December 4, 2021

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Department Press Briefing – November 03, 2021

49 min read

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

 

MR PRICE: Good afternoon. Sorry we are starting a few minutes late here.

QUESTION: Welcome back.

MR PRICE: Thank you. It’s good to be back. It’s less good to be back when you arrive back at 2:30 in the morning, but here we are. A couple of things at the top and then happy to take your questions.

First, since the earliest days of this administration, we have talked about – but, more importantly, implemented – a foreign policy that delivers for the American people. In other words, it’s a foreign policy that aims to make life better, easier, safer, for American workers, families, and communities.

It is rooted in the recognition that foreign, economic, and domestic policy are inextricably linked and that domestic competitiveness, national security, and a strong middle class are mutually reinforcing.

And that was precisely the agenda we executed against over the last few days in Italy and the UK.

Just look at the priorities from the trip:

First, in Rome, the President cemented progress on the global minimum tax – a major achievement secured through American, and in this case through presidential leadership, that will help stop a global corporate race to the bottom and improve our capacity to make investments in workers and in communities at home. And earlier today you heard from one of our senior officials offering some more context on the GMT.

Second, we took joint steps with Europe to re-establish historical transatlantic trade flows in steel and aluminum, providing a relief to American companies and to American consumers across the board.

Additionally, we were laser focused on lowering energy prices and securing our supply chains. On the latter, we worked with our partners to ensure stable, secure global supply chains for critical goods, medicine, and technology that the American people and the American economy depend on.

We further advanced the Build Back Better World initiative – the so-called B3W initiative – which promotes a high-standard, climate-friendly global infrastructure around the world. B3W indeed helps our partners overseas, but it also helps American firms and American workers compete globally on every aspect of infrastructure, from the physical to the digital to the health realm as well.

And, of course, in Glasgow we confronted climate change, an existential challenge but also the greatest economic opportunity of our time. And you’ve heard the President make this point repeatedly, including in his remarks yesterday in Glasgow. We can and will create good-paying, union jobs and new industries as we address the climate crisis.

During COP26, President Biden and Secretary Blinken held productive meetings with leaders from around the globe to step up that global ambition and action in tackling the climate crisis.

They demonstrated that the United States is back in the Paris Agreement, back at the table, and back to leading with the power of our example – they demonstrated our commitment to support those from the frontlines of the climate crisis.

We accelerated our progress through diplomacy in a number of ways:

We reached an agreement by more than 100 countries representing 85 percent of the world’s forests to stop deforestation by 2030.

We released the U.S. Long-Term Strategy to outline how we’ll get to a net-zero economy by 2050.

We developed the methane – the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, which included new, robust rules that will reduce emissions, that will cut consumer costs, and support job growth.

We announced more than 100 governments, including some of the world’s biggest emitters, have now joined the Global Methane Pledge.

We created partnerships like Net Zero World, the Clean Energy Demand Initiative, and First Movers Coalition to drive innovation and new technology.

And we established the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, or PREPARE, as the acronym goes, to support climate adaption efforts for more than half a billion people around the world.

This must be a whole-of-society effort – not only from nations around the world, but also the private sector, philanthropies, and others who are dedicating themselves to climate action, including climate activists around the world.

Action by state, local, and tribal governments paired with societal leadership is what propelled America forward and brought down emissions even as we were faced with the task of re-entering the Paris Agreement in the earliest days of this administration – on the first day of this administration.

The President underscored that investing in a clean energy future is an enormous opportunity for every country to create good-paying jobs and spur our economic recovery, which is what his framework will do.

It will be the largest investment in American history to combat the climate crisis.

It will cut emissions by well over one gigaton in 2030.

It will save consumers money on their energy bills.

Provide tax credits to install solar panels and weatherize homes.

Leverage manufacturing credits to ensure U.S. energy is clean and competitive.

And accelerate our shift to electric vehicles and school buses.

