in support of prosecutors and judges involved in this work as well as direct support to organizations like the CNA in Honduras and others that are civil society organizations that have a particular role in supporting the work against corruption. So that’s one portion of it.

We are also looking at a – putting together an anti-corruption task force that is going to involve the Department of Justice and other U.S. agencies, with the support of the Department of State, to focus on particular cases involving corruption as well as enhancing the capacity of prosecutors, investigators, and others to actually move forward with cases.

I think it’s really important here to underline that the United States, we were disappointed with the lapse of CICIG in Guatemala and MACCIH in Honduras and believe those were setbacks in efforts to promote transparency and combat impunity. Both those entities had very strong popular support, and it’s important for the United States to show that we’re on the side of those who are victims of corruption and not on the side of those who are involved in corruption. So part of this is demanding that accountability that the citizens of Central America demand. We are backing up and supporting that effort.

Now, in terms of migration enforcement, this is – the reality is that we have to work with not just ourselves but with countries in the region to ensure that they have the means to enforce their laws and to be able to monitor their borders kind of in line with their – with sort of normal government activity. And so that involves working with the border and immigration officials in each country. It means increasing information sharing and having a more active collaboration among the five countries involved here – United States, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – on managed migration.

That also includes – and these go together – ensuring that we are working to create legal pathways for migration and working to build protection for those vulnerable populations into migration systems across the region.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Stef Knight.

QUESTION: Hi, Special Envoy. Thanks for having this call. And my name is actually Stef Kight, just – it’s a normal mistake, but no N.

I was wondering if you could speak to kind of the aid portion of the tactics with Central America. How much is actually available to invest in these countries? And is there a timeline where you all are hoping to be able to really start pouring actual money, resources into some of these short-term and long-term goals?

MR ZUNIGA: So there is a certain amount of funding left from prior fiscal years, but the administration just put forward an initial request for $861 million to – that will be shared in greater detail next month in terms of how that – how we’re planning to allocate that funding. It’s an initial payment on the $4 billion over four years that President Biden announced before coming into office.

And the assistance is going to be focused in three areas: in promoting governance, better, improved governance, so combating corruption, but also promoting transparency and access to information on the part of citizens and working with the private sector to ensure that they also have – are operating on a level playing field.

The second area is going to be on promoting transparent – excuse me – prosperity. So that means promoting economic development. The private sector is going to have an even bigger role than U.S. assistance in that regard, but what we can do is help create the conditions where both domestic and foreign investment can help create more jobs and more opportunities in the region.

And finally, on security, that’s the last area that we’re going to be focused on. And there, it’s not just the issue of ensuring – combating the very high levels of violence that continue to plague the region, but also creating systems and judicial systems and supporting judicial systems that can offer justice to people in the region. We think that in terms of assistance, it’s important to, on the immediate basis, deal with some of the humanitarian issues that are driving migration on an acute basis. That means the lingering impacts from the hurricane, that means in particular the impact of the COVID pandemic on not just the health of Central American societies but also on the economies, and so helping to put those back on their feet are early priorities.

And then we’re also beginning to lay the groundwork for longer-term structural change by essentially forming strong partnerships in civil society with the private sector and with governments, but as well as with other donors so that we’re spreading the burden but also dividing some of this responsibility and ensuring that we’re not overlapping too much. So increased coordination is an important part of that longer-term work.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to the line of Jordan Fabian.

QUESTION: Thanks, Special Envoy. I wanted to ask you about the other side of the anti-corruption coin. You’ve talked about ways that the United States might try to incentivize governments to crack down on corruption, but what about – what is the United States going to do if these governments are obstinate? Are you guys considering sanctions against officials who are involved in corruption or anything even stronger than that? Thanks.

MR ZUNIGA: Yes, we are, and in fact, we have a mandate from the U.S. Congress to develop lists of officials who are involved in corruption and to propose actions against them. That can range from using State Department authorities to revoke visas of people involved in corruption and their family members. It can also mean working through the Department of the Treasury and Department of Justice to designate individuals who are involved in high levels of corruption. We’ve got the Global Magnitsky Act that we intend to make use of. Absolutely, the work against corruption involves not just incentives, but doing what we think is necessary and using the tools that we have from Congress to demonstrate our opposition to particular individuals and organizations involved in this.

Now, they can be involved not only in organized crime activity or money laundering but also in acts of corruption, because we think that corruption is one of the main drivers of instability in Central America. And again, we want to demonstrate that we are on the side of the victims of corruption and determined to act against those involved in corruption.

MS PORTER: Let’s take one final question from James Traub.

OPERATOR: My apologies. One moment here. James – yeah, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, can you hear me?


MR ZUNIGA: We can.

QUESTION: Okay. Okay. So one of the things you mentioned while you were in the region was the hope to expand the use of temporary seasonal visas for people coming from the Northern Triangle. And just a few days ago that number was announced at 6,000, which is a modest number and a modest increase over the existing number. And this gave people a lot of concern, I think, especially coming after Biden’s reversed announcement of the refugee cap, that the administration was getting cold feet on some of these issues. So could you address both the seasonal visa issue and that broader question?

MR ZUNIGA: So on the seasonal visa issues, we are looking at as many methods of creating legal pathways for people to come to United States. Labor is obviously an important part of that because so many – I mean, such a large percentage of the people coming irregularly are coming to try to work in the United States. And so clearly, we want to be able to use not just H-2Bs – that number was H-2B visas – but look at other possibilities as well. And the overall expansion was right around 20,000 additional H-2B visas and with 6,000 set aside for Central America.

There is an issue, which is that when you have – when you’re expanding seasonal labor visas to – or expanding them in a country, typically there requires some work at the beginning to establish connections between employees and employers in the United States. So there’s also the concern about, at least in this immediate phase, not designating so many for Central America that we aren’t able to fill them immediately or very quickly and then leave some visas on the table. We want these to be used. That’s for the capped visas.

H-2As, which are not capped, are also – those have their own complexities because most people in the H-2A program are Mexican nationals that have a longstanding relationship with employers in United States. It takes some work and time to develop those relationships, but those are two methods. We are looking at whatever legal methods we have available under the Immigration Nationality Act to regularize labor flows as much as possible. We understand that’s a part of the formula.

On the larger issue, I think that for one thing, it’s important to note that the entire migration system has been under intense strain. President Biden submitted comprehensive immigration reform proposals precisely because there’s an understanding that the current system hasn’t provided the speed, regularity, and access that the country needs. And we want to ensure that as many people have as much access as needed to legal pathways. We want to incentivize that. But there was enormous strain on the system, and it is taking time to put it – to kind of reconstitute an effective system, and for example, to re-initiate asylum processing on the – at the speed at which we would like to have it.

So this is a – it is a difficult time to be taking on the challenges related to migration. And in addition to that, there is a lot of – many of the resources of the U.S. Government are dedicated right now to dealing with the situation at the southwest border. So there is a strain on resources, there is a commitment to try to promote legal pathways as much as possible, and certainly there is a commitment to use the tools that we have available to ensure that we’re able to promote improved access for labor and temporary labor purposes in United States and match employers with potential employees in Central America.

MS PORTER: All right, Special Envoy, I actually – I said that was the last question, but I actually have one last alibi since you dropped on the line when Conor Finnegan was wanting to ask you about —

MR ZUNIGA: Totally fair.

MS PORTER: — U.S. making asylum claims. And so are you able to just provide a little bit of context on that? Can you provide those details on U.S. claims – on making U.S. asylum claims in other countries?

MR ZUNIGA: Certainly. Do you mind – is he still on the line? I just wanted to hear the question again because I thought – I want to make sure I recalled it correctly.

MS PORTER: So he is – I don’t believe he – hold on. Let me just clarify one quick second. Operator, are you able to see if Conor Finnegan is on the line? I don’t believe he got back on.

OPERATOR: Yeah, I’ve got him now.

MS PORTER: Oh, great. Okay. There you go, Conor.

OPERATOR: Conor, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for doing that. And I appreciate the follow-up, Jalina. I just was asking what the administration is doing to ensure that folks who have legitimate asylum claims can make those claims. President Biden had mentioned allowing folks to make them while still in a third country. So any update on all of that? Thank you.

MR ZUNIGA: Certainly. Certainly. Yes, this – access to protection is an important part of the work that we’re doing to promote collaborative migration management in the region. So the – our main partner in doing that is UNHCR, and the counterparts in countries in the case of Mexico, for example, COMAR is the partner in that effort. And what we’re focused on doing is ensuring that – it’s a recognition that – we’re focused on migration to the United States for the clear reason that it’s us and our border, but in fact there is – there are mass movements all across the Americas, from Venezuela and throughout South America.

And within Central America there’s quite a bit of movement from – by Nicaraguans into Costa Rica, for example, that strains resources there and into other countries. And so what we’re trying to do is help build up the capacity of both the national migration systems but also international organizations in – working in Central America to provide some level of security and protection for those who have the need. Now, in some cases there will be individuals who are found to have a status that would enable them to come to the United States, but in other cases there might be protection available closer to home and in the region.

And that’s something that we do, and Costa Rica is a – is certainly a very important partner in that regard, but we’re working with a number of countries to ensure that it’s – that’s it’s – there are other countries other than the United States that are also involved in this. So yes, that’s an important part of our work, and the State Department has the lead in doing so through our Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and its relationships with UNHCR, IOM, and other international organizations.

MS PORTER: All right. Thank you all for joining the call this Earth Day. With that, the embargo is lifted. Have a good evening.

MR ZUNIGA: Thank you very much.


Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry Delivers Closing Remarks on Day One of the Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate (US Department of State)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Austin, and Ambassador, thank you so much. We appreciate both of you taking on this critical challenge of security. Not enough people are aware of the degree to which this is a security issue, and I particularly am glad that today you helped to really put it into a clearer perspective. The Pentagon has long said that the climate change – then a change, now a crisis – is a threat multiplier, and I know you’ve articulated it very, very clearly here today.

We’ve come to the close of the first day. Tomorrow, I want to make clear to everybody in the morning, President Biden will be here, a critical part of that session. We’re going to be taking on the combination of innovation tomorrow and the economic opportunities, jobs. Bill Gates, among others, is going to join us to talk about what he’s doing in innovation and some of the things that all of us can hope for.

Clearly, innovation is going to be a critical component of what we have to achieve. As I mentioned earlier, even if we get to net 50 – net zero by 2050, even if we get there, we still have to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A lot of people don’t focus on that. And that means we need the innovative technologies to do that, or to be able to know that we can store it and – or turn it into something. We haven’t discovered that yet.

And in terms of innovation, there are great possibilities, I think, and I’ve been amazed by the number of countries that are already really chasing after green hydrogen, blue hydrogen. And hydrogen, I think, is something that makes a lot of us salivate a little bit. It may well be our saving grace. But also, storage. Battery storage is now leapfrogging in much of the same way that solar did for a period of time. So you’ve got utility-scale battery capacity today, which is enlarging the ability of power providers to have greater security in the provision of that power. It deals with the baseload challenge.

So I think we’re sort of on the cusp of something very, very exciting, and we touched on that today. Obviously, the finance component underscored the degree to which it is going to be critical to have the wherewithal in many countries to be able to make this transition. If we’re going to ask people not to use the cheapest fuel, which in many places still they think is coal – if you really did the accounting for coal, it’s not the cheapest, because nobody accounts for the health impacts or the warming impacts of the ocean or the black lung disease for the miners and so forth. So it under any circumstance is not cheaper, but some people think it is and so they build it out.

What we need to do is switch faster to these alternatives and renewables and use the progress of batteries and the cheapness now of solar. And we’re even on the cusp, I am told, of having a new process in solar, perovskite, which will, layered onto a solar panel, raise the capacity of that solar panel by some 40 percent, which becomes even more of a game changer. So I am excited and optimistic, and I think tomorrow’s session on innovation will help to make maybe a few more of you feel similarly.

Today, obviously, with the finance section, with the nature-based discussion, with the adaptation and resilience, I think we really managed to cover much of the waterfront of this challenge. But let me – and I think it’s been inspiring. The thing that’s leapt out to me, listening to the sessions and being part of this, is that, first of all, so many voices took part. And many of you may not be aware of it, but we had about 70 nations that have been part of a sidebar listening session. And I listened to 42 of them yesterday, and we will listen to more of them tomorrow morning early before the session opens. And it’s really been impressive to hear a combination of commitment and the combination of concern.

So I think it’s important for all of us to close out the first day recognizing that despite all the announcements, which are significant, we had more than 50 percent of global GDP today commit to take emissions cuts and measures that will put their country on track to hold 1.5 degrees. That’s pretty impressive. But 50 percent doesn’t do it for the rest of the planet or any of us. We have to get every nation involved in this challenge. We particularly need to rely on the 20 most developed countries. Twenty countries equal 81 percent of all the emissions. And as a matter of environmental justice and equity, fairness, we obviously need to work – all of us – in those – in that 20. And we’re number two in emissions. We know it. And I think President Biden today put us online to move rapidly, as rapidly as we can, to lower our emissions.

But today, all of you have genuinely helped us to envision a world that is powered by clean energy, that has good-paying jobs, that has empowered our younger generations, that has thriving ecosystems, a world that is resilient to the climate impacts that we can no longer avoid, and a world that supports communities that have been marginalized and overburdened for generations.

So I thank all of our participants in all time zones. This is not easy. I don’t know if some of you have run a tag team and somebody got out of bed and someone else went to bed. But we greatly appreciate everybody’s participation. And thank you to all of you who have tuned in around the world. I hope you’ve been encouraged and inspired, even, as we know, as Xiye said in her vibrant comments of frustration with we adults – alleged adults, we need to get the job done.

So tomorrow, we’re going to dig deeper into the solutions and, excitingly, into the benefits of the solutions. This is the greatest economic opportunity the world has known since the Industrial Revolution. Four and a half to five billion users of energy today rising to nine billion in the next 30 years, almost a billion of whom – 860,000,000 – don’t have electricity today. Folks, that’s a problem, but it’s also a hell of an opportunity. And if we will seize the opportunity to go clean, we’re going to make our economies hum, as President Biden said, and we’re going to reach out for the better future that we want to leave future generations.

So tomorrow, we look forward to seeing you. It’s not as long as today. It’ll be briefer for everybody. But thank you for being part of this day, and we look forward to continuing the conversation in the morning. Take care. Sleep well. God bless.


Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry Delivers Opening Remarks at Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, Session Two: Investing in Climate Solutions (US Department of State)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. President, thank you very much for your leadership and the sense of urgency which you are calling everybody to account for. And we thank you for hosting this conference in less than a hundred days from entering the Oval Office.

We just heard a very powerful statement from a young activist underscoring the urgency that every leader here faces to meet this crisis. And as you have said, Mr. President, creating a net zero economy and doing it as rapidly as possible is an enormous challenge. It will require mobilizing finance at an absolutely unprecedented level. And it will require governments to help facilitate the net zero transition around the world and to help especially – and we’ve heard it again and again from the leaders this morning – the vulnerable countries, the people who just don’t have the finance or the technology or the ability to do this.

Given the magnitude of this challenge, however, governments alone cannot possibly find all the necessary investment. There’s no government in the world that has enough in their fiscal – in their budgets to be able to provide what we need to make this transition. Ultimately, how governments, international financial institutions, and private providers of capital work together is really going to determine the outcome of this challenge.

So joining us in this – first in this session are four leaders from four different corners of the world, and they will share their experiences in financing climate solutions and in deploying mitigation and adaptation strategies. So to begin, it’s my pleasure to turn to President Charles Michel of the European Council.


U.S.-India Joint Statement on Launching the “U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” (US Department of State)

At the Leaders Summit on Climate, the United States and India launched a new high-level partnership, the “U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership,” which envisages bilateral cooperation on strong actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Partnership will proceed along two main tracks: the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership, co-chaired by Secretary of Energy Granholm, and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue, co-chaired by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. The announcement follows the visit by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to India, where he and Prime Minister Modi affirmed that the United States and India would collaborate on a 2030 agenda for clean technologies and climate action. Alongside the launch of the Partnership, the text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of India:

Begin Text:

The United States and India are launching the “U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership.” Led by President Biden and Prime Minister Modi, the Partnership will represent one of the core venues for U.S.-India collaboration and focus on driving urgent progress in this critical decade for climate action. Both the United States and India have set ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy. In its new nationally determined contribution, the United States has set an economy-wide target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50–52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. As part of its climate mitigation efforts, India has set a target of installing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030. Through the Partnership, the United States and India are firmly committed to working together in achieving their ambitious climate and clean energy targets and to strengthening bilateral collaboration across climate and clean energy.

The Partnership will aim to mobilize finance and speed clean energy deployment; demonstrate and scale innovative clean technologies needed to decarbonize sectors including industry, transportation, power, and buildings; and build capacity to measure, manage, and adapt to the risks of climate-related impacts. The Partnership will proceed along two main tracks: the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue, which will build on and subsume a range of existing processes. Through this collaboration, the United States and India aim to demonstrate how the world can align swift climate action with inclusive and resilient economic development, taking into account national circumstances and sustainable development priorities.

End text.


Department Press Briefing – April 22, 2021 (US Department of State)

MR PRICE: Good afternoon. Happy Earth Day, everyone. With that in mind, just a couple things at the top. I’ll start on that subject.

We are grateful to each and every leader who has participated in today’s Leaders Summit on Climate. And of course, we look forward to the summit’s continuation tomorrow.

I think President Biden’s announcement speaks for itself: The United States has put forward a more ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent below the 2005 levels by 2030.

I do want to highlight just a few encouraging announcements by several key allies. With ambitious new 2030 commitments by Japan and Canada, and the European Union’s move to put their 2030 target into law, and the UK’s new pace-setting 2035 goal, more than half of the world’s economy is now committed to the pace of emission reductions required globally to keep a 1.5 degree Celsius future within reach. And we know this coalition is growing – including with South Korea’s newly announced commitment that it will strengthen its 2030 target.

We saw a variety of other announcements today about the increasing scope and pace of action around the world. For example, Argentina announced an increase in its nationally determined contribution, or NDC, as well as new steps to make it happen, including scaling renewables and addressing deforestation as well as methane pollution. India is formally stepping up its commitment to accelerate renewable energy deployment. South Africa is strengthening its own NDC. The Republic of Korea announced an end to external coal finance. And countries are moving in the right direction, but of course, we know there is more to do.

Again, we are grateful to each nation that has contributed to the summit’s success thus far and, most importantly, we look forward to working with all nations to increase ambition during this decade of action to put the world on a sustainable path towards climate reduction.

Next, April 25th will mark the 32nd birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima – the 11th Panchen Lama – the Panchen Lama who is forced to spend another year disappeared, separated from his community, and denied his rightful place as a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader. The United States supports Tibetans’ religious freedom and their unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity. We respect Tibetans’ right to select, educate, and venerate their own leaders, like the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, according to their own beliefs, and without government interference.

We call on the PRC Government to immediately make public the Tibetan-venerated Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and to give us this opportunity to meet with the Panchen Lama in person.