This is about jobs. It’s about competitiveness versus complacency, as you heard from the President yesterday from Glasgow. This is about making the world a safer, cleaner, healthier place for children all around the world.

It’s in the interest of every single nation to act and to make a generational investment in our climate resilience and in our workers and communities. That is precisely what the United States is doing and what we will continue to do.

Second, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ambassador William H. Moser as the director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, or OBO. This appointment underscores the importance placed on the mission and the work of OBO to build and operate secure, sustainable, technologically innovative, and resilient diplomatic platforms that are produced by the best in American architecture, construction, and facility management.

Ambassador Moser is a familiar face around OBO as he served as OBO’s principal deputy director from 2015 to 2017, and acting director from 2017 to 2018. He’s held several senior leadership positions as a member of the Senior Foreign Service – including as ambassador to Moldova and Kazakhstan – and has demonstrated leadership and management skills needed to provide the global platform to advance U.S. policy overseas.

We look forward to OBO’s achievements and contributions to U.S. diplomacy under his leadership, and we welcome Ambassador Moser to the job.

So with that, happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, and welcome back. I hope you enjoyed Rome and Glasgow.

QUESTION: Without us.

QUESTION: With what?

QUESTION: Without us.

QUESTION: Yeah, without us. Well, I’m sure that that was an added bonus. (Laughter.)

MR PRICE: Everyone – everyone was welcome. No one was excluded.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Ethiopia, because we understand that Ambassador Feltman is going to be going there, possibly other places. So if I could kind of combine this with Sudan, because they happen to be next to each other, and they’re both in his portfolio. What’s he going to be doing in Ethiopia? Is he going to Sudan? You just put out this joint statement with the Brits, with the Saudis, and the Emiratis. What do you expect out of that, if anything, from the other – mainly the Saudis and the Emiratis, from the others who are on that? And is he going anywhere else?

MR PRICE: Sure. Let me start with Ethiopia, then we’ll move to Sudan. Obviously, a lot of action and activity to speak to.

When it comes to Ethiopia, let me make the point that we are gravely concerned by the escalating violence, by the expansion of the fighting that we’ve seen in northern Ethiopia and in regions throughout the country. We are concerned with the growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state. The safety of U.S. citizens, U.S. Government personnel, their dependents, and the security of our facility remains among our highest priorities, and we note the nationwide state of emergency declared by Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers, and we urge all parties to use restraint, end hostilities, and ensure civilians and their rights are respected.

As the Secretary said just a couple days ago, we have been alarmed by reports of the TPLF takeover in – of Dessie and Kombolcha. Continued fighting only prolongs the humanitarian crisis that is afflicting far too many people in Ethiopia today. All parties – all parties – must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions.

Many of you also saw that Ambassador Feltman delivered remarks at the U.S. Institute for Peace yesterday on Ethiopia, where he made some of these same points.

We are not only engaged in diplomacy ourselves, but we are working with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia, including through action with the UN, the African Union, other relevant partners and bodies as well.

You are correct that Ambassador Feltman will be traveling to Ethiopia on November 4th and November 5th. He will be traveling there because we, as I said before, are increasingly troubled by the expansion of combat operations and intercommunal violence in parts of Ethiopia, and we are closely monitoring the situation. We call on all Ethiopians to commit to peace and resolution of grievances through dialogue. And Ambassador Feltman in his travels there will have an opportunity to continue the discussions that have been ongoing, including with the Ethiopian Government for some time now.

In terms of any follow-on travel, we have confirmed that he’s traveling to Ethiopia tomorrow, November 4th. I don’t have any additional travel to announce at this time, but, of course, we’ll keep you posted if his plans do change.

Let me go on to Sudan because this is also an area that falls under Ambassador Feltman’s remit, and of course, thereto, we have been working concertedly over the past week-plus, and over the weekend we saw a remarkable demonstration of the aspirations of the Sudanese people. We applaud the millions of Sudanese who came out on October 30th. They came out to defend the country’s revolution to make clear that their democratic aspirations have not been abated. They were clear that Sudan’s democratic transition must continue.