With that, I’m happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Thanks, actually I’ve got a bunch of kind of minor things but nothing that really merits leading off, so I’ll pass to – as long as I can come back.



QUESTION: That’s unexpected. Russia and Myanmar actually. So Russia said it was ordering troops back to base from the area near the border with Ukraine. What is the U.S. assessment on this view? Are you seeing some weaponry also being moved back? What do you think this is?

MR PRICE: Well, we have heard Russia’s announcement – its announcement that it would begin withdrawing troops from the border of Ukraine. As I’ve said, we’ve heard words. I think what we’ll be looking for is action. The United States will continue to monitor the situation. We’ll do that closely and we’ll – we’ll coordinate closely with Ukrainian officials as well as other – as well as allies and partners throughout.

We have made clear in our engagement with the Russian Government that it needs to refrain from escalatory actions and immediately cease all its aggressive activity in and around Ukraine, including its recent military buildup in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s border and its intention to block specific vessels in the parts of the Black Sea. We of course reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrities, and of course that extends to Ukraine’s territorial waters. So our message is we’ve heard the announcement. We’ll be watching closely for that follow-through.

QUESTION: So yesterday, before this, Ukrainian foreign minister gave an interview with Reuters, and he talked about how they needed more Western support. What else the United States could do about that?

MR PRICE: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Well, he – do you want me to go —

MR PRICE: I’m sorry. What —

QUESTION: What else the United States can do about that? He reiterated that Ukraine needs more Western support.

MR PRICE: I see.

QUESTION: Obviously, there was, like, a NATO meeting, and there has been a serious of statements, but he – nevertheless, he mentioned this again yesterday that he needs more from the West. What can the U.S. do?

MR PRICE: Well, we have provided our partner, Ukraine, with significant support since 2014. We have stood by Ukraine. We have committed more than $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine over the years. And of course, we’ll continue working to provide Ukraine the security assistance it needs to defend itself against Russian aggression, including the lethal defensive weapons based on an evolving assessment of Kyiv’s needs.

QUESTION: Is there a specific new plan on that assistance?

MR PRICE: It is something we are always taking a close look at. It’s something we’re always evaluating. Of course, the Secretary had an opportunity to meet with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Kuleba, just a few days ago in Brussels. We discussed continuing to work closely together and to standing by as a partner, including when it comes to Ukraine’s security needs.

QUESTION: Two on Russia?

QUESTION: Can I ask (inaudible) follow-up on that? So just to put a finer point on it, are you currently considering the option of sending more lethal weaponry to Ukraine?

MR PRICE: I’m not going to get ahead of any additional moves we might make. But look, the Ukrainian Government has no doubt where we stand. Similarly, I think it is also fair to say that Moscow has no doubt where we stand, and that is firmly in support with our partner, Ukraine, including its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and that includes in the maritime domain.


QUESTION: On the troop withdrawal from the Ukrainian border, was this signaled in any way ahead of time? In other words, was the Biden administration surprised to see this happen? And then also, I see that Slovakia and the Czech Republic have both expelled more Russian diplomats over the last 12 hours. Notwithstanding the expulsions that were announced here last week, I’m wondering if there’s any additional considerations to shut down more consulates in – Russian consulates in the United States to bring it in line with the American consulates that have been shut down in Russia.

MR PRICE: Well, as we said yesterday, we have had an opportunity to engage in discussion in Moscow. Our embassy took part in a discussion with Moscow authorities, and we expect those discussions will continue in the coming days, perhaps even the coming weeks. So we’re not going to get ahead of where those discussions might lead. Of course, President Biden announced just a few days ago a very strong response to the different categories of Russia’s malign activity, and that includes its interference in our democracy; that includes what we have seen vis-a-vis Mr. Navalny; it includes the reports of bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan; and of course, it includes SolarWinds. And so we will continue to have discussions in Moscow, but again, I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to get ahead of those discussions right now.

QUESTION: How about were you all surprised about the troop withdrawal from the Ukrainian border? Was this —

MR PRICE: Well, again, we’ve heard the announcement. And to the best of our knowledge, it remains an announcement. That’s why we’re going to continue to watch very closely.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I just need to be clear on this. I mean, were you all signaled ahead of time that this might be happening?

MR PRICE: We’ve heard the announcement, but you’ll have to speak to Russian authorities when it comes to their future plans or their motives.


QUESTION: To follow up on my colleague’s question, were you signaled ahead of time that there would be the announcement?

MR PRICE: Did the Russians tell us ahead of time that they planned to make an announcement that —


QUESTION: Yeah, that’s the question.

MR PRICE: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That’s not a ridiculous question.

QUESTION: In the phone call, for example, between the two presidents, was there a hint that some kind of drawdown might be coming?

MR PRICE: We have – we have read out the phone call between President Biden and his counterpart, Russian President Putin. We’ve read out the phone call between National Security Advisor Sullivan and his counterpart. I’ll have to refer you to those readouts. I don’t have any more to add to that. But look, our point is that we have heard words from Moscow. The entire world has heard those words. It’s an announcement insofar as we know yet. We’ll be looking for follow-through when it comes to what the Russians actually do.

QUESTION: Okay, can I try a different one then?


QUESTION: The Russian MFA has said that it’s going to prohibit local staff from working at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Can you give us an idea of how many people that is? Is there a deadline for when they have to stop working? Some of these people have worked there for more than decades. Is this going to force a drawdown of the embassy, and how is it going to impact operations?

MR PRICE: Well, it is true that we have had discussions with the Russian Government, and they have relayed their – elements of their response. We were – we have received the official diplomatic correspondence, as I mentioned yesterday, that lists the diplomats that the Russian Government has PNG’d. Now, the Russian Government has made a public announcement when it comes to locally employed staff. That is an unfortunate announcement. As we have said, steps to prohibit locally employed staff will impact our personnel. It will impact the community. We know that locally employed staff in Moscow and around the world – they are key members of our workforce and their contributions are important to our operations. They’re also important to the bilateral mission.

Even as we have these profound disagreements with Moscow, even as we enact our own policy response in the aftermath of Russia’s malign activity and behavior, we know that only through continued engagement and diplomacy will we be able to aspire to have that predictable and that stable relationship with Moscow that we seek to have. Now, locally employed staff are a key component of our embassy operations. That, in turn, makes them a key component of that ability to engage diplomatically. So again, we haven’t received formal notification when it comes to locally employed staff, but we’ve heard the announcement and we continue to consider that quite unfortunate.

QUESTION: Just on climate, you asked people – countries to come to the summit with more ambitious targets. You’ve mentioned allies that did; Australia did not. Is that a disappointment to you?

MR PRICE: Well, what is true is that we have heard ambitious announcements from partners, allies, even some countries that don’t often fall into either of those categories. Now, of course, Australia is a very close ally and we’re pushing countries around the world, including ourselves, to be as ambitious as we can be, knowing the stakes of this existential threat. We know that we can solve this, but we know that in order to do it we’ll have to work together.

Australia is a strong ally across the board, in technology development and the opportunities – and in opportunities for policy development. We have a long history of cooperation with our Australian allies, and we see enormous potential for joint work between our two countries.

At the same time, we know that cooperation on technology or any other innovative climate solutions will only achieve the necessary scale if they are, in fact, coupled with ambitious climate policy and commitment. And that’s why we know that the coming decade will be decisive. The steps that countries commit to now will set us up for success or they will set us up for failure. And to keep that goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach we know we have to get on that right path now. That’s why we’ve been pushing our allies, our partners, even countries that don’t fall – typically don’t fall into either category towards that direction.

QUESTION: So you’re saying you would have liked to have seen Australia commit to a more ambitious target?

MR PRICE: The entire world needs to do more. That is precisely why President Biden and the White House announced an ambitious NDC on our part; it’s precisely why we have encouraged countries around the world to do more. We’ll keep doing that. This climate summit is not the end of the road. This is, in fact, the start of the road to Glasgow, and of course we’ll continue from there. So we will keep this up. We will keep the pressure on ourselves as well, knowing that what the United States does tends to have a catalytic effect. And that’s why, for us, it was so important to announce an ambitious NDC, 50 to 52 percent below the 2005 levels by 2030. And that’s what we hope to see from countries around the world.

QUESTION: Just to follow up. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was pretty far down the list of speakers, I think 21 out of 27, even behind Bhutan for instance. Is that any sort of reflection on Australia’s perceived lack of commitment to climate change?

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t read more into the order or the sequence than is necessary. Of course, Australia is a close ally. We have an incredibly close partnership across many realms, and just as we do with all countries, we hope and expect Australia will commit to bold ambition when it comes to climate. It’s what we have sought to do ourselves and we’ll continue to have those conversations going forward.


QUESTION: Wait. How much is necessary?

MR PRICE: How much is necessary? Well —

QUESTION: Well, you said don’t read anything more into the placement of speakers than is necessary. So how much is necessary? It clearly wasn’t alphabetical if she’s right and Bhutan went ahead of Australia; I’m pretty sure B comes after A. So how much do we read into the fact that he was – whatever he was – 21st, or 27th?

MR PRICE: I do not think order was indicative of anything other than temporal sequencing. So I think you’re probably reading too much into it.

QUESTION: I’m not reading anything into it. You’re the one who said don’t read more into it than you should, and so how much should we read into it?

MR PRICE: Well, I think just the fact that the question is being asked is perhaps parsing things. But look, we are gratified at the 39 other countries that have showed up at this summit. We are gratified at the commitments that we’ve heard today, the commitments that we’ve heard preceding this, and – knock on wood – the commitments that we’ll hear going forward as well.


QUESTION: On climate, in your opening remarks you didn’t mention China. Has China’s commitment today met your expectation, and what role do you like to see China to play in the next phase?

MR PRICE: Well, we know that every major economy, every country that is responsible for a large share of global emissions – and China would certainly fall into that category as the world’s largest emitter – has a special responsibility. That is precisely why we have not shirked our own responsibility as the world’s second-largest emitter. It’s precisely why President Biden and the White House put forward that ambitious nationally determined contribution in the last day or so.

So I’m not going to speak to what we would like to see specifically from Beijing, but it is absolutely true that China, the United States, other major emitting countries do have a special responsibility to step up, if we are going to remain – to keep that target of 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.

QUESTION: So at this summit, while the former secretary, the – Special Envoy Kerry is talking about cooperation, but this week Secretary Blinken, he actually said the USA is falling behind on the renewable energy, and it’s difficult to imagine the United States winning the long-term strategic competition with China. Are you sending a mixed message?

MR PRICE: No. I think if you look at the fuller context of what he said, that the – that we see climate both as an existential threat, which is what has in many ways galvanized our action, but we also see it – and this may sound like a paradox, but it’s absolutely true – as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to create opportunity within this country – good-paying, green jobs for American workers. That is what Secretary Blinken was speaking to, the two sides of this climate coin, the threat and the opportunity.

And certainly I think it is fair to say that the United States has not done enough yet to seek to seize that opportunity, to seek to seize what this climate challenge has put before us in terms of the economic opportunities for American workers, in terms of our ability to demonstrate our own ambition, and to galvanize the rest of the world to action. That’s precisely what this administration has sought to do really since day one by rejoining Paris, by putting forward this NDC, by convening this summit of 40 countries from around the world, to focus the world’s attention on the threat while also making clear that here at home domestically, this presents an opportunity for us that we would be unwise to pass up.

QUESTION: I have a last question. Two days ago, you said the department has completed deployment of vaccines to all the posts abroad. Does it mean that the United States embassies and consulates around the world are going to restore the full capacity of your visa service? And also, are you considering ease the travel restriction between United States and China, given the United States is the most vaccinated country, and China has controlled the virus pretty successfully?

MR PRICE: Well, we’re always going to listen to science. We’re always going to listen to medical professionals and public health professionals when it comes to that guidance. That is why CDC is in the lead on these issues. And so this isn’t a question of politics; it is a question of public health. And that’s how we’re going to treat it. So when the science says that it is safe to ease restrictions or if the science requires that we impose additional barriers, whether that pertains to China or any other country, I suspect that’s what you’ll see us do.

When it comes – remind me of your first question.

QUESTION: The embassy and the consulates, are they going to restore the full capacity?

MR PRICE: So certainly our hope is that over time, we will be able to restore the capacity within our embassies, our posts, missions, consulates around the world. We need to take into account not only the vaccination status of our own employees, but also the rate of the virus, the virus’s toll in that particular country. So there are a number of factors that go into this, but certainly our hope going forward in the coming months is that we will be able to restore a good deal of that functionality in our missions around the world.



QUESTION: Any comment on the pressure between Israel and Syria, and on the Iranian announcement that the missile that targeted Israel and landed near Dimona facility is an old generation Iranian? Do you view an Iranian escalation or an escalation in the region?

MR PRICE: Well, we support Israel’s ability to exercise its inherent right of self-defense. We condemn any actions that threaten Israel and regional security more broadly. I would need to refer you to the Government of Israel for more details about its operations. I know they’ve spoken to it, but I would need to refer you there for a reaction.

QUESTION: Do you view any Iranian role, and especially after confirming that the missile was Iranian?

MR PRICE: I don’t have a confirmation of that that I’m prepared to offer from here. What I would say is that we condemn any action that threatens Israel and regional security more broadly.

QUESTION: And one more, please. Do you welcome the meetings between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Iraq, and it looks like there’s another meeting?

MR PRICE: I would need to refer you to those two governments to speak to that.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) Australia has moved to cancel two projects that the Victorian government had with China regarding the Belt and Road Initiative. Of course, it has been labeled by critics as a debt trap diplomacy, and also a scheme to take over parts of the world. Is the U.S. looking at taking similar sort of moves, or has the U.S. spoken to Australia at all about that move?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to that move, this is a decision made by the Australian Government. We would refer all questions on Australian law and the substance of these decisions to the Australian Government, our ally there. We continue to stand with the people of Australia as they bear the brunt of the PRC’s coercive behavior. I believe it was Foreign Minister Payne who made clear in her statement that the Australian Government has determined that the agreements you refer to – to be inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to Australia’s foreign relations. The government’s cancellation of these additional arrangements with entities in Iran and entities in Syria further demonstrate that Australia is focused on protecting its national interest from all international concerns – this is not unique to the PRC – but these are decisions by the Australian Government.

QUESTION: But is the U.S. talking to partners about potentially pushing back against the Belt and Road Initiative?

MR PRICE: What we’ve made clear is that what unites us are our shared values, are our shared interests. We know that allies around the world, we know that partners around the world are going to have relationships with Beijing that may look slightly different than the relationship that we have. That’s okay. As Secretary Blinken said recently, we’re not going to put our allies or our partners in a position to choose between the United States and Beijing. We are going to focus on what unites us. There is much more that unites us with our partners and certainly our allies, and certainly that’s the case with Australia, than any disagreement we may have when it comes to China or any other issue.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. express its concerns about this agreement? Did the U.S. induce the Australians in any way to consider canceling these agreements?

MR PRICE: This is an – again, this is an action that is internal to Australia, so we would need to refer you there. Of course, it is also true that Australia has borne a tremendous toll of the coercive actions on the part of the PRC. So this is a country that has been really on the front lines of this coercive diplomacy. But when it comes to their actions, we would need to refer you to Australian authorities.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. pleased that the Australians have canceled this deal?

MR PRICE: Look, we continue to work closely with our ally Australia on any number of fronts. We – a number of senior officials have made comments that the United States is standing with Australia in the face of coercive action, coercive diplomacy by the PRC. But these decisions to cancel arrangements at the sub-national level, that’s a matter for the Australian Government.

QUESTION: Are you then having conversations with Australia regarding the cancellation of the contracts?

MR PRICE: I don’t have any conversations to read out on that.


QUESTION: Two questions, if I may. The first is on Japan’s announced targets of 46 percent cut to emissions by 2030. During Prime Minister Suga’s visit, there were some reports that the U.S. was seeking a 50 percent cut. So I just wanted to ask if the U.S. is satisfied with Japan’s announced target of 46 percent.

And then separately on Taiwan, on Monday, the head of Taiwan’s defense ministry’s strategic planning office said that he was seeking U.S. long-range cruise missiles. Is this something that Taiwan has been in contact with the State Department about? Is this something that the U.S. is open to providing Taiwan?

MR PRICE: When it comes to Japan and Tokyo’s target, just as the question that pertained to Beijing, I’m not going to prescribe from here. The United States Government is not going to prescribe specifically what targets certain countries should have. Our goal is to raise ambition across the board. And again, we have sought to do that in any number of ways, including through conversations, but also including through the catalytic power of our example. And that is why President Biden thought it was so important and the White House released the United States NDC, which is quite ambitious, for the rest of the world to see. And so we will continue these conversations, whether it is with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, our allies in Europe, and in some cases, countries that have not been allies nor would not be allies going forward.

When it comes to Taiwan, our commitment, I would say, to Taiwan is rock solid. It contributes to the maintenance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and within the region. It has been longstanding U.S. policy and it is reflected in the Taiwan Relations Act that the United States maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, social, or economic system of the people on Taiwan. We’ll continue to work with allies and partners in support of our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific and that includes peace and security in the Taiwan Strait.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Taiwan? Is it possible for the U.S. to speed up the delivery of arms to Taiwan that have already been sold but have not yet been delivered there?

MR PRICE: I am not in a position to speak to the logistics of that or what might be required there.

QUESTION: Right, but is it under consideration?

MR PRICE: Look, I – again, our support for Taiwan is rock solid. We continue to have a dialogue with Taiwan on a range of issues. Security, of course, is one of them. But I’m not going to get into the details of that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then can I just ask a question on Navalny? So yesterday National Security Advisor Sullivan said that he reiterated that in private conversations, Navalny’s been discussed. And he said that U.S. officials have told Russian officials, quote, what would unfold should the worst befall Navalny. I’m just wondering what the strategy is behind that. Why tell the Russians privately what the U.S. would do if Navalny dies but not publicly? Describe that – what’s the benefit there?

MR PRICE: Well, I think what – and by the fact that you’re asking about it, what you heard is that we have had those private discussions. I think the National Security Advisor made the point that sometimes points are conveyed and have more effectiveness when they are conveyed privately, in private channels, and perhaps in a different level of detail as well. But also, he made the point that we’ve had these discussions privately, that we have made very clear to the Russians in private and now we’ve made this public for all the world to know that we – that we consider Russia, Moscow, responsible for anything that would befall Mr. Navalny while he is in detention.

I don’t think it does Mr. Navalny any good, I don’t think it does the United States any good for us to forecast specifically what that might look like if something were to befall Mr. Navalny. The point we have made to the Russians privately and the broader point we have made publicly is that there would be consequences, there would be severe consequences were something to happen to him in their custody.

QUESTION: Can you describe for us an example of when having these private discussions with Russia has actually benefited a situation and produced tangible results?

MR PRICE: Well, look, I would hesitate to do that in any specific case. I will say, broadly speaking, there are certain cases when private diplomatic exchanges and keeping a matter in those channels could be to our benefit. Hostage negotiations, for example, or the negotiations over a wrongful detainee, someone who is wrongfully held, could be one such example of it. But when it comes to our relationship with Russia, I wouldn’t want to go into those details.

QUESTION: So this strategy hasn’t worked during the Biden administration to date yet?

MR PRICE: You certainly didn’t hear me say that.

QUESTION: Well, no Americans have been released from Russia since the Biden administration came in.

MR PRICE: We – this is now month three, I suppose. It is certainly the case when it comes to Trevor Reed, when it comes to Paul Whelan, when it comes to the Americans who are being held unjustly in Russia that we have regularly raised their cases, that we have continued to work closely with their families. Our embassy in Moscow continues to provide the level of support that we can, and it remains a priority for us to see them safely and quickly reunited with their families.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on Mr. Navalny. Given all these high-level conversations about him recently, is it fair to assume that his fate has become a national security priority for the Biden administration?

MR PRICE: Certainly, human rights in Russia has always been a concern for us. Mr. Navalny, I think, embodies and in many ways personifies what has befallen to the broader issue of human rights in Russia. The fact that the Russian Government has sought to silence Mr. Navalny, has literally attempted to assassinate him using a banned chemical weapon; the fact that he now sits in their custody, is in their custody; the fact that the Russian Government has clamped down, including even in recent hours, on those Russians who have peacefully taken to the street to do nothing more than to exercise the rights that are guaranteed to them under their own constitution, the Russian constitution, I think is emblematic of what has become of human rights in Russia. That is what we are standing up for. Mr. Navalny has long sought to be an advocate and has long been an advocate for human rights, for anticorruption in Moscow. It’s precisely why he now sits in Russian custody.

So that is why his case is of such interest to us, but we also would note that it is not just an interest to us. It’s an interest to our allies, to our partners around the world. We’ve seen multilateral statements, very powerful multilateral statements on paper. You have seen messaging from some of our closest allies and partners that has been coordinated to make clear that this is not a question of the United States, of Washington versus Moscow. This is a question of countries standing up for basic values, universal human rights, values that have come under tremendous threat, tremendous strain from President Putin and Moscow.

QUESTION: Armenia?


MR PRICE: I heard Armenia.

QUESTION: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: So ahead of this Saturday’s Armenian Remembrance Day, does this administration has anything new to say about what happened in 1915 regarding the deportations and massacres against Armenians?

MR PRICE: I know that the White House press secretary was asked about this. I know that she said that there would be more to say in the coming days, so I would just leave it there.

QUESTION: Well, in 2019 – the end of 2019, the U.S. Senate adopted unanimously S.Res. 150 to recognize the Armenian genocide. Does the State Department endorse this congressional action?

MR PRICE: Again, I’m going to defer to the White House. I know that, as the press secretary said, there will be more to say on this subject, but I’m going to leave it there for now.

QUESTION: One more on Turkey and Ukraine.


QUESTION: Do you support Turkey providing drones to Ukraine?

MR PRICE: I – we’ll – if we have anything to say on that, we’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay, I’ll ask —

QUESTION: Can we go to Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Oh, let me follow up on Turkey then.


QUESTION: So the expectation is that the President is going to recognize Armenian genocide. Relations with Turkey are already in a pretty bad situation. Where do you think that is going to leave things on – after this? How do you expect to have any further leverage on Ankara?

MR PRICE: Well, I’m not going to weigh in on a hypothetical. Again, when it comes to any announcements that the White House would make, I would refer to and defer to the White House. What I would say more broadly and taking a step back from the immediate question is that Turkey, as you know, is a longstanding and valued ally and NATO ally.

QUESTION: That we have a lot of problems with.

MR PRICE: We have shared interests with Ankara, and that includes countering terrorism. It includes ending the conflict in Syria. It includes deterring broader malign influence in the region. And we seek that cooperation on common priorities because, again, Turkey is an ally. And where we do have disagreements, as you referred to, we engage in dialogue as allies do.

QUESTION: So what is the current dialogue then?

MR PRICE: Well —

QUESTION: What is it about? Is it about S-400s?

MR PRICE: Well, as you know, the Secretary had an opportunity to meet with his Turkish counterpart twice recently. They met in – they were together in Brussels. They had a bilateral meeting at our – during our first trip to Brussels. And so the bilateral – the dialogue there reflects the bilateral relationship in that —

QUESTION: Have you gotten any indications from Turks that they might back down from the S-400s or even if they wouldn’t back down, there would be a way going forward?

MR PRICE: What I will say is that bilateral meeting that they had reflected the relationship. We talked about those shared interest. We talked about security challenges. We talked about terrorism and countering terrorism. But Secretary Blinken, as he does in all engagements, as appropriate, does not hesitate to raise those areas of disagreement. And of course, there are some when it comes to our alliance with Turkey: the S-400 you raised; human rights is another. And we won’t shy away from raising those. We know that we can do those two things simultaneously. As friends, as allies, when we have disagreements, we raise those. We discuss those. And there’s no – there’s no papering over them.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I go to vaccine diplomacy?


QUESTION: So India is currently facing a horrible surge in coronavirus infections.

MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And we reported that they’ve asked United States to lift a ban on the export of —

MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — vaccine raw materials, which basically threatens to slow the country’s vaccination drive. When will the administration decide on that?

MR PRICE: So we’ve addressed this a couple times in the briefing. As I’ve said, this is a question for USTR when it comes to —

QUESTION: But why is it a question for USTR? Blinken had – Secretary Blinken had a phone call with his counterpart.

MR PRICE: That’s right. And they did discuss COVID. But when it comes —

QUESTION: And this didn’t come up?

MR PRICE: We issued a readout of that call. And as that call – as the readout of the call notes, they did discuss the COVID-19 response. You asked about intellectual property and certain controls. That was – is within the purview of USTR. What I will say broadly is that the United States first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious and effective and, so far, successful effort to vaccinate the American people. That campaign is well underway, and we’re doing that for a couple of reasons.

Number one, we have a special responsibility to the American people. Number two, the American people, this country has been hit harder than any other country around the world – more than 550,000 deaths, tens of millions of infections in this country alone. But there’s also a broader point here that I made yesterday that it’s, of course, not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated. The point the Secretary has made repeatedly is that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. So as long as the virus is spreading uncontrolled in this country, it can mutate and it can travel beyond our borders. That, in turn, poses a threat well beyond the United States.

It is true that even as we focus on this, we have also played a leadership role when it comes to containing, seeking to contain the virus beyond our borders. We have re-engaged with the WHO on day one, the $2 billion we’ve contributed to COVAX, with 2 billion more on the way. When it comes to our own hemisphere, the loan arrangement with Canada and Mexico, and when it comes to India, the Quad and the arrangement with the Quad, including to increase production capacity in India.

So as we are more comfortable in our position here at home, as we are confident that we are able to address any contingencies as they may arise, I expect we’ll be able to do more. And we will, of course, always do as much as we can, consistent with our first obligation.

QUESTION: Can I ask you two really brief ones?


QUESTION: Well, they should be really brief, I think. Yesterday, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared off on two more State Department nominees, but also at the same time unanimously approved an amendment that would kind of force the administration’s hand on Nord Stream 2 sanctions. So I’m wondering, while you – I’m sure you welcome the movement to the floor for votes on Toria Nuland and Uzra Zeya. What do you think of the Nord Stream 2 provisions?

MR PRICE: Well, as you know, Matt, we don’t comment on legislation. But I think the – what is true is that this administration, the President, Secretary Blinken, we share an overall attitude towards Nord Stream 2 with many on Capitol Hill. And that is the position that it is a bad deal. We have called it a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security, and that of Ukraine and the eastern flank of our NATO Allies. That’s why the Secretary has emphasized that he opposes it, the President opposes it, and will continue to do everything we can, including consistent with legislation that’s already on the books, to oppose its construction and finalization.

QUESTION: So you do comment on legislation?


QUESTION: You comment on legislation all the time.


QUESTION: It’s only when you don’t want to that you say, we never – oh, no, no, we never comment on legislation.

MR PRICE: That’s not true. That’s not true. That’s not true. I didn’t – I did not comment on legislation that is pending.

QUESTION: You do it all the time.

MR PRICE: I commented on the law that’s on the book – on the books, PEESA and PEESCA

QUESTION: That’s legislation. Anyway, number two. Yesterday, a senior State Department official talked about this administration’s belief that the previous administration had disingenuously or improperly imposed sanctions on Iran for terrorism, ostensibly for terrorism reasons, but they were really designed to make it harder for any future administration to return to the nuclear deal. In other words, they labeled what – nuclear sanctions as terrorism sanctions, or human rights sanctions, things that would be exempted or wouldn’t be allowed to be done under the deal. Can you give us an example of one sanction, or set of sanctions, that you think fits that category?

MR PRICE: Well, your question is a very good way, device, to seek me to – an attempt to elicit some more detail on the various sanctions —


MR PRICE: — and the categories of sanctions. But let me make the broader point —

QUESTION: I’m not. I just want one example of a sanction, or set of sanctions, that you think was improperly or illegitimately or that the – that the Trump administration imposed with an ulterior motive of tying your – of tying this administration or any other administration’s hands in returning to the deal. Just one. Just one. I’m not asking for the whole set.

MR PRICE: I would make – I would make the point that there are sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA. And as we have said, if Iran resumes its compliance with the nuclear deal – meaning that if Iran once again becomes subject to the most stringent verification and monitoring regime ever negotiated – we would be prepared to lift those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA. There are sanctions that are consistent with the JCPOA. I —

QUESTION: And then there’s the third category that this official talked about. And all I’m asking for is one example. There are —

MR PRICE: There are sanctions that are consistent with the JCPOA. And the point —

QUESTION: No, one example of what you think was duplicitously or disingenuously imposed.

MR PRICE: The point I made yesterday is that there is nothing in the JCPOA that does not, that prohibits us from countering Iran’s broader malign behavior – its ballistic missiles program, support for terrorism, support for proxies in the region.

Now, the point of these negotiations, and the point of these talks, is that if it were very clear if sanctions were – came to us, came to this administration, labeled green or red, it would be a much easier proposition for us to resume compliance, to do what we would need to do to resume compliance if Iran committed to do the same. As you know, sanctions do not come pre-packaged. The diplomacy did not come pre-arranged for us. And that’s why we’re engaging in these talks in Vienna. This is precisely —

QUESTION: Yeah, but then you can’t have it – make an accusation like this official did that the previous administration acted in bad faith, that it was only attempting to screw over anyone who came after them who might want to get back into the deal by mislabeling or improperly labeling nuclear sanctions as terrorism sanctions, I think you have an obligation to give one example of the kind of sanction that you think needs further study so that you can determine what the motive is. I mean, it’s a pretty serious allegation, right? Is it not?

MR PRICE: The challenge, though, Matt, is that this is very much the subject of diplomacy in Vienna. And again —

QUESTION: You’ve already identified the three baskets, according to this official. You’ve got these three baskets: consistent, inconsistent, and gray area that you’re trying to determine. I don’t see what the problem is in identifying one example of something that falls into a gray area.

MR PRICE: It’s a little more complicated than that, in part because there are going to be differences of opinion between the United States and Iran as to what may fall within that gray area as you —

QUESTION: But Ned, there’s clearly a difference of opinion between this administration and the previous administration.

MR PRICE: Of course.

QUESTION: Okay? So talk – let’s forget about the Iranians for a second. What does this administration – give me one example of what this administration thinks was a – is a sanction that may have been duplicitously imposed by the previous administration for – in an attempt to tie your hands.

MR PRICE: The reason I am hesitant to do that is because you’re asking me to prejudge what may happen withing —

QUESTION: You already have decided which there – which sanctions fit into that third basket.

MR PRICE: No, Matt, I think that the comments yesterday made very clear that this is a subject of ongoing diplomacy, ongoing discussions in Vienna. Again, if it were clear cut, if they came pre-labeled and pre-packaged for us, it would be a much easier proposition. It’s precisely why —

QUESTION: But they did come pre – they came pre-labeled. You’re saying you don’t agree with the label and that they were acting in bad faith when they did it. So just one.

MR PRICE: Matt —

QUESTION: All right. Really —

MR PRICE: This is the point of diplomacy.

QUESTION: Just a follow up. So when you guys do roll out this sanctions relief, can you identify some of those as having been disingenuously put into place by the Trump administration?

MR PRICE: I would suspect that if, and that remains a big “if,” we are able to get to a point where Iran has committed to resume its compliance with the nuclear deal, that is to say, once again be subject to the most stringent verification and monitoring regime of a nuclear program ever negotiated, and we have found a way for us and devise what it is that we would need to do to resume our own compliance with the JCPOA, that that roadmap will become clear. Because if we get back to that point, we will need to lift sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal.

QUESTION: Can we – can I go at it a slightly different way? Can you define what makes the sanction inconsistent? What are the qualifications that make it inconsistent versus – is it they’ve sanctioned a certain group, a certain military group, for example, a certain individual, versus consistent? How are you defining those two baskets?

MR PRICE: The JCPOA, the original agreement, makes that very clear. It lays out precisely what the sides would need to do. So this is not something that we are writing on the fly. Again, our – the proposition that has always been on the table is compliance for compliance. If Iran were to resume its full compliance with the JCPOA, we would do the same. So the JCPOA, that original agreement, spells out precisely what is allowed, precisely what is prohibited in order for a country to be in compliance with it. That remains the blueprint for all of this.

QUESTION: But that’s up for interpretation, as we’ve all been discussing. So if you’re narrowing that, can you say what would make something consistent? Could you give us an example of what would make a sanction inconsistent?

MR PRICE: What would make a sanction consistent?

QUESTION: Inconsistent. Sorry, masks.

MR PRICE: Inconsistent. There are very clear cases, as you heard yesterday. Sanctions – nuclear sanctions would be inconsistent.

Anyone else? Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR PRICE: Thank you.


OPCW Condemns Syria’s Repeated Use of Chemical Weapons (US Department of State)

On April 21, 2021 in The Hague, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Conference of the State Parties adopted a historic decision in response to the Assad regime’s continued use and possession of chemical weapons in violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its failure to complete the measures set out in the OPCW Executive Council’s July 2020 decision.

This decision fulfills the recommendation made by the Executive Council in response to the April 2020 findings of the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), which identified that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for three chemical weapons attacks involving sarin and chlorine in March 2017 in the northern Syrian town of Ltamenah.  The IIT has since issued an additional report of Syria’s use of chemical weapons in a separate instance, which adds to a robust body of evidence by other international investigative bodies that the regime has repeatedly used these weapons on its own people. The United States commends the OPCW staff for its thorough, expert, and professional work in producing these reports.  The United States itself assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since acceding to the CWC in 2013.

The decision condemns Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspends certain of its rights and privileges under the Convention until the OPCW Director-General reports to the Council that Syria has completed the measures requested in the Executive Council’s July 2020 decision.  In that decision, the Council requested that Syria declare any chemical weapons it continues to possess as well as its chemical weapons production facilities and other related facilities.  It also requested that Syria resolve all outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and program.  This is the first time such action has been taken against a country at the OPCW. A copy of the decision will be provided to the United Nations Security Council and to the United Nations General Assembly.

Along with the international community, the United States urges the Assad regime to cooperate with the OPCW, to declare and destroy its remaining stockpile, to renounce its chemical weapons program, and to comply with its obligations under the CWC.

The United States welcomes the OPCW’s decision and applauds the international community’s continued commitment to upholding the international norm against the use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states.  As demonstrated today, the international community will continue to pursue accountability for the use of chemical weapons, for which there can be no impunity.

Text of the Decision and additional information is available here:


Bureau of Energy Resources: Clean Energy Diplomacy on Climate (USC Department of State)

Decarbonization Mission:

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) works to address climate change by engaging and assisting countries to increase decarbonization efforts and catalyzing market forces that are driving the global shift toward decarbonization and a more diversified energy mix. This includes increasing the deployment of clean energy technologies and services, including renewables and energy storage; promoting energy efficiency; and developing an enabling environment for transparent and sustainable sourcing of critical minerals necessary for the clean energy transition in resource-rich countries.

Clean Energy Resources and Climate:

The Bureau of Energy Resources is engaging with partners around the world, both bilaterally and multilaterally, through the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) to ensure that global energy supply chains are clean, safe, and sustainable—with the necessary resources and expertise. Of particular urgency, a World Bank study[1] indicates demand for minerals used in clean energy technologies could rise by more than 450 percent by 2050 if clean energy technologies are deployed at a level consistent with the 1.5-degree Celsius trajectory of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Related ENR Priorities:

Energy Security – ENR seeks to increase energy security and promote regional stability and economic growth through better integrated and well-regulated energy markets, improved market access, and transparent, resilient, clean, and efficient energy resource development.

Energy Access & Trade – ENR facilitates more competitive, secure, and prosperous energy markets that enable U.S. exports and investment, reduce emissions, improve economies, offer market products and opportunities for advanced and innovative energy resources and technologies, and result in greater energy diversification and resiliency.

Energy Sanctions – ENR analyzes how sanctions can be used as a tool to prevent malign state actors, terrorist groups, and transnational criminal organizations from using energy resource development and trade revenues to fund terrorism, crime, and activity that threatens U.S. national interests.

ENR Clean Energy Diplomacy on Climate – Tangible Examples:

Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) – ERGI is a multinational effort founded by Australia, Botswana, Canada, Peru, and the United States to help build sustainable supply chains and promote sound sector governance for the minerals vital to technologies powering the energy transition, such as solar panels, electric vehicles, and battery storage. The initiative’s focus is now expanding to include greening mining operations, as well as re-use and recycling of key minerals and metals.

ERGI Accomplishments – The Founding Partners of ERGI established an online ERGI Toolkit, a compendium of best practices and case studies on governance, regulatory structures, and elements of a sound investment climate for the critical energy minerals sector, available at ERGI also provides technical assistance in a number of countries to build capacity for managing mineral sectors soundly and transparently, working on things like environmental regulatory frameworks and how to attract responsible investment. To date, ERGI has devoted over $10.5 million to clean energy minerals-related technical assistance, spanning four continents, upholding principles of sound mining sector governance and responsible investment.

ENR Power Sector Assistance – ENR foreign assistance promotes reliable, solvent, and competitive power sectors, and advances renewable energy (RE) solutions in order to support decarbonization, energy security, and energy access and development goals. In the renewable energy sector, support has included national-level reviews of renewable integration plans; the launch of competitive international RE tenders; and power system and ancillary services analysis to support RE integration[2]. ENR power sector assistance has to date delivered significant results across the globe, including:

  • In Vietnam, under the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP), ENR helps integrate more than 16 GW of new solar generation as well as solutions to address the challenges and opportunities of increasing variable wind and solar generation.
  • In Thailand, under JUMPP, ENR supports a new Renewable Energy Forecasting Center to help the electric utility prepare for increasing levels of variable RE generation, as well as support peer-to-peer trading of small scale RE producers.
  • In Latin America, ENR support for international auctions contributed to the award of 2.8 gigawatt (GW) of RE projects that have attracted over $2.5 billion in foreign investments since 2017.
  • In the Caribbean, ENR partnered with USAID and DFC to launch a $25 million loan portfolio guarantee with National Commercial Bank Jamaica to support non-oil energy sector investment.
  • In Southern Africa, to alleviate energy poverty and accelerate GHG reductions, ENR supports development and implementation of an Independent Power Producer Framework to help attract clean investment.