We join them. We call for the civilian-led transitional government established under the 2019 Constitutional Declaration to be restored. We are steadfast in standing with Sudan’s people on their path of freedom, peace, and justice. We do regret the loss of life that has occurred in recent days, and we stand in solidarity with the family and friends of those who were killed, those who have been wounded. And we join the Sudanese people in calling for justice and accountability for violations and abuses of human rights.

Matt, you were referred to a joint statement that came out just a few minutes ago. This was a joint statement by the Quad for Sudan. To translate, that is a grouping of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I would like to call your attention to really the crux of the statement. These four countries, the United States included, came together to make clear that, quote, “We call for the full and immediate restoration of its” – Sudan’s – “civilian-led transitional government institutions. We call upon all parties to strive for cooperation and unity in reaching this critical objective.” It goes on to say, “In that vein we encourage the release of all those detained in connection with the recent events and the lifting of the state of emergency.”

As you know, in both Rome and Glasgow, the Secretary had an opportunity to meet with a number of his counterparts. We met with foreign minister – with the Saudi foreign minister. We met with the Emirati foreign minister. We met with others who have a stake in a stable, democratic civilian-led Sudan, and this was the message we’ve heard. So it is not just the United States calling for the immediate restoration of the civilian-led government in Sudan. It is much of the international community that is coming together. In this case, that includes the United Kingdom, but it includes some of Sudan’s regional neighbors and partners, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

We are not alone in this. We are very much united with our allies, with our partners around the world on the imperative of a swift return to democratic governance, a swift return to the civilian-led transition in Sudan, and we will continue to work with our partners to bring that about.

We also know even as we push this forward that failure to do so, failure to restore a civilian-led government in Sudan will only further isolate Sudan from the international community. We’ve already talked about the suspension of our own emergency support funding – some $700 million that were suspended in the immediate aftermath of the military takeover last week, but beyond that more than 4 billion in international assistance from bilateral partners and international financial institutions, and at least 19 billion in international debt relief is already at risk.

We and, as I said before, the broader international community are committed to supporting the Sudanese people and their legitimate aspirations for freedom, for peace, and for justice as well.

QUESTION: But Ned, just on these two countries in – specifically, the administration – and just in terms of the administration and not the Saudis, the Emiratis, or anyone else, but just this administration, you guvs have been warning both of these countries for months now about against – leaders in these countries against taking these actions. You had a parade of officials – a mini parade of officials go through both, including Samantha Power, including Ambassador Feltman himself who was in Khartoum just hours before this coup happened. You have now suspended 700 million in assistance to Sudan. You have kicked AGOA or are about to kick Ethiopia out of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and they don’t seem to be listening. Is there any – do you have any concern that your message is not being heeded or that you’re being ignored?

MR. PRICE: Matt, obviously, I don’t want to group Sudan and Ethiopia and treat them as one and the same. These are very distinct cases.

QUESTION: I don’t want you to treat them the same, but they happen to be right next to each other and they happen to be the Horn of Africa which is the portfolio of Ambassador Feltman.

MR. PRICE: Well, and it’s precisely why Ambassador Feltman was in Sudan in the first place. He has been a frequent visitor to Sudan in recent weeks to work on a number of issues, including the GERD, but also our concern for the viability of the civilian-led, transitional government given some of the indications that the international community had seen in the weeks and the days preceding the military takeover that something was afoot there.

So again, I don’t want you to confuse – I don’t want you to think this relationship is causal. He was there because – because the world —

QUESTION: No, no, no. I am not blaming it on him. I’m wondering – no, I’m not saying it’s your fault or his fault or whoever; I’m just asking you if you are concerned that the message that you have been delivering to both – in both of these countries over the course of the last several months hasn’t been listened to.