Indo-Pacific focused Energy Diplomacy and Engagement

  • The ENR-led U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force is an inter-agency initiative that draws on the finance expertise of both countries’ governments and private sectors to tailor business and finance models to India’s context in order to strengthen India’s ability to raise private capital to finance its ambitious renewable energy targets.
  • The Task Force’s Flexible Resources Initiative (FRI) assesses a least cost, operationally feasible investment pathway in India’s power sector to support Prime Minister Modi’s target of 450 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030, which exceeds India’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) on power sector decarbonization. FRI also makes tailored policy and regulatory recommendations to achieve that investment pathway and will support pilots that seek to increase the adoption of flexible resources.
  • Japan-U.S. Clean Energy Partnership (JUCEP) – at the April 16, 2021 Japan–U.S. Summit Meeting, President Biden and Prime Minister Suga noted the newly established Japan-U.S. Clean Energy Partnership (JUCEP) and other collaborative activities undertaken around the world to accelerate decarbonization while achieving energy security and sustainable growth by deploying clean, affordable and secure energy technologies. JUCEP builds on successful bilateral public and private sector cooperation under the Japan-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership by targeting cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, energy grid optimization, nuclear power and decarbonization technologies.
  • Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP) – with the August 2019 launch of JUMPP, the United States and Japan are working together to advance power sector integration and regional power trade in the Mekong region in partnership with Mekong countries. The United States’ initial contribution to JUMPP is $29.5 million. The Bureau of Energy Resources, the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and USAID, are jointly developing a JUMPP action plan.

ENR’s Low-Carbon Energy Transitions Work

  • ENR supports the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency globally by working closely with stakeholders to advance U.S. clean energy priorities. Multilaterally, ENR leads the United States’ membership in the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and supports U.S. involvement in a range of other international entities that work on clean energy.
  • ENR global engagement in renewables is aimed at partnering with other countries to build the regulatory and market conditions needed for a successful clean energy transformation, including through reforms, system enhancements, improved policies and standards, as well as creation of sustainable supply chains.
  • ENR leads a whole-of-government approach to clean energy diplomacy that encourages a level playing field abroad to support clean energy and international climate goals, drawing on the best that U.S. companies have to offer.
  • ENR aims to leverage the fact that the United States has the second largest installed renewable energy capacity among countries worldwide. S. wind and solar capacity has more than quadrupled since 2009, from 36.2 GW to 164.6 GW. In the United States, corporate purchasing of renewable energy surged from 0.1 GW in 2010 to 33.6 GW by year-end 2019, with a record breaking 13.6 GW in 2019 alone.
  • ENR also supports U.S. missions abroad in their bilateral engagement to encourage the adoption of clean energy technologies, and in their efforts to ensure a level playing field for U.S. companies working in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors abroad.
  • ENR’s clean energy diplomacy partners with foreign governments to build the regulatory and market conditions needed for a successful clean energy transformation. This includes not only technical and foreign assistance, but also: power sector reform, interconnecting regional power systems to enhance reliability and diversity of energy resources, improving renewable energy procurement processes, strengthening energy efficiency policy and standards, removing investment barriers, and much more.

Secretary Blinken’s Call with Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Kamilov (US Department of State)

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. The Secretary affirmed the United States’ support for Uzbekistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. The Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister for Uzbekistan’s support of Afghanistan peace negotiations and Afghanistan’s integration into the Central Asian economic space. Noting the two countries would soon celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister praised the growth in the bilateral relationship and looked forward to holding an inaugural Strategic Partnership Dialogue in late 2021. The Secretary welcomed Uzbekistan’s progress on its reform agenda, including when it comes to combatting trafficking in persons, protecting religious freedom, and expanding space for civil society. He also emphasized the importance of promoting the protection of fundamental freedoms, including the need to have a free and competitive electoral process.


Introductory Remarks for Youth Speaker Xiye Bastida (US Department of State)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Mr. President, thank you very much.  And now it’s a true pleasure and honor to introduce another leader: climate activist Xiye Bastida.

Xiye grew up in the town of San Pedro Tultepec, in Mexico.  She’s a member of the Otomi-Toltec Nation.  She’s experienced first-hand the devastating impact of climate crisis.

When she was just 11 years old, her town was hit by back-to-back years of climate-driven drought.  Then the intense rains came.  And then the floods.  Her family was displaced, and she and her parents relocated to the United States, to New York.

These dramatic swings in extreme weather are just one of the consequences of the climate crisis we’re already experiencing across the world, including here in the United States, where, at the same time as Xiye’s town was experiencing droughts and floods, the American Southwest was in the middle of the worst drought since the 16th century.

After relocating to New York, Xiye came face to face with another impact of the climate crisis in the lasting damage left by Superstorm Sandy.  Wherever she went, she saw how changes driven by climate were hurting communities.

So Xiye joined the Fridays for the Future movement and was one of the young activists who led their fellow students and people of all ages to strike in order to wake up the world to the impacts of the climate emergency and to call on leaders like us to take action, before it’s too late.

In the time since, she has given much of herself the climate justice effort.  She mobilized 600 students from her school to join the March 2019 climate strike; she led a push for legislative change in her city and state; she launched a youth activism training program; she addressed the United Nations.

For Xiye, this isn’t a hobby; it’s a way of life.

Xiye is part of a rising generation of leaders who are pushing us to make the necessary changes that we have put off for too long.  She and her fellow young leaders have earned a seat at the table, not just because they will bear more of the consequences of climate change, or the world’s inaction on climate, but also because of the urgency, ingenuity, and total dedication that they have brought to this effort.

We’ve asked a lot of our young people; they’re delivering.  Now it’s time we ask more of ourselves.

Xiye comes from a line of environmental activists.  Her grandparents fought for decades to protect her indigenous nation’s sacred lands in Mexico.  Her parents were environmental advocates, too.  Something Xiye’s father told her continues to guide her activism to this day, and I quote: “Leave everything better than you found it.”

That’s also our responsibility.  It’s what this summit is all about, and it’s the underlying purpose behind all that we must do – in this crucial year, in this decisive decade.

If we act together, we can turn the need to reduce our emissions and adapt our communities into once-in-generations opportunity – to improve the lives of our people and build more just, equitable, and sustainable societies.

Xiye, thank you.  Thank you for all you’ve done to leave everything better than you found it.  We’re humbled and inspired by your service, and now we look forward to hearing from you.


Deepfake tech takes on satellite maps (TechCrunch)

Devin Coldewey

While the concept of “deepfakes,” or AI-generated synthetic imagery, has been decried primarily in connection with involuntary depictions of people, the technology is dangerous (and interesting) in other ways as well.

Deepfake tech takes on satellite maps


At Basis Set Ventures, merging venture capital and software development yields a $165 million new fund (TechCrunch)

Jonathan Shieber

When Xuezhao Lan first formed Basis Set Ventures, the goal was to leverage technology to give venture capital investing super powers.

At Basis Set Ventures, merging venture capital and software development yields a $165 million new fund


Audi spinoff holoride collects $12m in Series A led by Terranet AB (TechCrunch)

Rebecca Bellan

Holoride, the company that’s building an immersive XR in-vehicle media platform, today announced it raised €10 million (approximately $12 million) in its Series A investing round, earning the company a €30 million ($36 million) valuation.

Audi spinoff holoride collects $12m in Series A led by Terranet AB


Applied XL raises $1.5M to build ‘editorial algorithms’ that track real-time data (TechCrunch)

Anthony Ha

AppliedXL, a startup creating machine learning tools with what it describes as a journalistic lens, is announcing that it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding.

Applied XL raises $1.5M to build ‘editorial algorithms’ that track real-time data


Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola and Unilever join AB Inbev’s sustainable supply chain accelerator (TechCrunch)

Jonathan Shieber

A clutch of the world’s largest consumer products and food companies are joining Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev in backing an investment program to support early stage companies focused on making supply chains more sustainable.

Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola and Unilever join AB Inbev’s sustainable supply chain accelerator


Window Snyder’s new startup Thistle Technologies raises $2.5M seed to secure IoT devices (TechCrunch)

Zack Whittaker

The Internet of Things has a security problem. The past decade has seen wave after wave of new internet-connected devices, from sensors through to webcams and smart home tech, often manufactured in bulk but with little — if any — consideration to security.

Window Snyder’s new startup Thistle Technologies raises $2.5M seed to secure IoT devices


As ExxonMobil asks for handouts, startups get to work on carbon capture and sequestration (TechCrunch)

Jonathan Shieber

Earlier this week, ExxonMobil, a company among the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions and a longtime leader in the corporate fight against climate change regulations, called for a massive $100 billion project (backed in part by the government) to sequester hundreds of millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide in geologic formations off the Gulf of Mexico.

As ExxonMobil asks for handouts, startups get to work on carbon capture and sequestration


Russia – Russia’s Bear Economy (Project-Syndicate)


Russians today are chagrined to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Although President Vladimir Putin would like them to think that their country has been the victim of “outside forces” such as declining oil prices, no one has done more to hurt their living standards than he has.


Powering Sustainable Food Systems (Project-Syndicate)

As world leaders mark Earth Day at a climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden, they must remember what the largest greenhouse-gas emitters owe to the rest of the world. More than anyone, low-income countries dependent on agriculture need increased green finance and access to affordable clean energy.


USA – G.I. Joe Trotsky (Project-Syndicate)


As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building.


USA – C. Peter McColough Series on International Economics With Lawrence H. Summers (CFR)


Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard Kennedy School; Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; CFR Member


Chair of the Editorial Board and Editor-at-Large, Financial Times

Lawrence H. Summers discusses the U.S. economic recovery, the Biden administration’s stimulus and infrastructure plans, possible inflation risks, and the implications for the global economy.


A Framework for the Future of Real Estate (WEF)

The World Economic Forum’s Real Estate community has developed a vision for the future of real estate. It is a future in which buildings provide comfort, are equipped for the most unprecedented events, support people’s health, and are affordable and accessible for all of society. It is a vision in which the real estate of the future is liveable, sustainable, resilient and affordable. To deliver on this concept, a Framework for the Future of Real Estate was created. This Framework report provides a pathway for the industry to transition to more technologically advanced, affordable, sustainable and healthy buildings. It also depicts best practices and business solutions from innovative and successful real estate case studies worldwide and outlines recommended actions for both the public and private sectors.


Opening Remarks at the Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate (US Department of State)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning.  Good afternoon.  Good evening.  We are so grateful to have all of you with us today.

As President Biden and Vice President Harris have made clear, this administration intends to do more than any in U.S. history to meet the climate crisis.  What the United States can do at home can make a significant contribution toward keeping the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  That’s why we’re raising our ambitions, as the President described, and we will meet the new targets we set.

But of course, no country can overcome this existential threat alone.  We’re in this together.  And what each of our nations does or does not do will not only impact people of our own country, but people everywhere.  Many of us, perhaps all of us, feel a strong sense of urgency.  That’s why we’re here.  We hope that will translate into making the progress necessary during this critical year and over this decisive decade.

The consequences of falling short are clear.  Every one of our countries is already experiencing the impact of climate change, and they’ll only get worse: more frequent and more intense storms, longer dry spells, bigger floods, more people displaced, more pollution, higher health costs.  And climate change can drive the spread of disease, food insecurity, mass migration, and conflict.  All of these consequences are hitting underserved and marginalized communities in our countries the hardest, and some countries are experiencing much more severe impacts than others, something we must acknowledge and address.

But as the President said, it would be a mistake to think about climate only through the prism of threats.  As we take concrete actions to reduce emissions and prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, we have an opportunity – an opportunity to create sustainable, good paying jobs to promote not only greater growth, but greater equity and to provide sustainable, reliable, affordable access to energy to more people, which is crucial to every aspect of human development.  So we’re rooting for every country, every business, every community around the world to succeed in this effort.

In that spirit, as other countries strive to meet and raise their climate targets, the United States will mobilize resources, institutional knowledge, and technical expertise from across our government, the private sector, civil society, and research universities to help.  We want every country here to know:  We want to work with you to save our planet, and we’re all committed to finding every possible avenue of cooperation on climate.

If we work together, we can do more than just address this crisis.  We can turn it into an opportunity to improve our societies and deliver for people worldwide, and we can lay the foundation for cooperation on other shared challenges.

There are many issues on which we don’t all see eye to eye.  This isn’t one of them.  No matter what country we’re from, we know the world that we want to pass on to our children and our grandchildren.  I can think of no better or more urgent cause to bring us together.

It’s now my honor to call on His Excellency the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.


Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2021 edition (WEF)

As countries continue their progress in transitioning to clean energy, it is critical to root the transition in economic, political and social practices to ensure progress is irreversible, according to the World Economic Forum’s Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2021 report. The Energy Transition Index, which benchmarks 115 countries on the performance of their energy systems, finds that while 92 of the countries increased their score over the past 10 years, only 10% of countries were able to make consistent gains, showing the need for renewed focus and resilience to meet the climate goals of the next decade.

Analysis acquires video adtech company Cedato (TechCrunch)

Anthony Ha is announcing its very first acquisition — it’s buying Cedato, a video monetization startup founded in 2015. acquires video adtech company Cedato


RapidSOS and Axon ink deal to give better real-time information to emergency responders (TechCrunch)

Danny Crichton

Every time an emergency responder or police officer responds to a 911 dispatch, they enter an unknown terrain. What’s the incident? Who’s involved? Is anyone dangerous or holding a weapon? Is someone injured and perhaps has an underlying health condition that the responders need to know about? As prominent news stories this week and over the last few years constantly remind us, having the right context while responding can turn a potential tragedy into a much more positive story.

RapidSOS and Axon ink deal to give better real-time information to emergency responders


Westward plans a $30M debut fund to take Chinese indie games global (TechCrunch)

Rita Liao

In Hefei, a Chinese city known for its relics from the Three Kingdoms period and its manufacturing industry today, Maxim Rate was thrilled to find a small studio crafting a Western role-playing game, a genre that attracts lovers of gritty aesthetics and dark storylines.

Westward plans a $30M debut fund to take Chinese indie games global


Medchart raises $17M to help businesses more easily access patient-authorized health data (TechCrunch)

Darrell Etherington

Electronic health records (EHR) have long held promise as a means of unlocking new superpowers for caregiving and patients in the medical industry, but while they’ve been a thing for a long time, actually accessing and using them hasn’t been as quick to become a reality.

Medchart raises $17M to help businesses more easily access patient-authorized health data


Investing in the US Natural Gas Pipeline System to Support Net-Zero Targets (Columbia SIPA)


The Biden administration’s move to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement and lower greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change will, if carried through, lead to a reduction in fossil fuel consumption. Cutting back on the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas will be critical to transitioning the country to the lower-carbon energy system it needs to achieve decarbonization targets. But while it may seem counterintuitive, investing more in the domestic natural gas pipeline network could help the US reach net-zero emission goals more quickly and cheaply. Fortifying and upgrading the system could prepare the existing infrastructure to transport zero-carbon fuels as they become available and, in the meantime, reduce harmful methane leaks from natural gas.


Why we can’t afford to dismiss carbon offsetting in a climate crisis (WEF)

We have 10 years to prevent irreversible damage to the planet due to climate change


How AI can solve manufacturing’s waste problem (WEF)

Industrial waste makes up at least 50% of global waste


We need to replace the world’s most potent greenhouse gas. Here’s how (WEF)

Sulfur hexafluoride is 23,500 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas


Earth Day 2021: A turning point for climate action (WEF)

US President Biden committed the US to halve greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 2005 at his Leaders Summit on Climate


Azerbaijan – Azerbaijan Embarks on Construction of Nakhchivan Railway (Part Three) (The Jamestown Foundation)

The Zangezur corridor between mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan across southern Armenia, if re-opened, will carry greater economic significance for the connected states than its geopolitical implications in the short to medium term (see Part Two in EDM, April 13).


Ukraine/Qatar – Ukraine Teams up With Qatar in the Gas Sector (The Jamestown Foundation)

On April 5, Ukraine’s acting minister of energy, Yuriy Vitrenko, and his Qatari counterpart, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, signed a bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) on enhancing energy cooperation between the two countries (, April 5).


Moscow Forming First Robotic Military Units (The Jamestown Foundation)

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has confirmed plans to create the country’s first robotic military unit. These plans draw on existing research and development (R&D) within the domestic defense industry, which has made advances in the field of applying artificial intelligence (AI) for military purposes and experimented with prototype systems during military operations in Syria (, April 9).


With $30M extension, BigID boosts Series D to $100M at $1.25B valuation (TechCrunch)

Ron Miller

When we last heard from BigID at the end of 2020, the company was announcing a $70 million Series D at a $1 billion valuation. Today, it announced a $30 million extension on that deal valuing the company at $1.25 billion just 4 months later.

With $30M extension, BigID boosts Series D to $100M at $1.25B valuation


Tiger Global backs Indian crypto startup Coinswitch Kuber at over $500M valuation (TechCrunch)

Manish Singh

Coinswitch Kuber, a startup that allows young users in India to invest in cryptocurrencies, said on Thursday it has raised $25 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its reach in India, the world’s second largest internet market and also the place where the future of private cryptocurrencies remains uncertain for now.

Tiger Global backs Indian crypto startup Coinswitch Kuber at over $500M valuation


SmartNews’ COVID-19 vaccine alert reaches 1M users in Japan a week after launching (TechCrunch)

Catherine Shu

SmartNews announced today that its tools to help Japanese users find nearby COVID-19 vaccine bookings have reached more than one million users just a week after launching.

SmartNews’ COVID-19 vaccine alert reaches 1M users in Japan a week after launching


Bux, a European Robinhood, raises $80M to expand its neo-broker platform (TechCrunch)

Ingrid Lunden

A new wave of apps have democratized the concept of investing, bringing the concept of trading stocks and currencies to a wider pool of users who can use these platforms to make incremental, or much larger, bets in the hopes of growing their money at a time when interest rates are low. In the latest development, Bux — a startup form Amsterdam that lets people invest in shares and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without paying commissions (its pricing is based on flat €1 fees for certain services, no fees for others) — has picked up some investment of its own, a $80 million round that it.

Bux, a European Robinhood, raises $80M to expand its neo-broker platform


Founders Factory Africa partners with Small Foundation to invest in 18 agritech startups (TechCrunch)

Tage Kene-Okafor

Johannesburg-based investment company Founders Factory Africa (FFA) today announced a partnership with Small Foundation that will see it select 18 agritech startups for an acceleration and incubation program.

Founders Factory Africa partners with Small Foundation to invest in 18 agritech startups


Satellite Vu’s $5M seed round will fuel the launch of its thermal imaging satellites (TechCrunch)

Devin Coldewey

Earth imaging is an increasingly crowded space, but Satellite Vu is taking a different approach by focusing on infrared and heat emissions, which are crucial for industry and climate change monitoring. Fresh from TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield, the company has raised a £3.6M ($5M) seed round and is on its way to launching its first satellite in 2022.