MR. PRICE: These are difficult challenges. These are difficult challenges, again, to take each separately because these are separate challenges.

In Sudan, the pace of the democratic transition has been a source of frustration for some. The fact that Ambassador Feltman has been such regular visitor there, had been such a regular visitor, is indicative of some of the challenges that the international community recognized the civilian-led transitional government was encountering. We have been there. Ambassador Feltman has been there. We’ve spoken out. We have engaged in private diplomacy to indicate our support for the civilian-led transitional government.

Now of course, the military, as we saw the other week, had other plans in mind. But it is notable that you have seen the international community, including some of Sudan’s most important regional neighbors swiftly condemn these anti-democratic actions, call for the immediate restoration of the civilian-led transitional government, and have made clear in no uncertain terms where they stand. And they stand with the United States, they stand with the international community, in making clear that the military’s takeover must not be allowed to stand.

Now of course, Ethiopia is a separate challenge. This is something that we have been hard at work on from the earliest days of this administration. The violence, of course, predates this administration. Tomorrow I believe, November 4th, marks one year of conflict in Tigray. It’s one year of devastating implications for the people of Tigray. In recent months, in recent weeks, we’ve seen the violence escalate. We’ve seen the violence spread to other regions. But here too, we have been working very closely with our partners, including those in the African Union and UN, to make clear to all of the parties – the Ethiopian Government, the TPLF, Eritrea – that these hostilities must come to an end and the path forward lies in diplomacy, the path forward lies in negotiations that should start immediately and without preconditions to put an end to the violence, but importantly, to ensure that the people of Ethiopia, the people of Tigray, have access to the humanitarian supplies, the humanitarian assistance that they so desperately need.

And when it comes to that humanitarian assistance, no country has done more than the United States to provide the people of Ethiopia with these life-saving assistance and supplies. We’ll continue to do that, but it is also why, as we made clear yesterday, that any effort to hinder humanitarian assistance, to hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid will be met with a significant response in using all appropriate tools. And yesterday, we spoke of another tool that may be called upon on January 1st if we do not see a change in conduct when it comes to human rights abuses and the provision of humanitarian aid and access.

Yes.

QUESTION: Ned, on Sudan, did you invite Egypt to sign on the statement, and what was the response? And why they are not (inaudible)?

MR. PRICE: So this was a statement that put forward by the Quad for Sudan, and the Quad for Sudan includes us, it includes our British partners, our Emirati partners, and our Saudi partners. Sudan is an issue that we have discussed with a number of countries in the region and well beyond. We have been in contact with our counterparts in Egypt as well, knowing that the more we speak and act with one voice the more our message – the clearer our message will be to those in Sudan, our affirmative message that we stand with the Sudanese people, including the millions who took to the streets over the last weekend – who took to the streets peacefully, I should emphasize – but also to General Burhan and those behind this military takeover that their actions will not be tolerated, that the international community will not stand by unless they return Sudan to civilian rule and its transitional government.

The military does not have the ability to select Sudan’s civilian leaders. That is very clear. The 2019 transitional constitution is very clear on that front, and that’s what we’ll continue to stand by.

QUESTION: But why Egypt didn’t sign on this statement?

MR PRICE: You’ll have to ask the Egyptians.

QUESTION: Did you ask them to sign?

MR PRICE: You’ll have to ask the Egyptians for a – for their position on this. What I can tell you is this was put forward by the Quad for Sudan. The Quad for Sudan includes us, it includes our British partners, our Emirati partners, and our Saudi partners. There are a number of countries who – around the world who are in complete and total agreement with the United States and with these countries, with other countries, that the military’s takeover is unacceptable and that it must be immediately reversed.

Again, this was a statement by the Quad for Sudan. You have heard other countries speak out. You have heard other countries make that message very clear, but I’m not here to speak for other countries; I’m here to speak for the United States.