Satellite Vu’s $5M seed round will fuel the launch of its thermal imaging satellites


Dutch startup Go Sharing raises $60M to expand beyond e-mopeds and into new markets (TewchCrunch)

Ingrid Lunden

On-demand access to electric mopeds — the small, motorised scooters that you sit on, not kick — has been a small but persistent part of the multi-modal transportation mix on offer to people in cities these days.

Dutch startup Go Sharing raises $60M to expand beyond e-mopeds and into new markets


USA – Lawmakers, defense officials joust over next-gen ICBM plans (Defense News)

 ,  , and 

The war over developing a next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile ― whether it’s vital to deter Russia and China, as conservatives say, or whether existing missiles can be overhauled for less ― flared up at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.


Swimming in data, Army and Air Force make sure they’re capturing the best info (Defense News)

The Army and Air Force are adjusting how they manage the data they create to ensure they’re collecting information that is most important for future battles. The problem? There’s a lot of data.


Preliminary design review looms for Army’s next set of tactical network tools (Defense News)

The Army’s network architects have worked through a preliminary design for the service’s next set of tactical network tools and plan to brief the general overseeing network modernization early next month.

Space Development Agency wants to update the standard for its orbital mesh network (Defense News)

Before its first satellites are on orbit, the Space Development Agency is reaching out to industry for feedback on how it should upgrade its communications standards for its second generation of satellites.

New cyber-hardening mandates may be coming for defense firms (Defense News)

Washington seems likely to take steps requiring the defense industrial base to better harden against cyberattacks, two veterans of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission said Wednesday.

Trend Micro flaw actively exploited in the wild (Security Affairs)

Pierluigi Paganini

Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro revealed that a threat actor is actively exploiting a flaw, tracked as CVE-2020-24557, in its antivirus solutions to gain admin rights on Windows systems.

Trend Micro flaw actively exploited in the wild


Million-dollar deposits and friends in high places: how we applied for a job with a ransomware gang (Security Affairs)

Pierluigi Paganini

During an undercover interview, a CyberNews researcher tricked ransomware operators affiliated with Ragnar Locker into revealing their ransom payout structure, cash out schemes, and target acquisition strategies.

Million-dollar deposits and friends in high places: how we applied for a job with a ransomware gang


Nuclear insecurity: How can we tame the proliferators? (ORF)

As long as there are diverging interests, the larger goal of nuclear non-proliferation will struggle to be promoted.

Nuclear insecurity: How can we tame the proliferators?


Russia – Taming Russian inflation: From the economic to the political (ORF)

In early March, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) raised its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 4.5 percent for the first time since 2018, in an attempt to control rising inflation which has hit food prices particularly hard. Another similar hike is now expected to be announced at the next meeting of the bank on April 23.

Taming Russian inflation: From the economic to the political


Sri Lanka – Why new Bill makes Colombo Port City a ‘Chinese Province’ in Sri Lanka (ORF)

Even as Sri Lanka, like much of the rest of the world, is plagued still by the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s energy is being sapped by the ongoing controversy over the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill presented to Parliament last week. Under the nation’s law, every new Bill has to be cleared by the Supreme Court before Parliament votes on it, and a five-Judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, is seized of the matter, and the court’s observations are expected early on.

Why new Bill makes Colombo Port City a ‘Chinese Province’ in Sri Lanka


Emerging narratives and the future of multilateralism (ORF)

Get the narrative on multilateralism right, and we have the possibility to harness international cooperation for global peace and prosperity; get it wrong, and we risk disengagement, fragmentation, decline in welfare across countries, conflict and war.

Emerging narratives and the future of multilateralism


India/Bangladesh – West Bengal elections: The view from Dhaka (ORF)

Bengalis on the Bangladeshi side of the border have been keenly observing the election campaign on the other side

West Bengal elections: The view from Dhaka


India – As India Acts East, the Role of West Bengal (ORF)

This brief examines the role of West Bengal as a leverage for India to enhance its relations with its eastern and southeastern neighbours. It identifies the domestic and geo-economic aspirations of the state, and outlines the impact of certain misplaced policies and the state’s conflictual relationship with the union government on West Bengal’s development goals. The brief calls on India to nurture a pragmatic, cooperative brand of federalism that will draw from the tenets of paradiplomacy and emphasise West Bengal’s strategic importance in the Bay of Bengal region for realising the country’s geopolitical aspirations.

As India Acts East, the Role of West Bengal


Koo: India’s Latest Local Social Media Platform (ORF)

Social media has greatly reconfigured the relationship between the state and its people, especially by becoming the primary avenue through which dispensations engage in narrative control, manage public opinion about policy and monitor dissenting views.

Koo: India’s Latest Local Social Media Platform


China – Why it is important to get the China challenge right (ORF)

Despite insurmountable challenges, there is no stepping back in global efforts to fight the rising threats of an authoritarian and revisionist power.

Why it is important to get the China challenge right


Trust but verify: A narrative analysis of “trusted” tech supply chains (ORF)

The contours of global supply chains in the 2020s and beyond will be shaped by the evolving understandings of “trust.”

Trust but verify: A narrative analysis of “trusted” tech supply chains


China – China drops the mask on its global ambition (The Interpreter)


Xi Jinping’s Boao Forum speech this week revealed a
surprisingly status quo orientation to the international order.


September in Asia, 20 years later (Harsh V. Pant, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine meets Harsh V. Pant, Director, Studies and Head of the Strategic Studies Programme at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, primary Indian and global think tank.

September 11, 2021 undoubtedly represents a symbolic date for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Why this choice by the Biden Administration?
This is a strange choice indeed. The symbolism of this would be exploited by the Taliban in making a case to its followers that they managed to defeat the mighty American military. A withdrawal on the day America was attacked doesn’t look good when it comes to the optics.

What has changed in the Asian scenario compared to 2001?
Much has changed. China’s rise is now a given and that’s perhaps one of the reasons why the US wants to withdraw so that it can focus on managing China in the Indo-Pacific. What has also changed is that Pakistan is now its weakest ever. No real friends, apart from China, a collapsing economy and a government that is unable to deliver on the basics. India, on the other hand, is a much more potent actor and has invested a lot in Afghanistan. Moreover, young Afghans want to see a modern Afghanistan not one controlled by the sharia law of the Taliban

How does India fit geostrategically in the current situation? How is India evolving in the great match of emerging technologies?
Apart from China, India is the most important emerging power in the Indo-Pacific which has shown that it is willing and able to stand up to Chinese belligerence. It is a democracy which also sets it apart from an authoritarian China. India has strong ties with the West and other nations in the Indo-Pacific which view an assertive China as a threat to regional peace and stability.

There is a realisation in India that it is important to be a leader in emerging technologies and so it is willing to work with like minded countries and is reducing its dependence on China in critical sectors. Amidst growing demands that the democratic world should work together in developing key strategic technologies, India will be a central player in this dynamic.

One last question. How do you evaluate the agreement between the US and China on climate change? Are the multilateral perspectives evoked by Biden for the post-pandemic world slowly opening up?
It’s a sensible agreement and one of the few areas in which the US and China have converging interests. Multilateralism of tomorrow is going to be significantly different from the past as there is now much greater fragmentation in the global order. Different groups of nations will try to find their own sets of rules.


Japan – Toxic reaction to Japan’s Fukushima water dump (The Interpreter)


Experts insist the release of treated radioactive water is
not dangerous. Legal challenges might find otherwise.


Defending democracies from disinformation and cyber-enabled foreign interference (The Strategist)


The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unique societal stress as governments worldwide and their citizens have struggled to work together to contain the virus and mitigate its economic impact. This has been a trying time for democracies, testing the capacity of democratic governance to mobilise state and citizenry to work together. It has also tested the integrity of open information environments and the ability of these environments to deal with the overlapping challenges of disinformation, misinformation, election interference and cyber-enabled foreign interference.

Defending democracies from disinformation and cyber-enabled foreign interference


Australia/China – Morrison government quashes Victoria’s BRI deal with China (The Strategist)

The Australian government has cancelled Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative agreement with China.

Morrison government quashes Victoria’s BRI deal with China


Australia needs to bring some ideas to Biden’s climate summit. Here are a few (The Strategist)


Up to 40 world leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will participate in a two-day virtual leaders’ summit convened by US President Joe Biden and timed to coincide with Earth Day. The summit is part of Biden’s major diplomatic offensive to galvanise nations to tackle climate change.

Australia needs to bring some ideas to Biden’s climate summit. Here are a few


Cracking the missile matrix: the case for Australian guided-weapons production (The Strategist)

Last year’s war between Azerbaijan and Armenia was short, sharp and decisive. By effectively employing precision guided weapons, the former rapidly forced the latter to capitulate and accede to its political demands. The conflict confirmed the centrality of guided weapons to modern warfighting and showed how small states can now master the technologies and techniques needed to use them.

Cracking the missile matrix: the case for Australian guided-weapons production


China – China’s military budget: no need for alarm yet (East Asia Forum)

James Char, RSIS

At China’s 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 2021, Beijing set aside funds for a 6.8 per cent increase in national defence spending over the next year — totalling some 1.35 trillion RMB (US$210 billion). Some media accounts took this as an indicator of Beijing’s readiness for war, but the counterargument is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to see a strategic window to upgrade its People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which still lags behind the better-equipped and more experienced US military.

China’s military budget: no need for alarm yet


Malaysia – Could Malaysia’s fake news ordinance stifle public debate? (East Asia Forum)

Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, Universiti Utara Malaysia

On 12 January 2021, Malaysia’s king, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, announced a nationwide state of emergency that will last until 1 August 2021. That same day, the Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the imposition of stricter movement controls in states most badly affected by COVID-19. The Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 was gazetted on 14 January 2021.

Could Malaysia’s fake news ordinance stifle public debate?


Nepal – PM Oli needs to spell out election plan; political instability has repercussions (Hindustan Times)

Shishir Gupta

The best course of action for Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli to end the acerbic power struggle is to go for early elections


India – What do Indian voters want? (Hindustan Times)

Pradeep Gupta

What matters is “delivery” of promises by the incumbent government. Election after election, this remains the single message from the voter


India/Afghanistan – In Kabul, the republic versus the emirate (Hindustan Times)

Avinash Paliwal

India should appoint a special envoy, strengthen ties with allies in Kabul, talk to the Taliban, and work with Iran


USA – After Chauvin’s conviction, will policing finally change in America? (Brookings)

Rashawn Ray and Adrianna Pita

Will the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd be just a single blip of accountability in the longer history of police violence, or will it be a real inflection point to galvanize change? Rashawn Ray speaks to the significance of Chauvin’s trial, the fractured state of police-community relations, and what the Department of Justice needs to ensure real accountability.

After Chauvin’s conviction, will policing finally change in America?


Dodging debris to keep satellites safe (ESA)

Our planet is surrounded by spacecraft helping us study our changing climate, save lives following disasters, deliver global communication and navigation services and help us answer important scientific questions.


Saudi Arabia – The spectacular surge of the Saudi female labor force (Brookings)

Sofia Gomez TamayoJohannes Koettl, and Nayib Rivera

For decades, Saudi Arabia had one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world. In 2018, the share of Saudi women who had a job or were actively looking for one was 19.7 percent of the adult population of women with Saudi citizenship, our focus group for this blog (we are not considering the large expatriate population as they display a vastly different labor market behavior).

The spectacular surge of the Saudi female labor force


What to expect from Biden’s first climate conference (Brookings)

Raman Preet KaurBrahima Sangafowa CoulibalySamantha GrossNathan HultmanJoseph W. KaneChristina Kwauk, and Sanjay Patnaik

This week, President Biden will convene 40 world leaders for a major climate conference. The event marks America’s return to the world stage on climate action and is an opportunity for the president to work with other global leaders on fighting an existential crisis that has already wreaked havoc across the world.

What to expect from Biden’s first climate conference


In the climate battle, focus on the high-emitters (Hindustan Times)

Rahul Tongia

There is immense pressure on countries to go big in their climate ambitions. The problem is that we are using similar framings across countries. Instead, we need universal but different action


USA – Congress needs gender parity quotas (Brookings)

Richard V. Reeves

Good news: the U.S. jumped from 53rd to 30th on the World Economic Forum’s global ranking of gender equality, flanked by Denmark and Holland. The rise was largely the result of progress on the political front, especially President Biden’s appointment of women to his Cabinet. But progress in Congress remains painfully slow. It is time for quotas in order to move the needle here.

Congress needs gender parity quotas


How do government decisionmakers identify and adopt innovations for scale? (Brookings)

Brad OlsenPatrick Hannahan, and Gustavo Arcia

When it comes to supporting innovations at large scale, governments play a central role. But nonstate actors, such as researchers or project implementers, are also essential.

How do government decisionmakers identify and adopt innovations for scale?


Africa – Figures of the week: Venture capital trends in Africa (Brookings)

Leo Holtz and Christina Golubski

Venture capital is an important source of funding for accelerating early-stage startups, empowering entrepreneurs, and encouraging innovations that facilitate economic development, poverty reduction, and job creation.

Figures of the week: Venture capital trends in Africa


USA – The threat posed by deepfakes to marginalized communities (Brookings)

Riana Pfefferkorn

When we’re faced with a video recording of an event—such as an incident of police brutality—we can generally trust that the event happened as shown in the video. But that may soon change, thanks to the advent of so-called “deepfake” videos that use machine learning technology to show a real person saying and doing things they haven’t.

The threat posed by deepfakes to marginalized communities


Japan – Land scarcity, high construction volume, and distinctive leases characterize Japan’s rental housing markets (Brookings)

The Japanese housing market is characterized by a large construction volume, rapid technological progress, fast depreciation of housing value, a thin secondary market, and low maintenance of existing properties. Legal and tax systems unintentionally encourage wealthy individuals to invest in studio apartments to rent out to young people living in urban areas. Thus, family housing is mainly available through ownership. The public sector played an important role in addressing housing shortages after World War II due to massive migration to large metropolitan areas. The public housing finance program encouraged homeownership, while public and quasi-public rental units provided shelter to low- and middle-income households. Roughly 36% of Japanese households rent their homes today. The biggest challenge is a mismatch between housing stock and demographics in a rapidly aging and shrinking society, exemplified by vacant housing units.

Land scarcity, high construction volume, and distinctive leases characterize Japan’s rental housing markets


Spain – Spain’s once-substantial rental market is now one of the smallest in Europe (Brookings)

Fewer than one in four of Spain’s 18.6 million households rents their home, reflecting strong policy bias toward homeownership. Renters are young, have lower incomes, and are more likely to be immigrants. The rental market is composed mostly of nonprofessional landlords, although recently, international companies have started to develop and manage rental housing. Public policies have been traditionally designed to promote homeownership and have failed to provide enough rental housing, especially public rental housing.

Spain’s once-substantial rental market is now one of the smallest in Europe


Germany – Strong tenant protections and subsidies support Germany’s majority-renter housing market (Brookings)

Germany is one of the few developed nations with high rentership rates: More than half of all households rent their home. The German government has chosen to focus subsidies on renters rather than owner-occupiers. While renter households are typically younger and less affluent than homeowners, rentership is still widespread even among higher-income and higher-wealth groups. Strong renter protection is a key element of federal legislation and is playing an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strong tenant protections and subsidies support Germany’s majority-renter housing market


USA – More Representatives, More Diversity (CSIS)

Daniel F. Runde, Kristen Cordell

The selection of Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley to serve as the U.S. Department of State’s chief diversity and inclusion officer is an exceptional opportunity to push for improved representation within the ranks of the feder


USA – How Much Is Enough? (CSIS)

James Andrew Lewis

Most people know that research and development (R&D) plays a crucial role in building U.S. security and economic health. However, for the past several decades, federal spending on R&D has been declining. The president’s infrastructure proposal and the Endless Frontiers Act would increase federal R&D spending and help reverse this damaging trend, particularly in regard to basic research.


Asia Pacific – Governing Data in the Asia-Pacific (CSIS)

Matthew P. Goodman , Pearl Risberg

Despite the rapidly growing role of data in today’s global economy, there exist few agreed international rules in this area. Global governance of data is a patchwork of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral frameworks, trade rules, principles, and norms that are not universally accepted or applied. As the world’s largest economy and technology leader, the United States has a huge stake in building a favorable system of global governance for data collection, storage, security, and flows that maximizes economic growth, public health, safety, and privacy. In the run-up to the annual Asia-Pacific summits in November, the Biden administration has an opportunity to build consensus around a coherent regional approach and lay the groundwork for a global data governance regime.


China – After Xi: Future Scenarios for Leadership Succession in Post-Xi Jinping Era (CSIS)

Richard McGregor, Jude Blanchette

After nearly nine years in office, Xi Jinping now stands as the overwhelmingly dominant figure in China’s political system, having gained command of the military, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus, and diplomatic and economic policymaking, all while sidelining or locking up rivals to his leadership. His drive for power, however, has destabilized elite political consensus and dismantled power-sharing norms that evolved since the 1980s. By removing de jure term limits on the office of the presidency—and thus far refusing to nominate his successor for this and his other leadership positions—Xi has solidified his own authority at the expense of the most important political reform of the last four decades: the regular and peaceful transfer of power. In doing so, he has pushed China toward a potential destabilizing succession crisis, one with profound implications for the international order and global commerce.


Briefing with Senior State Department Official On Recent U.S. Engagement in Vienna Regarding the JCPOA (US Department of State)

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks very much for joining this call. We wanted to take an opportunity to provide an update on the diplomacy that has been ongoing in Vienna. As a reminder, this call is on background. It is also embargoed until the conclusion of the call. Just for your awareness and not for reporting, our speaker today is [Senior State Department Official]. So again, you can refer to him as a senior State Department official, and what you hear will be embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

With that, I will turn it over to our speaker. Go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks, [Moderator]. So for those of you who were on the briefing about a week ago, I want to say something that shouldn’t be surprising, which is that what you’re going to hear today is not radically different from what you heard then. That’s because talks between the P5+1 and Iran have always been a slow process, made all the slower this time by the fact that we’re not talking directly to Iran and because the only thing that’s happened since then has been six days of the second round of what is likely to be a multi-round negotiation.

So we made some progress, but we’re not in a situation that’s radically different from where we were at the conclusion of round one. I’ll make a few points on that.

First, what we did achieve is greater clarification. In other words, I think the United States has a better idea of what it will need to do to come back into full compliance with the JCPOA, and Iran has a better idea of what it will need to do to come back into compliance with the JCPOA.

The next point is that clarification doesn’t necessarily mean consensus. There still are disagreements and, in some cases, pretty important ones on our respective views about what is required to – what is meant by a return to full compliance. And the distance that remains to be traveled is greater than the distance that we’ve traveled so far. So we’re not near the conclusion of these negotiations. The outcome is still uncertain. We’ve made some progress. The talks have been business-like, productive, but with still many differences that would need to be overcome.

Two last points. First, our view remains that if we can come back into a mutual compliance with the JCPOA, we do that, as the President has said many times, as a platform from which we would like to discuss a longer, stronger, broader set of understandings with Iran. And second, as in all of these conversations indirect we have with – indirect conversations we have with Iran, we always insist on the necessity of releasing our four wrongfully detained citizens. That was the case again during this round and it will be true anytime we have contact with the Iranians, whether it’s about the nuclear deal or not.

So with that, I’m happy to take your questions.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, you may press 1 and then 0 at this time. And one moment for the first question.

MODERATOR: Great. We’ll start with the line of Nick Wadhams, please.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks very much. [Senior State Department Official], could you offer a little more detail on the sanctions you’re prepared to lift? There are reports out there obviously from The Wall Street Journal that you’re willing to lift the terror sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, its national oil and tanker companies. Could you shed some light into that in light of, obviously, your previous remarks that some sanctions were not applied on the nuclear program and, thus, were under review? And also, are you any closer on a sense of sequencing? Could there be a scenario where both sides just re-enter the deal at the exact same time and you forgo the previous demand that Iran come back into compliance before you do? Thanks.

And you may be muted.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sorry. Thanks, Nick. I think there have been many reports and there will be many reports as to who has said what during these talks, and we’re not going to comment on each and every one of them. As I said, it’s already a complicated negotiation enough without adding to the complexity by negotiating it in public.

What I will say, and as I said last time, but this time we have gone into more detail is that we have provided Iran with a number of examples of the kind of sanctions that we believe we would need to lift in order to come back into compliance, and the sanctions that we believe we would not need to lift and we would not lift as part of a return into compliance with the JCPOA.

And then a third category, which are the difficult cases for – difficult cases because this is a complex process, but also because the Trump administration deliberately and avowedly imposed sanctions by invoking labels – terrorism labels and other labels even though it was done purely for the purpose of preventing or hindering a return to the – compliance with the JCPOA. So that has made it more difficult. We have to go through every sanction to make sure whether – to look at whether they were legitimately or not legitimately imposed.

So I’m not going to get into precisely the examples that we gave, but we gave Iran examples of the three categories that I mentioned.

On sequencing, there has not been much of a discussion because we’re still at the – in the process of describing and detailing the steps that each side is going to have to take. We have not gotten into the discussion of sequencing. What we can say is that a sequence in which the U.S. does everything before Iran does nothing is not an acceptable sequence. We made that clear to Iran. And beyond that, we’re prepared and we’re open to different kinds of sequencing which meet our interests, which is to see both sides in full compliance and not us coming into full compliance before Iran has acted.

MODERATOR: Can we go to the line of Farnaz Fassihi?

OPERATOR: What was that name again? I apologize.

MODERATOR: Farnaz Fassihi.

OPERATOR: Okay, your line is now open. Thank you, sir.


MODERATOR: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. The Iranians were saying that they’re insisting on getting a written guarantee from the U.S. that a future administration will not abandon the deal. How does that look to you and is this negotiable? They’re also insisting on having some time to verify sanctions relief before they decrease enriching uranium or turn the switch off. How does that look? That would – at least the optics of it would seem like the U.S. is returning first.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So thanks, Farnaz. So on the question of a written guarantee, I think it’s clear there is no such thing as a guarantee. This is a political understanding in which – and it was clear at the time of the JCPOA that it is the sovereign right of all participants to decide whether they want to maintain their participation or not. We – I think the Biden administration, if it decides – if it reaches an understanding with Iran and the other P5+1 to come back into compliance with the deal, it would be with the intent of acting in good faith and not of departing the deal for no good – for no good reason. But there is no such thing as a guarantee and I think, again, we have made that clear to Iran that it’s not something that the U.S. can or will give. This is a political understanding that relies on the good faith of all actors. Iran has the experience, and understandably a – not a very pleasant one, of the U.S. withdrawing unilaterally from the deal, but certainly the Biden administration’s intent if it were to come back into compliance would be to act in good faith if Iran did the same. As for verifying the sanctions, I mean, if – as we’ve said, if Iran’s position is that the United States needs to lift all sanctions to come back into compliance, then Iran would verify that only then would Iran take action. That’s not a sequence that we could accept and, frankly, I don’t think it’s a sequence that the other participants in the JCPOA believes is a reasonable one. There are many other forms of sequencing that one could discuss, and we’re open to that, but we’re not going to accept a process in which the U.S. acts first and removes all of the sanctions that it is committed to removing before Iran does anything.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Michele Kelemen.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open, Ms. Kelemen.

QUESTION: Thank you. In your consultations back here, will you be talking to members of Congress about what sanctions are on the table? Are there any plans for small kind of reciprocal gestures, building confidence? Or is the plan – is the conversation just about both sides going back in all at once? And then on – and then you mentioned the detainees. I wonder if you’ve heard – has there been any progress on that topic?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So, Michele, on the on the question of whether there’d be confidence-building steps or full compliance, I think, as you know, several weeks ago, Iran had expressed an interest in first steps that each side could take. That’s no longer on the agenda. At this point, the discussions taking place in Vienna are about full compliance for full compliance, and that’s the discussions that we’re engaged in. So not necessarily going to rule anything out, but I think at this point the discussions that all the participants are engaged in are what the U.S. would need to do to come into full compliance and what Iran would need to do to come into full compliance.

On the detainees, all I will say about that is that we have pressed very hard, we have an indirect channel of communication with the Iranians on it, and we very much hope that we’ll be able to resolve it because it’s an imperative and it is – as we said many times, it is unconscionable that Iran would hold American citizens for no reason other than the fact that they’re American, because they have not done anything wrong and Iran knows that.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Arshad Mohammed.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Two things. One, European diplomats have been talking about their hope to have something concrete in hand by mid-May. And as you know, Iranian officials have also been pushing this, pointing to the expiration of their agreement with the IAEA. One, do you think it is even remotely conceivable that you could have some kind of an agreement in place within a month? And two, do you see any reason to push hard for that given that that deadline or marker is entirely self-imposed by the Iranians, given their legislation and then their deal with the IAEA? And I guess the last thing would be: What can you say about the nature of the pretty significant or pretty important differences that remain?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So Arshad, I’d say, on the question of timing, it’s a position that we’ve taken from the outset that we’re not going to drag our feet. As – the moment there’s an understanding between us, Iran, the other P5+1 is the moment that there’ll be an understanding that we – that will be official. But before that time, we’re not going to rush in order to meet a deadline. We will be dictated by whether we think the understandings that have been reached, if they are reached, are satisfactory. And I think that’s the – that’s what we need to do.

There is the IAEA technical understanding with Iran. There are also the Iranian elections. This is something that commentators bring up as reasons to move by mid-May. Again, if we can get it by mid-May – and I’m not – we’re certainly not going to rule that out. If we can make enough progress, we’ll make enough progress by the time it’s made. And it may be within weeks; it may not be within weeks. But our hope is to get it as soon as possible, not at the expense of getting a deal that’s wrong the kind of deal for us. So we’ll keep saying that. We’re not going to (inaudible) anything down. We’ll go as fast as we can. But we’re not going to go fast at the expense of the solidity of the understanding that we’re seeking to reach.

As for the nature of the differences, well, the differences are very simply which sanctions we – both sides believe, Iran and the U.S. believe are going to need to be lifted in order for us to be back in full compliance with (inaudible). And what steps Iran is going to have to take to come back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, there certainly is no (inaudible) there either. So we’re hoping that Iran will understand that the goal here is to come back into compliance with the JCPOA, all of the JCPOA, and nothing but the JCPOA, which means that demands that the United States lift sanctions that are consistent with the JCPOA should not be part of this conversation. And Iran – if Iran thinks or if Iran hopes that it could do less than come back into compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA, that won’t work either. So we’re prepared to do everything that we need to do to be back in full compliance with the – with the deal, and we hope that Iran will do the same.

MODERATOR: Go to the line of Kylie Atwood.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hello, thank you for doing the call. I am wondering – the Iranians have also said that they must be the ones who are the arbiters to judge and verify if the lifted U.S. sanctions are actually working and benefiting them in the way that they want them to. Does the U.S. accept that that judgment should be made by the Iranians, or is there an outside party that should be judging?

And then my second question is: How long does the U.S. believe it would take to actually lift the sanctions that you guys decide are going to be lifted? I know this is a tricky process, so it can’t happen overnight. Once the decision is made, how long does it take? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So on the first question, I’m not – it’s not entirely clear what that means. We will lift the sanctions and we’ll do our part. We’ll meet our obligation. It’s not a matter of judging whether we’ve lifted the sanctions. We will have lifted the sanctions and Iran will have to then decide if it does not want to – if it doesn’t believe that its needs are being met and it wants to leave the deal, then it will leave the deal and we could do the same. That’s the nature of this understanding. But we will meet our obligation lifting the sanctions as we did in 2016, and we believe that that’s what the JCPOA requires.

How long it will take – it wouldn’t take that long, but I don’t want to get – I can’t get into the details. As you said, it’s complex, but we don’t think this is something that would be very time-consuming. Once we make the decision to lift the sanctions, it’s something we believe we could execute relatively quickly.

MODERATOR: We’ll to Mohammed Elehad.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open, sir.

MODERATOR: Mohammed —

OPERATOR: Mr. Elehad?

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Can you hear me, please?

MODERATOR: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are some media reports that South Korea released around $30 million to Iran as part of the unfrozen assets there. Do you have any confirmation about that, sir? Thank you so much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So we have not taken any action regarding the South Korean assets. We see reports floating every now and then, but we have not taken any action regarding those assets.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Barak Ravid.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), for doing this.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. Two questions. First, about this third category of sanctions, the sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration on the nuclear deal but under terror designations or human rights, what’s the – in comparison to the two other groups of sanctions, how many of the sanctions are under this group, under the third category?

And second question: Israeli officials are saying that they feel that the U.S. is not transparent enough with them about which sanctions that are non-nuclear-related it’s planning on removing as part of the talks with Iran. What do you say about that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I’m not going to give numbers of the kind of sanctions. As I said, the third category is the one that is more ambiguous in terms of our – our – I mean, we have to look into whether we conclude in the end that they are – whether the sanctions will consist – whether lifting the sanctions is necessary in order to come back into the JCPOA or not, and for that we have to consider a number of factors, including the reality that the Trump administration, as I said earlier, professed to be imposing these – this wall of sanctions in order to prevent a return to the JCPOA. So that’s one of the considerations. It’s not the only one, of course, but we are going to looking into – we’re looking into those.

I believe we have had numerous conversations with Israeli officials before and after every round of talks. We certainly will have one again. We believe we’ve been transparent. We’ve been in the process of – as I said, of looking into which sanctions we would – we believe would need to be lifted as part of the return to the JCPOA. But we’ve been very transparent that we believe it’s the – it’s sanctions that we need to lift to be consistent with the – sanctions that are required for a return to the JCPOA and for Iran benefiting from what a return to the JCPOA would mean. And I think we’ve said that explicitly to the Israelis. We’ve discussed it. We’ll discuss it at further length this week and coming out of these talks. So we intend to be as transparent as we can. We know there’s a disagreement with Israel’s perspective and we respect that. We’ll try to be as transparent as we can about how we see things and how we want to go and listen to their perspective as well.

MODERATOR: We’ll take a couple final questions. We’ll go to Nadia Bilbassy.

OPERATOR: Your line is still open.

QUESTION: You know there are worries among your allies in the region that the money that Iran gets from any sanction relief might go actually to support terrorist organizations and cause more havoc in the Middle East. Is there kind of any verification that you can impose to make sure that this money won’t go to people like Hizballah and the like?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So first, thanks for the question, because I wanted to say, obviously, we do consult and discuss with our Israeli allies, but we also are very transparent with our partners as we talk to them regularly, again, both before and sometimes during and after every round of talks, and we intend to continue doing that.

As for your specific question, first of all, our view is that the situation only became worse from their perspective – from our perspective and their perspective during the years of maximum pressure. Those are the years when the activities – Iran’s activities, Iran’s direct activities against some of our Gulf partners, the direct attacks against Saudi Arabia, those grew during the period of maximum pressure. So there’s no direct correlation between lifting of sanctions and Iran’s conduct in the region. I think that’s been proven by simply the experience of the last four and more years.

We do – we certainly intend to continue to pressure Iran and to counter their activities in the region that are destabilizing and that are going after our interests or the interests of our partners. And we also, of course, retain sanctions on Hizballah and other such organizations and the ability to go after any support that is given to them. Those sanctions, of course, will remain in place.

So we understand that what – that lifting sanctions is something that will have to come from a return – lifting of some sanctions will have to come from a return to the JCPOA, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to counter Iranian activities in the region that are destabilizing and that go against our interests or those of our partners or allies in the region.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Matt Lee.

QUESTION: I wanted to try to dig down a little bit into the three baskets of sanctions, recognizing that you didn’t want to say how many are actually in the third category. But if we look at all three categories – the ones that you would need to lift, the ones that you wouldn’t need to lift, and then this third category – can you give a rough percentage as to – out of 100 percent of the sanctions that would be – like, what percent fall into each category? And even if you can’t do that, is there a rough agreement between you guys, or do you understand that there’s a rough agreement between you and the Iranians on the first two baskets? Or is that still something that needs to be decided?

Secondly, would – forgetting about who was the arbiter of whether the sanctions relief is actually effective or not, is this administration prepared, like the Obama administration was, to go out and do these, for lack of a better word, road shows where you try to encourage other countries and other – and businesses and other countries to do business with Iran? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So Matt, yeah, no, I’m not going to give a percentage, partly because this is still a work in progress, so we are not – we’re not about to give numbers. And we have to be in agreement for what these baskets are. There’s no agreement with Iran on anything at this point, and that’s – I’m not saying that as a measure of pessimism, but it’s the nature of these talks that the parties are not going to agree to anything until they see the full – the full picture. So it’s not a surprise at this point that there’s no agreement on any of the categories at this point. These are discussions in which ideas are being exchanged, but there’s been nothing at this point that I would point to and say, “Here’s something that’s been agreed that we could put to the side.” Nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed. I think that’s clearly the principle behind these talks.

And I’m sorry, I forgot your – oh, your other question about – I’m not going to begin to talk about what we will do if and when we reach an understanding. I think the first step is to get there and we’re not there yet. I mean, we hope we’ll get there, but we – there’s certainly no certainty, and we can then figure out what we will – what steps each side will take to make sure that their commitments are fully implemented.

MODERATOR: We’ll take a final question from Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Thank you, [Senior State Department Official] and [Moderator]. I want to just to go a little bit more into the process. When you said that you shared examples of the sanctions that you can lift, the ones that you’d want to lift and the ones that are in between, have you shared the full list of the sanctions that you’re ready to lift and the ones you are not ready to lift or just examples? And also on the second thing, when Jake Sullivan said last Sunday that you won’t lift any sanctions until the U.S. has the assurance that Iran is ready to go back to compliance, is that a fair description of the stance you’re defending in Vienna? I mean not having the compliance but the assurance of this compliance. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I’m going to start with your last question because we’ve had – as you know, I mean, there’s been many questions about sequence and we’re not ready to discuss that yet, whether directly – certainly not – but even indirectly. The sequence has not been the focus of the discussions. The focus of the discussion is on defining the steps that both sides need to take.

So there are many ways of choreographing this. There are many ways that one could do it. We know what we think would be unacceptable for us, which is that we do everything first, and then Iran acts, and we assume that it would be unacceptable for Iran to do everything first and then the U.S. acts. In between, there are many ways and many, many possibilities that we could consider.

As to your first question, which is what we have provided with – what we have provided Iran with, we have given them many examples. I’m not going to get into the details, but I think they have a pretty clear sense at this point of our understanding, of our view about the sanctions that we’re going to have to lift and those that we don’t think we need to – we would not lift. And then as we said, there’s some issues that we’re still working through in our own system because this is, as I said, a very complicated assessment. There’s no – it’s not as if – when the former administration reimposed sanctions, they labeled them: ‘These are sanctions that are consistent with the JCPOA, and these are the kind of sanctions that are not consistent with the JCPOA.’ So it is a much more difficult work that we are doing to try to understand the nature of the sanctions and on what basis they were imposed.

MODERATOR: Well, thanks very much, everyone. Just a reminder, this call is on background to a senior State Department official. And the embargo is now lifted. Thanks for joining.


Secretary Blinken’s Roundtable with CARICOM Foreign Ministers (US Department of State)

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met virtually with foreign ministers from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states today to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to working with all countries in the region to advance bilateral and regional interests. Foreign ministers from Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago participated in the event, along with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Secretary Blinken emphasized the strong partnership between the United States and the Caribbean, plans to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and promote a regional economic recovery, cooperation on increasing climate resilience, and continued collaborations on strengthening security, democratic values, and human rights.


Department Press Briefing – April 21, 2021 (US Department of State)

MR PRICE: Good afternoon. Just a few things at the top today to get us started.

Yesterday, the world watched as a jury in Minnesota delivered its verdict regarding the murder of George Floyd. The outcome does not represent full justice, but it does represent accountability, which is a step towards dealing with institutional racism in America. The verdict also does not diminish the pain felt by Black and brown communities, which is a deep trauma to which people of color and marginalized communities around the world can relate.

As the Secretary has said, America finds strength in the fact that we are able to acknowledge our imperfections transparently and to grapple with them openly. It’s what sets us apart from our competitors and our adversaries and what allows us to advance the ideal of a more perfect union. Just as we defend human rights and hold human rights abusers accountable around the world, we will continue to strive to address racial injustice and inequities in our country, affirming throughout that Black lives truly do matter.

Next, today marks the two-year anniversary of the ISIS-inspired attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. On this day, we remember the more than 250 victims – including five U.S. citizens – whose lives were tragically cut short by this horrific act of terrorism.

To the family and friends of the deceased, and to the survivors of the attacks: We mourn with you. We stand in solidarity with you. The United States recently charged multiple individuals in connection with these attacks, and we will continue to assist the Government of Sri Lanka in its own investigation. We promise that we will not rest in pursuit of justice in bringing the perpetrators of this violence to account.

Today in the Hague, the United States and 45 co-sponsors succeeded in passing a historic decision at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Conference of the State Parties that condemns Syria’s – that condemns the Assad regime’s continued use and possession of chemical weapons, in violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The decision, which was adopted with 87 countries voting in favor of it and only 15 against, condemns Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspends certain of Syria’s rights and privileges Syria holds under the Convention – most notably its right to vote – until the OPCW director-general reports that Syria has completed certain measures. For example, Syria must resolve all outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and program.

The United States itself assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since acceding to the CWC in 2013.

This is the first time such an action has been taken against a country at the OPCW.

The United States welcomes the OPCW’s decision and applauds the international community’s continued commitment to upholding the international norm against the use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all.

Finally, I want to highlight the Secretary’s statement earlier today that we are pleased to announce that as part of our commitment to invest in and support the people of Afghanistan, we plan to provide nearly $300 million in civilian assistance for Afghanistan in 2021 from both the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

This funding will be targeted at sustaining and building on the gains of the past 20 years by improving access to essential services for Afghan citizens, promoting economic growth, fighting corruption and the narcotics trade, improving health and education service delivery, supporting women’s empowerment, enhancing conflict resolution mechanisms, and bolstering Afghan civil society and independent media.