Yes, Francesco.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) has there been any direct engagement from the administration – Ambassador Feltman or anyone else – with the militaries, with General Burhan, in the last days? And do you sense that there is some path, some openness to going back to the status quo and – from the military right now? Do you have some openness? Do you see some now, some openness?

MR PRICE: So I will say that there has been engagement from individuals in this building. Of course, we read out Secretary Blinken’s discussion with Prime Minister Hamdok. There has been engagement from others in this building to the Sudanese military to make very clear where the United States, where the international community stands. I wouldn’t want to characterize those discussions, but we have left no ambiguity whatsoever about what the international community is very clear that needs to happen, and that is a swift restoration of the civilian-led transitional government.

We’ve been very clear about the potential implications and costs if this military takeover is not reversed. We have already taken action to that end in terms of suspending the $700 million in bilateral assistance, and as I said before, there are billions upon billions at stake in terms of debt relief, in terms of financing from international lending institutions if the Sudanese military is unwilling to relent. But this is something that we are working at day in, day out with our – with Sudanese interlocutors but also with partners in the region and well beyond.

Said.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Francesco’s point. Could you explain to us the Israeli role with the Sudanese? Because there was a delegation that visited with Burhan, General Burhan and so on, and today – just now, as a matter of fact – an Israeli website, Walla!, claims that you guys have asked Israel to help and sort of reverse the coup – have you done that? Are you in touch with the Israelis to basically convince the Sudanese that they should back that or Burhan should backtrack?

MR PRICE: We have been in touch at very senior levels with very senior interlocutors throughout the region and beyond, and that includes with Israel.

QUESTION: Right, but – Israel – includes Israel?

MR PRICE: That includes with Israel. But again, I’m going to leave that – those diplomatic discussions in diplomatic channels. But we have discussed this with virtually everyone with a stake in a democratic, stable, peaceful Sudan, and that is just about everyone in the region and many countries well beyond the region.

Simon.

QUESTION: I wanted just to drill down specifically on – there’s talk of Prime Minister Hamdok being restored to his position. Is that sufficient for the international acceptance that you were kind of talking about?

And you mentioned the protesters in Sudan on Saturday. A lot of those people out on the streets, they’re – rather than calling for the status quo ante, they are actually saying these coup leaders have breached the trust of this transition and the military should fully withdraw from Sudanese politics. Is that a realistic aim? And would it be sufficient just to return to where things were before?

MR PRICE: What we are calling for and what you’ve seen our partners call for, including in the context of the Quad statement that came out today, is a restoration of the 2019 constitutional declaration. And what that established was a civilian-led government, a civilian-led government that worked in partnership with the Sudanese military. I’m not going to offer a roadmap from here about what that restoration might look like in practice. What we are focused on is a restoration of that underlying framework, the 2019 constitutional declaration. That in turn will dictate what is and what is not acceptable because it is a document that is Sudanese in origin and it is – has been endorsed and has been the blueprint for the past several years. That’s what we continue to stand by; that’s what the Sudanese people continue to stand by, including with the massive demonstrations – peaceful demonstrations – that we saw in Sudan over the weekend.

Anything else on Sudan? Yes, Abbie.

QUESTION: On Ethiopia.

MR PRICE: On Ethiopia. Sudan, anything? Sure, Nazira.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MR PRICE: Afghanistan? Let’s – we’ll come back to that. Great, Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Given the escalating levels of violence in Ethiopia, is there any change to the status of the U.S. embassy or any consideration of authorized departure?

MR PRICE: So, as I’ve said, the safety, security of American citizens in Ethiopia is our – is among our highest priorities. We are always looking at the security situation to determine what is appropriate given the conditions on the ground. Our embassy in Addis remains open. It remains operational. As you may know, on November 3rd, today, we did update the travel advisory for Ethiopia to Level Four. What that means is we are advising U.S. citizens do not travel to Ethiopia. We are recommending that U.S. citizens in Ethiopia consider departing now using commercial options that remain available. We understand that commercial activity continues, commercial air traffic continues in and out of Addis. Those options remain available and we are urging American citizens to look into those options.