As the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan and a brighter future for the Afghan people.

So with that, happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Thanks. I have a question on the Afghanistan thing, but I want to first start with your very beginning topper, George Floyd verdict. I appreciate the sentiment, I understand where it’s coming from, but the State Department’s portfolio is overseas, it’s not here. And I get how this has been a black eye, say, at the UN Human Rights Council, or with the Chinese or the Russians, and they talk about, well, when you complain about our human rights record, look at your own here. But are your comments meant to suggest that the State Department or the federal government had any role here in this?

MR PRICE: My comments —

QUESTION: Because if you – because if you’re going to take this verdict and go back to critics of the U.S. human rights record and say, well, see, look what happened here – I mean, this was a local jury, not a – it had nothing to do with the federal government, unless I’m wrong. Can you –

MR PRICE: Matt, what we heard – we heard yesterday from a local jury, but what we saw and what we have seen in recent weeks has been a national reckoning. And, of course, what happens here has implications around the world.

My point and the point that we have been making not only today but really since the start of this administration is that we have key and fundamental sources of national strength, and one of those sources of national strength that we can use vis-a-vis any competitor or adversary we face are our values, are our national character. And the values that we have seen on display in the context we’re talking about now – accountability, transparency, the rule of law, openness; our ability and our willingness, in fact, to grapple very publicly with our imperfections, with what we know we have to do, with what we still strive to do as a country – that is a source of our strength. It is what sets us apart from our competitors. It’s what sets us apart from our adversaries. And certainly, if we are going to stand for these values around the world, we need to exercise them here at home.

QUESTION: Okay. So are your comments meant to suggest that if and when other countries take issue with your criticism of them, that you will go back and say, well, look at this case and this shows our transparency? Is that – so you’re going to take this case and use it on the international stage to show that the U.S. deals with its issues openly and transparently? Is that the – is that what you’re trying to —

MR PRICE: I think rather than talking about any particular case, we are talking about our values. And the reason we raise this today —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) – as a demonstration of American values. Something that you would use in international fora —

MR PRICE: As a testament to our values at work, on display, not only, again, as a moment of reckoning and attention here at home, but also around the world.

QUESTION: All right. Just on Afghanistan real briefly, as it notes in the statement, this is not new money. This is money that was actually announced —

MR PRICE: That’s right.

QUESTION: — by the Trump administration back in November, and I’m a little bit confused as to what – the language in this, which just says you are working with Congress to try and get it spent now. Does – that means that it hasn’t been approved yet, right?

MR PRICE: It’s a reference to the fact that we are notifying Congress of our intention to do this. The Secretary was on the Hill yesterday. He briefed all members of the House, all members of the Senate on the way forward in Afghanistan. He was joined by several of his counterparts. I understand that he did mention this to Congress yesterday. We will be continuing to work with Congress to make sure that Congress has a full understanding for our plans for these funds.

QUESTION: Okay. But they’re not out the door yet, is that correct?

MR PRICE: Not just yet.

QUESTION: Okay. And is there anything at all different in how this is – how this administration is going to spend this previous – this money that was notified by the previous administration? Is there anything – any different priorities, or is it going to go exactly the way the previous administration intended it to?

MR PRICE: Well, I can’t speak precisely to how – what the previous administration intended, but I will say that I’m sure we can get you more details on the specific programs through both the Department of State and USAID that this money will fund.

But I think it speaks to a broader point, and that is the point we have made since last week, that even as we withdraw militarily from Afghanistan, our partnership with the Afghan Government and with the people of Afghanistan, importantly in this case, is enduring. The people of Afghanistan have made tremendous strides over the past 20 years. They have made those strides with the support throughout of the United States. We have committed billions of dollars – $36 billion in civilian assistance and $3.6 in humanitarian assistance – to Afghanistan since 2002. That is just one metric that I think speaks to our commitment to the Afghan people. This sum today is a good reminder, just as the Secretary communicated to Afghans leaders last week and to a cross section of Afghan civil society last week that we certainly intend for this partnership and for this support to continue going forward.


QUESTION: Yeah. The Commission on International Religious Freedom Report came out today, and one of the recommendations that they’re making is that the government – U.S. Government – as well as publicly expressing concerns about the Winter Olympics in China coming up next year, they’re recommending that U.S. Government officials don’t attend the games. We’ve kind of discussed the discussions around a boycott, but I wonder on the specifics of a —

MR PRICE: Have we? I don’t recall.

QUESTION: — of a diplomatic boycott. Where do you stand on that, that they’re making quite a clear call that – and one of the commissioners said it’s hard to imagine government officials going given that you’ve said there’s a genocide going on.

MR PRICE: Well, what I would say is that the commission – it’s an independent federal commission. Its report represents the views of the commission. They do not clear the contents, they do not clear the conclusions of their report with the – with any executive branch agencies or departments. Again, it’s independent, the way it should be. They – their report is conducted annually. Obviously, we take their report into account as we take a look at our determinations when it comes to religious freedom designations that I expect we’ll speaking to later this year. But I wouldn’t want to go beyond that at this point.


QUESTION: On a diplomatic boycott, though, where do you stand?

MR PRICE: Again, if you’re speaking to the IRF’s report, it’s an independent commission, so I’m not going to speak to that. But we will be putting together our own findings that we’ll release publicly later this year, and we’ll be in a position to speak to it then. Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to Russia? Do you ask, as the UN experts just did, that Aleksey Navalny be evacuated out of Russia for medical reasons? Or do you stand just to asking for medical access within Russia, as you did yesterday?

MR PRICE: Well, we’ve been very clear and we have called on the Russian Federation, we have called on the Russian Government to allow Aleksey Navalny access to the necessary independent medical care immediately in response to the very disturbing reports that we have all seen and we have all heard regarding his deteriorating health. Again, let me just reiterate that we have communicated to the Russian Government both publicly as well as privately that what happens to Mr. Navalny while he is in their custody is their responsibility, and because of that, the Russian Federation will be held accountable to anything that happens to Mr. Navalny while he’s in their custody.

QUESTION: So you don’t go as far as asking that he is brought out of Russia?

MR PRICE: Our concern is that he has access to independent medical care.

QUESTION: And Russia-related. On Ukraine, there has been some public demands from Kyiv that U.S. send urgently more weapons, including Patriot missiles, that I quote a senior official there saying they should be in Ukraine and not in Poland. Are you considering those demands? Is there any process about sending more weapons, and particularly Patriots?

MR PRICE: Well, you know our commitment to Ukraine, our partnership with Ukraine, it’s deep. It is important to us. It’s enduring. That was the message that Secretary Blinken conveyed to his Ukrainian counterpart last week when we met with Foreign Minister Kuleba in Brussels. I will say that the United States has committed more than $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014. Of course, that’s a sum that spans now three administrations. And we will continue working to provide the security assistance that Ukraine needs to defend itself against Russian aggression, and that includes lethal defensive systems based on our continuing assessment of what Russia – of what Ukraine may need.

QUESTION: On Russia, just if I could ask: As a part of the climate summit, will the Biden administration have any opportunity to work with Russia on some of these other issues surrounding that summit, or is it strictly climate with this interaction this week with Russia? And also, there are concerns about access to the Black Sea. Saw the statement a few days ago. Are there concerns about Russia or even Turkey with some of its new regimes it’s putting in place restricting access for U.S. or allied warships to needed parts of the Black Sea?

MR PRICE: What I would say is that the climate summit is very much about climate. It is exclusively focused on climate. The point we have made repeatedly is that in any number of relationships, even when those relationships are primarily competitive or even adversarial, often times we do have shared interests, and climate happens to be one of those areas of shared interest, including with the Russian Federation. So that is why you will – as we have announced, President Putin will be speaking at, he’ll be present at the climate summit. And we welcome global participation in this given the stakes that we face when it comes to global warming and the existential threat it poses.

When it comes to the Black Sea, we are aware that Russia has announced its intention to block foreign naval ships and state vessels in parts of the Black Sea, particularly near the Kerch Strait, through later this year, through October, citing what they claim to be Russian military exercises. We are cognizant that Russia has a history of aggressive actions against Ukrainian vessels and impeding access to Ukraine’s ports in the Sea of Azov, impacting Ukraine’s international commerce. This would be only the latest example of an ongoing campaign to undermine and to destabilize Ukraine. This is something that we’ve spoken to in recent days. It certainly was a focus when we were at NATO last week with the Secretary and his foreign secretary and defense counterparts.

We call on Russia to cease its harassment of vessels in the region and to reverse its buildup of forces along Ukraine’s borders. Again, Ukraine is a partner. We have an unwavering partnership with Kyiv and we will stand by Ukraine and stand by its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that includes in its territorial waters.


QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Ned, very much for the opportunity.

QUESTION: One more on Russia.

MR PRICE: Sure. One more on Russia, sure.


QUESTION: Just Russian state media reported that the deputy ambassador was summoned today to the foreign ministry, that they were notified of the 10 expulsions and that 10 Americans have to leave by tomorrow. Can you confirm that any of that is true?

MR PRICE: I’m not going to confirm any of the specific details. What I would say is that U.S. embassy officials in Moscow met today with Russian officials to discuss various bilateral topics, including the Russian response to our announcement last week, on April 15th. We expect these discussions will continue in the coming days. We’ll review the details of the Russian actions as we were notified officially of some elements today. At the same time, we continue to believe that the best way forward is through thoughtful dialogue and diplomatic engagement going forward.

QUESTION: You can’t say which elements were actually discussed, then, the expulsions or the ban on Russian nationals working for the mission?

MR PRICE: What I would say is that we have received official notification, correspondence that lists the diplomats that the Russian Government has PNG’d.

QUESTION: Can I just have one follow-up on that? And the Russian Foreign Ministry also put out a statement on this saying that those 10 diplomats have one month to get out. So is it assured that the U.S. Government is going to be responding to Russia expelling these diplomats, or may you guys just leave this and carry on to other relations with Russia?

MR PRICE: What I would say is that we expect these discussions to continue in the coming days with the Russian Federation. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of those discussions and preview where we might be going. I think we’ll let those discussions take place and we’ll address it at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Is Ambassador Sullivan back —

MR PRICE: Ambassador Sullivan is still in Moscow. I understand that his plan continues to be to return to the United States this week.

QUESTION: His plane? Plan.

MR PRICE: His plan continues to be to return to the United States this week.

QUESTION: Any chance of getting him to the podium?

MR PRICE: I – as we’ve said, Ambassador Sullivan has not had a break in I think it is about a year. I’m not sure the first agenda item would be to come here, but if he’s —

QUESTION: Not – it might not be his first.

MR PRICE: If he’s a glutton for punishment, perhaps.

QUESTION: But maybe his second.

MR PRICE: I understand. Okay, I understand. We’ll let you know.

Yes, I’ll go back. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Going back to the climate summit. During the campaign, President Biden criticized the Brazilian Government on deforestation and environmental policies. And so what’s going to be his tone towards Brazil during this climate summit? We know that he’s receiving a lot of letters in the last few days from the civil society and also 15 senators here in the United States criticizing President Bolsonaro on his environmental records and urging President Biden not to close a deal with Brazil. So is the administration paying attention to these demands, these recommendations? And also, will President Biden use this summit to join them and pressure the Brazilian Government, the Brazilian president directly?

MR PRICE: Well, we absolutely are paying attention to what we’re hearing from the Hill, and I would add that we’re paying attention to what we’re hearing from our partners in the Brazilian Government, and we’re also paying attention to what our partners in the Brazilian Government are committing to doing and what they are in fact doing. And that’s the case because we know that tackling the climate crisis requires global cooperation and global partnerships, and of course Brazil will be a key partner in finding and implementing – helping to implement, I should say – solutions to this crisis. Brazil is one of the world’s top 10 economies. It’s a regional leader. It has a responsibility to lead, including on climate.

Now, with every country – and this is true of Brazil as well – we respect Brazil’s sovereignty in dealing with environmental challenges, and we can build on our strong track record of environmental cooperation with Brazil to accomplish more, to do more, to raise that level of ambition. That’s precisely the point of the summit that will take place tomorrow. We do see Brazil as an important partner in putting the path on the world to net zero emissions by 2050, and that’s precisely because of the size of Brazil’s economy and the impact that its cuts can have, especially as it continues to transition to emissions-free energy sources, as it reduces emissions from forests, from agriculture and other land use, and as it creates incentives to conserves – conserve forests.

A key focus of this administration is encouraging Brazil’s actions to reduce deforestation and to implement ambitious emissions reductions targets consistent with that overall goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to lock in a pathway to a strong net zero emissions future. We believe all of this is realistic for the international community. We believe all of this is realistic for the Government of Brazil as well.

QUESTION: So Ned, in response of Presidents Bolsonaro’s letter to Joe Biden last week, Secretary Kerry said he would like to see immediate actions from Brazil. What would be these immediate actions? And also, would the administration like to see tomorrow, during Bolsonaro’s speech, more details on how to reach his commitment to zero illegal deforestation by 2030?

MR PRICE: Well, I’m certainly not going to tell President Bolsonaro or any other world leader what we would like to see in his or her speech tomorrow, but we look forward to hearing from all of the world leaders who are taking part in this. We’re really gratified by the global participation that this summit has engendered precisely because it underlines the global nature of this challenge. When it comes to what we would like to see broadly speaking from Brazil, and I spoke to this a bit yesterday – Secretary Kerry tweeted on this a couple days ago on April 16th, I believe it was – but we do want to see clear and tangible steps to increase effective enforcement and a political signal that illegal deforestation and encroachment won’t be tolerated. Certainly we’ll continue to work closely with the Brazilian Government on this.


QUESTION: Can I just ask another question on Brazil in a different topic?


QUESTION: So this administration is putting strengthening democracy abroad at the center of its foreign policy, so I wonder what is the administration reaction on the current arrests in Brazil of protesters or critics of the president, President Bolsonaro. Is the administration concerned about these arrests?

MR PRICE: Well, we do – the United States and Brazil, we do have a strong partnership that has been based on human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles. Brazil as one of the region’s largest – one of the world’s, I should say, largest democracies – Brazil has the potential to be a leader in helping to promote human rights and democracy, both in the hemisphere and far beyond. We are committed to working with Brazil to advance those shared values, including the respect for human rights, and we’ll continue to engage the Brazilian Government to promote human rights for all, including for vulnerable minority and marginalized populations, LGBTQ individuals, Afro Brazilians, and others – and others as appropriate.

QUESTION: But is the government aware of these arrests of protesters?

MR PRICE: Look, I – our embassy in Brazil, as they do all over the world, monitor developments when it comes to human rights very closely.

QUESTION: Is this something that concerns this administration, the arrests?

MR PRICE: We are an administration that puts human rights at the center of our foreign policy. Every time human rights are encroached upon around the world, it’s a matter for concern. Said.

QUESTION: Thank you. A couple of questions on the Palestinian issue. I wanted to ask you: What is your position on the Palestinian elections? There has been talk that they may be postponed. I don’t believe that you issued any statement regarding the elections, I mean, altogether. So what is your position? Would you understand whether it’s – a decision is taken to postpone it? Would you push for Palestinian – Jerusalemite Palestinians to participate in the process? What is your position?

MR PRICE: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed, and I think we’ve actually discussed this in the briefing room before. The administration has taken a consistent position that the exercise of democratic elections is a matter for the Palestinian government and for the Palestinian people to determine. It’s not up to us. That remains our position. It’s up to the Palestinians to determine how to proceed.

QUESTION: So if, let’s say, Hamas, whom you consider a terrorist organization, wins with a majority in the legislative election, would you recognize that? Because the – past experience has shown that the United States and the rest of the world has taken a very hostile position towards Hamas that resulted in this siege and this semi-division and civil war among Palestinians.

MR PRICE: Of course, our position vis-a-vis Hamas is well known. I’m not going to entertain a hypothetical when it comes to elections for the Palestinian people. That’s up to them to decide.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you a couple of things. There is a UN report on settler violence against Palestinians – are rising drastically. Are you doing anything about rising settler violence?

MR PRICE: Well, we have been consistent in our condemnation of any steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, and that includes settlement activity and violence. Again, a two-state solution remains at the center of our approach to this issue, and anything that sets that back is something that we will speak out against and do so consistently.

QUESTION: So you do expect your ally Israel to hold those who perpetrate crimes against the Palestinians, be it settlers or soldiers or security men and women, to be held accountable, as you began today to talk about accountability on yesterday’s verdict?

MR PRICE: Justice, accountability, rule of law – those are hallmarks of any democracy.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) Africa questions on – one on Chad, and this is a question from my VOA colleagues. Yesterday, you said that you support a peaceful transition in accordance to the Chadian constitution. However, the speaker of the National Assembly has been sidelined. Deby’s son is now in charge of this transitional council. Doesn’t that violate Chad’s constitution? Are you raising any concerns?

MR PRICE: Well, look, again, we offer our – we offer the people of Chad our heartfelt condolences on the death of President Deby. We continue to stand with the people of Chad during this difficult time. We condemn recent violence and loss of life in Chad. And as I said yesterday, we support a peaceful and democratic transition of power to a civilian-led government. Obviously, developments in recent days and hours are a cause for concern, but we will continue to call for and support a peaceful democratic transition to a civilian-led government.

QUESTION: Can I – and my Ethiopia question is from – my colleague on the ground has seen that Eritrean troops are still in Tigray and the humanitarian access is still quite limited, with some key roads that have been blocked. What is this administration doing about that? What’s your message to Ethiopia?

MR PRICE: Well, you’re right, we haven’t seen any evidence that Eritrean troops are withdrawing from Tigray despite the commitments made by both Ethiopia and Eritrea. We urge their immediate full withdrawal, as we believe it is critical to restoring peace and security and critical to that issue of humanitarian access that you raised.

QUESTION: And has Coons stayed involved in this or are you getting – I mean, who’s taking a lead diplomatically on this?

MR PRICE: This is something that the department has been taking a very clear and decisive leadership role. Obviously, the Secretary of State has had occasion to speak to Prime Minister Abiy. That engagement at various levels has been consistent and ongoing. As we have more details to share here in terms of our structure, I’ll be sure to let you know.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Ned, just – just back on Chad, can you be a little bit more specific about what recent developments are a cause for concern?

MR PRICE: Well, look, we have spoken to the violence. We have spoken, of course, to the death of President Deby as well. We have long encouraged a move toward democracy and representative government in Chad. We’ll continue to do that. Now we will support and do everything we can to support a peaceful democratic transition of power to a civilian-led government.

QUESTION: Right, but what specific – so just the death of the president and the violence, meaning – I think that you mean the rebel attack. Is that you’re talking about? You’re not talking about the sidelining of the parliament chief, you’re not talking – speaker – you’re not talking about the elevation of the son? What are the recent developments?

MR PRICE: Certainly, the violence in Chad that we’ve spoken to is gravely disturbing. But we’re watching closely as the political situation evolves. The situation is fluid. We want to see a peaceful democratic transition of power to a civilian-led government. We would be concerned by anything that would stand in the way of that.