On November 2nd, yesterday, we released a security alert to U.S. citizens advising them that U.S. embassy personnel are currently restricted from traveling outside the city limits of Addis Ababa. The security alert also strongly suggests that U.S. citizens seriously reconsider travel to Ethiopia and those who are in Ethiopia consider making preparations to leave. So, of course, the security situation has evolved even over the past 24 hours, and today we did issue that Level Four travel advisory urging Americans to depart the country now using commercial options.

Beyond the messaging that our embassy in Addis is putting forward, we are also reaching out to the diaspora community here in the United States and around the world to ensure that – to ensure wide distribution of these messages when it comes to U.S. citizens who may be in Ethiopia. We will continue to provide the latest and the best information we have to the American citizen community in Ethiopia going forward.

QUESTION: On Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Can I just —

MR PRICE: Sure. Ethiopia?

QUESTION: Wait, wait, hold on a second. Didn’t you guys go to authorized departure for families and nonessential – non-emergency personnel last week, like on Wednesday?

MR PRICE: We’ll double-check, but obviously we do make these public. I don’t believe that’s out there, but we did issue a Level Four travel advisory today.

QUESTION: Ned, I want to just ask: You mentioned the United Nations and African Union. What do you think they could do to help the crisis in Ethiopia? Would the U.S. support a Security Council meeting on Ethiopia or is the U.S. supporting one? And – or what can neighboring countries do? You mentioned Eritrea. Are there others? What would you have those organizations do?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to Eritrea and the role that Eritrean forces have been playing in Ethiopia, we’ve been very clear for some time about the urgent need for Eritrean forces to withdraw from Ethiopia. They have been contributing to the violence, contributing to the instability, contributing to the increasing humanitarian emergency that has afflicted far too many Ethiopians in Tigray and in regions beyond Tigray at this point.

We have – when it comes to Ethiopia more broadly, we’ve been working in lockstep with the African Union well before the recent violence escalated. The African Union has an important role to play in this; the United Nations has an important role to play in this. When we were in New York City for the UN General Assembly in September, there were a number of discussions on the increasing threats to peace and stability and security in Ethiopia. And again, we’re exploring all options that may be appropriate given the actions, given inaction of the various parties in Ethiopia.

Above all, we are calling on the Ethiopian Government, we are calling on the TPLF, we are calling on Eritrean forces to withdraw. We are calling on all parties to engage in dialogue, to use restraint, to end hostilities, and to ensure civilians and their rights are protected. We have a number of tools at our disposal, both positive and negative incentives for various parties. We’ve put some of those on the table, we’ve utilized some of those, and we will continue to calibrate our response based on what we see, based on what we don’t see in the days and the weeks going forward.

QUESTION: Iran?

MR PRICE: Iran. Anything else on Ethiopia? Iran.

QUESTION: Yeah, Iran just announced that they – the negotiations in Vienna will resume in – on November 29. Can you confirm that you will be there not directly, but indirectly to be part of those negotiations?

MR PRICE: Well, we understand that the European External Action Service, of course, has been coordinating with the Iranians on their stated intent to resume negotiations before the end of this month. This appears to have just taken place. But we do welcome the EU’s announcement that they have coordinated with all participants and that talks on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA will resume for a 7th round on Monday, November 29th.

Special Envoy Malley will, again, lead U.S. participation in these talks. We’ve said this many times before, but we believe it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by closing the relatively small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of June when the 6th round concluded.

We believe that if the Iranians are serious, we can manage to do that in relatively short order. But we’ve also been clear, including as this pause has dragged on for some time, that this window of opportunity will not be open forever and that – especially, if Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps. Together with the IAEA, we’ve expressed our concern about a number of those steps in recent days and recent weeks.

So we certainly hope that when the Iranian delegation returns to Vienna later this month, they do so ready to negotiate, they do so ready to negotiate quickly and in good faith as well.