QUESTION: Now, when you say that you continue to, quote-unquote, “stand with the people of Chad,” how does your – how does that manifest itself?

MR PRICE: Well, we’ve provided significant support over the years to the people of Chad.

QUESTION: Well, you said – it says – you continued on to say during this time of transition, so how are you – what’s the physical demonstration of your standing with the people of Chad during this time of transition?

MR PRICE: So obviously, the time of transition is now – we’re just hours into it, and we’re watching very closely. But let me just say that last year alone, we provided $130 million in humanitarian assistance and development aid to the people of Chad. I know that our support for and partnership with the people of Chad will continue to endure. We know that especially during this time of transition, that our support will be especially important. And that’s why we are committed to it.

QUESTION: On Chad, about (inaudible).

MR PRICE: I’ll do one follow-up on Chad.

QUESTION: On Chad. Within hours of the coup in Myanmar, you began to review whether or not a coup had been committed. As we’ve said, the opposition, the major opposition parties have called this a coup. Are you undertaking a review?

MR PRICE: It’s a fluid situation I wouldn’t want to characterize it in any way just yet. What I would say to your question, though, is something I’ve said before, is that we have long encouraged a move towards democracy and representative government in the context of Chad. That is something we’ll continue to do.

QUESTION: Still on Chad. Do you – are you fine with the idea that your very cautious response on this being a coup or not gives the impression that you’re ready to accept this military transition just to avoid any vacuum that could profit to the jihadist groups in the region?

MR PRICE: Look, we are not going to let any single issue trump other interests, and that applies to Chad, that applies to our foreign policy around the world. I’ve been very clear today that we support a peaceful and democratic transition of power to a civilian-led government. Obviously, we have multiple interests in Chad, just as we do anywhere else. Certainly an interest of ours – in this case, it happens to be very consistent with our values – is to see a transition of power to a civilian-led government. We’re watching very carefully.


QUESTION: I just want to ask about the Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan citizens for working with the U.S. over the last few years. So according to the State Department, there are about 18,000 Afghan citizens who are awaiting approval in this program. And I’m just wondering if there’s any possible way that all of those Afghan citizens, once they get through the background security process, are going to be – clearance process – are going to go be able to get into the U.S. before September 11th?

MR PRICE: Well, the Special Immigrant Visa program is something that we are deeply committed to, as I think you have heard Secretary Blinken say and other administration officials say. We will work with Congress to see if there is more we can do to help protect those who have helped the U.S. military and the U.S. Government, sometimes at great personal risk to themselves, over the years. We take very seriously our role in administering and managing the Special Immigrant Visa program, and we’re engaged at the highest levels to ensure that we’re serving SIV applicants as promptly, as effectively as possible. We’re looking at ways to improve the program while also ensuring that we maintain the highest degree of integrity within the program.

It is also true that COVID-19, of course, has slowed some of the progress we would like to see in clearing the backlog. We have increased resources to the SIV program. We have taken steps to prioritize applications from interpreters and translators, and we have given extra consideration to those who have helped in combat operations. This will absolutely remain a priority going forward.

QUESTION: And what kind of approval exactly do you need from Congress in order to speed up the process more quickly?

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t want to get into any discussions with the Hill on this. What I would say is that this obviously is a priority of the Hill, of members of Congress. There is a good deal of consensus around this, and I think this is an area where we will continue to engage Capitol Hill given the priority we attach to this program.



QUESTION: The Wall Street Journal in an exclusive report an hour ago reported that negotiators in Vienna began this week drafting texts of potential agreement, and that U.S. officials in Vienna outlined the sectors that may be subject to sanctions relief without offering a detailed proposal, and that include oil, finance sectors, steel, as well as Iran central bank. Would this fall within the positive progress that Iranian and Western officials talking about?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to Iran, you’re right, there have been some signs of progress, but I wouldn’t want to overstate it. I think what I said yesterday certainly remains true, that we probably have a longer road ahead of us than we do in the rear view mirror at this point. And that is because of the inherent challenges in this process. And those – many of those challenges at least are not going away.

Again, these are indirect talks. The logistics of them are difficult. The issues are not simple or uncomplicated, which is another wrinkle in this. And of course, there is no lack of distrust between and among the parties. That includes between the United States and Iran and between Iran and the other members of these negotiations. So to be sure, there is a lot to overcome. These talks have been constructive. They have been business-like. We have been able to see some signs of progress, but we’re certainly a ways off from anything concretely materializing.

When it comes to sanctions relief, let me say that we entered these talks, and these talks have been organized around those two working groups, and those two working groups represent the big pieces of business that we have before us. One is predicated on what Iran would need to do to resume its compliance with the JCPOA – in other words, the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take to once again have it subject to the most stringent verification and monitoring regime ever negotiated. The other working group is what you’re referring to. These are the steps that the United States would need to take to resume its compliance with the JCPOA.

In that context, what we said is that we’re prepared to take the steps necessary to return to compliance to the JCPOA, including lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with it. Now, the precise nature of those sanctions, the precise nature of those steps, that’s precisely what’s being discussed in that second working group, and so we wouldn’t want to get into that publicly at this point. What I will say is that Rob Malley is on his way back from Vienna, as we noted yesterday, as a joint commission statement itself noted. The negotiators are returning home. We expect these talks will resume in the coming days, probably within the course of a week, and we expect – we’ll do everything we can to offer some more detail on the process shortly.

QUESTION: Is it true, though, that all sanctions that have been imposed since the deal was signed are really inconsistent with the deal itself? So, I mean, you keep saying that those are not inconsistent or —

MR PRICE: Broadly speaking, there are different categories of sanctions that successive administrations have placed on Iran. Now, what we are focused on are those sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal itself. I would hasten to add, however, that we have profound areas of disagreement and concern when it comes to Iran’s behavior, and the – Tehran should be under no illusions that we will let up in our efforts to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses, for its ballistic missiles program, for its support for terrorism, for its support for proxies in the region. Now, of course, terrorism – excuse me, sanctions can be a key tool in all of that. There is nothing in the JCPOA that says that the United States or any other country around the world can’t enact sanctions to hold Iran accountable for other areas of its malign behavior, malign influence.


QUESTION: I have questions about South Korea. There was a report says that Korean Government is discussing a vaccine swap with U.S. Government. I know it’s a very private diplomatic conversation, but I’d like to ask you if it is technically possible to do vaccine swapping and how seriously U.S. Government can consider it. And second question is about the summit between two countries next month. What would be the primary topic to be discussed at the summit? Thank you.

MR PRICE: Thank you for those. So I’m not going to get into any private diplomatic communications with the Republic of Korea, or any other country for that matter. What I would say broadly is that, and you’ve heard me say this before, but first and foremost we are focused at this stage on the vaccination effort here at home, and we’re focused on that for a couple reasons. Of course, we have a special obligation to the American people, and that is why we have invested such tremendous resource in this vaccination effort to provide hundreds of millions of vaccines, safe and effective vaccines to the American people as quickly as we can, and of course, we’re recording excellent progress there.

But two, as long as the virus is spreading within this country, as long as the virus is spreading anywhere for that matter, it has the potential to mutate. It has the potential to threaten people everywhere. So we certainly have an interest in seeing the virus contained around the world, but the rest of the world has an interest in seeing the virus contained here in the United States. Because after all, the United States has been hardest hit of any country in the world – more than 550,000 deaths, tens of millions of infections. And so what we need to do both for our own health and our own safety, but also for the collective good, the collective interest, is to get this virus under control here.

We recognize that we do in public health, as in any other sector, have a leadership role to play, and we have played that leadership role already through our contributions to COVAX – $2 billion initially, $2 billion over time – re-engaging with the WHO on day one of this administration, what we’ve talked about in terms of our arrangements with Canada and Mexico and we’ve talked about in our arrangements with the Quad.

As we are in a more comfortable and confident position here at home with our own vaccination effort as we have been able to address contingencies that may arise, I expect we may be able to do more, but right now, that’s our focus.

QUESTION: Ned, President Biden just mentioned now that he could be sending vaccines to Latin America. Which countries in Latin America other than Mexico would be receiving it first?

MR PRICE: I just briefly saw the President’s comments before this. I’m just not in a position today to go beyond where we’ve – what I just said.

QUESTION: Can I – quickly one on the travel ban? Because – is there any consideration to update the international travel ban now that the CDC updated the guidance for – on travel for fully vaccinated people here in the United States?

MR PRICE: These are decisions that are informed by science, that are informed by medical professionals, including at the CDC, so we’re always going to defer to the science. So I wouldn’t want to weigh in on that from here.

QUESTION: I also asked about the summit meeting.

MR PRICE: Yes, you did, and that’s – I will leave that to the White House to speak to. Obviously, the travel of President Moon is – underlines and underscores the alliance that we have with the ROK. It’s precisely the reason that Secretary Blinken traveled to South Korea as well as to Japan on his first physical overseas travel, to make clear that our alliance with our treaty allies in the Indo-Pacific, including the Republic of Korea, is strong, and we’re looking for ways to build on that. And I would fully expect that will be the focus of President Moon’s upcoming meeting with President Biden.

QUESTION: The Secretary was meeting today with Caribbean counterparts. The past administration put a lot of the focus on its dealings with that region on trying to counter China and the influx of Chinese money, basically, into the region. Does that remain this administration’s sort of priority of dealing with that region?

MR PRICE: Well, I expect we’ll have a readout of that session for you today. What I would say is that there’s no one single interest when it comes to CARICOM, when it comes to our relations in our own hemisphere or anywhere else, for that matter. We share much in common with our Caribbean partners. The discussions today were broad-ranging, and I will leave it to the readout to offer more detail there.

QUESTION: Can you say – the administration before last, meaning the Obama administration, during that administration, then-former Secretary Kerry, who is now – occupies a significant role in this administration, declared that the Monroe Doctrine was done, over. So as it relates to CARICOM, but also more broadly to Latin America and the Caribbean, does this administration agree with that? Because the most immediate past administration took extreme issue with the idea that the Monroe Doctrine was over.

MR PRICE: The way I would characterize it is one of partnership. We see ourselves partnering with our neighbors in this hemisphere because we understand that only through partnership can we achieve our national interests and the collective interests. We have spoken a great deal about this in the context of the Northern Triangle, just to cite one example in this hemisphere. It’s a partnership with the countries of the Northern Triangle that, over time, will help us undermine the root causes, the drivers of irregular migration, and that’s precisely what we intend to do throughout this region.

QUESTION: But are you prepared to use your leverage, influence, or whatever – even physical force – to prevent outside countries from other hemispheres from trying to exert influence here? Now, obviously, it’s a little bit different when – from the time of James Monroe when we were talking about Europe, but as his question refers to, China. And no doubt they are trying to increase their influence in this hemisphere. Is that something you guys are willing to forcefully push back against?

MR PRICE: I would say that we are very fortunate that we have common values and common interests, that we share them with members of CARICOM, with other of our neighbors in this hemisphere. I think that is ultimately what will unite us. That will – is what will lead us to work together when it comes to a collective challenge.

QUESTION: Last one, just extremely quickly on Belarus. I notice that your non-resident ambassador to Minsk met today in Lithuania or Estonia, one of the Baltics, with the Belarusian opposition leader. Is there any movement on getting her in – actually into Minsk, into a resident – a resident ambassador role, or is she still just kind of floating around Europe?

MR PRICE: Well, what I would say is that obviously, Ambassador Fisher continues to do excellent work. Although she is based here, you’re right that she is in Europe, where she is having consultations. She is – this is not her first trip to Europe during this administration alone where she is able to further our interests and our values in the context of what we are seeing in Belarus.

The United States has always sought to have a stable and predictable relationship with Belarus ever since Belarus’s independence in 1991. It sits at the heart of Europe. It holds potential for its people. And despite the ejection of the American ambassador in 2008, we continue to maintain diplomatic relations with the Government of Belarus. It’s always been our hope that we could turn that into a more normal diplomatic relationship. That continues to be our goal. An ambassador in Minsk is vital to this effort, and being able to return an ambassador to Minsk would send a powerful signal.

But as long as what we have seen in Belarus continues – the human rights violations, the repression – there can be no business as usual, and that’s precisely what Secretary Blinken said when we spoke to the general license this week. It’s exactly what we said in the context of the crackdowns and the detentions of those who do nothing more than aspire for democracy in their country.

QUESTION: But does that mean the holdup is on this side, that you don’t want her to go back, or is the holdup on the other side? Because I had understood it was the other side initially.

MR PRICE: It is absolutely the case that this administration does not believe there can be business as usual.

QUESTION: Yeah, but does that mean returning an ambassador?

MR PRICE: I will – I’m not going to define precisely what that means in every aspect, but we have been very clear, as you – again, you saw with the general license and a revocation of it this week, or I should say Treasury’s revocation of it this week that we supported, there cannot be business as usual unless we see a change in behavior on the part of the Lukashenka regime in Belarus.

QUESTION: On Mr. Navalny’s health status, you said that he should be allowed independent medical care. What does that mean? Does that mean, like, Russian medical teams? Who would determine that they’re independent? To whom would they turn the report?

MR PRICE: Well, Mr. Navalny has a team of lawyers. He has been seen by a team of doctors before. What we want is for him to have access to an independent medical team, a team that those around him see fit, not that those who are holding him see fit.

QUESTION: Two question about East Asian region. So a few days ago you released a press statement about the Japanese Government’s decision on the Fukushima waste water. So may I take the statement as the U.S. Government supports the Japanese Government’s decision and reached to the conclusion that there will be no pollution-related environment issue in —

MR PRICE: I won’t go beyond what’s in that statement. That statement lays out very clearly our position on that, but I will leave the statement to speak for itself.

Thank you very much, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.


Additional Civilian Assistance to Afghanistan (US Department of State)

President Biden was clear that while the United States will withdraw military forces from Afghanistan, our support for the country will continue.  As part of our commitment to invest in and support the Afghan people, we are working with Congress to provide nearly $300 million in additional civilian assistance for Afghanistan in 2021 from both the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development.  This assistance, which we announced at the quadrennial donors’ conference in November 2020 as potentially being available at a future date, is being made available now to demonstrate our enduring support for the Afghan people.  The funding will be targeted at sustaining and building on the gains of the past 20 years by improving access to essential services for Afghan citizens, promoting economic growth, fighting corruption and the narcotics trade, improving health and education service delivery, supporting women’s empowerment, enhancing conflict resolution mechanisms, and bolstering Afghan civil society and independent media.  As the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan and a brighter future for the Afghan people.


Imposing Sanctions on Two Burmese State-Owned Enterprises (US Department of State)

The Burmese military regime continues to ignore the will of the people of Burma to restore the country’s path to democracy. Instead of acceding to the clear aspirations of its citizens, the regime has intensified its violent crackdown, killing more than 650 people, including many children, and detaining more than 3,200 others since February 1.

Today, the United States is taking further action to restrict the regime’s access to key economic resources by designating two state-owned enterprises that benefit the regime as it engages in violence against the people of Burma. Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE) and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise (MPE) are being designated pursuant to Executive Order 14014, for being a political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of the Government of Burma.

Our action today reinforces our message to the military that the United States will continue to target specific funding channels and promote accountability for the coup and related violence. We will continue to support the people of Burma in their efforts to reject this coup, and we call on the military regime to cease violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore Burma’s path to democracy.


AI Strategies and Autonomous Vehicles Development (CSIS)

James Andrew Lewis, Eugenia Lostri

The transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) dominates headlines.


USA/Africa – The Great Cities Partnership (CSIS)

Judd Devermont

A USG Initiative to Support Thriving, Green, and Resilient Urban Centers in Africa


China – A Dark Spot for the Solar Energy Industry: Forced Labor in Xinjiang (CSIS)

William Reinsch

In February, the CSIS Scholl Chair wrote about the moral conflict between pursuing climate change mitigation objectives and adhering to the rules-based trading system.


Chad – Déby’s Dead. What’s Next for Chad and the Sahel? (CSIS)

Judd Devermont

Chadian president Idriss Déby Itno, who grabbed power in 1990 in a rebellion, died this past weekend from wounds incurred during a battle with rebels, injecting uncertainty and turmoil into the key U.S. and European counterterrorism partner.


French A400M completes helicopter-refueling drills (Defense News)

France has recently completed a series of test flights to move forward with certification of the A400M’s capability to refuel helicopters during flight, day and night.


USA/Europe – U.S. military nudges European allies on countering small drones (Defense News)

The U.S. military is trying to push its European allies to boost their capabilities against small unmanned aerial vehicles, as Western forces absorb lessons from the conflict last year in Nagorno-Karabakh, dubbed the first true “drone war.”


US bombers could go back on alert if ICBMs are curtailed, top general says (Defense News)

If the Defense Department is forced to get rid of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, it will have to move its bombers to alert status to pick up the slack, the head of U.S. Strategic Command said Tuesday.


A cyber tool that started at DARPA moves to Cyber Command (Defense News)

A critical cyber tool, one that could help military commanders make better decisions during cyber operations and has been in development for many years, has officially transitioned to U.S. Cyber Command.

US Navy uses cloud more to get software tools to ships faster (Defense News)

The U.S. Navy’s shipboard network team wants to deliver software to sailors faster. To get there it’s looking to the cloud.

Injective Protocol raises $10M from Pantera Capital, Mark Cuban for its ‘DeFi Robinhood’ (TechCrunch)

Mike Butcher

Back in December last year Injective Protocol launched the testnet for its DeFi protocols for cross-chain derivatives trading, with backing from giant crypto exchange Binance.

Injective Protocol raises $10M from Pantera Capital, Mark Cuban for its ‘DeFi Robinhood’


WayUp’s new dashboard helps employers see where their recruiting process loses diverse candidates (TechCrunch)

Anthony Ha

WayUp started out as a platform to help college graduates find jobs and internships, but over time, it has increasingly focused on helping employers find diverse job candidates. And it recently introduced a new feature to help those employers see exactly where their diversity and inclusion efforts may be falling short.

WayUp’s new dashboard helps employers see where their recruiting process loses diverse candidates


Hustle Fund backs Fintor, which wants to make it easier to invest in real estate (TechCrunch)

Mary Ann Azevedo

Farshad Yousefi and Masoud Jalali used to drive through Palo Alto neighborhoods and marvel at the outrageous home prices. But the drives sparked an idea. They were not in a financial position to purchase a home in those neighborhoods (to be clear, not many people are) either for investment or to live. But what if they could invest in homes in up and coming cities throughout the U.S.?

Hustle Fund backs Fintor, which wants to make it easier to invest in real estate


Leo AR, user-facing marketplace for 3D objects, raises $3 million seed round (TechCrunch)

Jordan Crook

Apple’s introduction of ARKit changed the game for entrepreneurs, not unlike the App Store did on a much, much larger scale back in 2008.

Leo AR, user-facing marketplace for 3D objects, raises $3 million seed round


Synthesia’s AI video generation platform hooks $12.5 million Series A led by FirstMark (TechCrunch)