Said.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue.

MR PRICE: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Very quickly, Ned. There’s been a letter signed by 200 members of – Republican members of Congress. There’s a great deal of push around town from pressure groups and so on for you guys not to go through the reopening of the consulate. Can you put this issue to rest and state the American commitment or the State Department’s commitment to re-opening the Jerusalem consulate?

MR PRICE: Said, we have been very clear about this in May. We were very clear in October. We don’t have anything new to offer.

QUESTION: All right. So the consulate will reopen at one point?

MR PRICE: We’ve been very clear about our intentions. You’ve heard this from the Secretary a number of times now.

QUESTION: Yeah. A couple more issues. There’s also been a report by the United Nations that says that home demolitions, Palestinian home demolitions by the Israeli occupation forces, increased by 21 percent. Do you have any comment on that?

MR PRICE: We’ve also been clear on this issue.

QUESTION: Right.

MR PRICE: We believe it is critical for the parties to refrain from unilateral action that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. That certainly includes home demolitions.

QUESTION: And lastly, your favorite topic: settlements. I know that you guys gave a very strong statement and so on, but then the Israelis, they come around and in fact the prime minister’s office, they claim that you are not going to do anything; you’re not going to pressure Israel to – you will – that will be the extent of it, just the statement that is strongly – it’s not even condemning it, but strongly opposing the settlement process. Now, I know Mr. Sullivan has met or is meeting in Israel with – on Iran, but also on construction. Can you update us on the latest, or your latest position on this?

MR PRICE: Well, we have stated our position on this in recent days. Our position has not changed. You heard me discuss our position on steps, unilateral steps, that exacerbate tensions and that put a negotiated two-state solution further out of reach. We continue to believe that settlement activity falls in that category.

QUESTION: Hold on. Can we just – last week there was a – I realize you weren’t here, but there was a delegation or at least one guy from Israel who came to explain or to give you further explanation about the designations of the Palestinian – six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. Other than saying that you met with him and you received his information, can you say if you’ve gone over it and what you make of the information that he presented and whether you agree with the designations?

MR PRICE: I said last week that we look forward to receiving the delegation, we look forward to hearing additional details underlying these designations. There were discussions last week. We appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from our Israeli partners on this. But beyond that, I wouldn’t want to go into the details of it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Well, so does that mean that you have no position at all on the designations?

MR PRICE: It means that I’m not going to go into discussions that were private and that may have included —

QUESTION: No, no. All right. Forget about the discussions. Do you have – do you have an opinion one way or the other on the Israeli designation of these six NGOs as terrorist organizations?

MR PRICE: I don’t have an update for you. We’ve been very clear about —

QUESTION: So you don’t?

MR PRICE: We’ve been very clear about the importance of a vibrant civil society around the world.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MR PRICE: The United States will continue to support that in each and every context. But I don’t have an update for you regarding —

QUESTION: I get it, but they – but you do understand that’s an extremely broad answer to an extremely specific question about —

MR PRICE: Your specific question implicates private diplomatic discussions that may well have —

QUESTION: No, it doesn’t.

MR PRICE: — included classified information as well.

QUESTION: I want to know if the U.S. has a – look, a lot of your allies in Europe have come out and taken a stance about these designations. Why don’t you? Are you just not ready to yet? Will you never?

MR PRICE: We are – Matt, I don’t want to say never. What I will say is that we just don’t have an update to offer for you now.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Ned, Secretary Blinken has met in Glasgow with the Lebanese prime minister and with the UAE foreign minister on Lebanon to reconcile between Lebanon and the UAE countries. What did he – was he able to achieve anything on this? And what are you working on specifically?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to Lebanon and its relations with its Gulf neighbors, we urge that all diplomatic channels remain open between the parties to ensure meaningful dialogue on the pressing issues facing Lebanon. You’re right that we had an opportunity yesterday in Glasgow to meet with Prime Minister Mikati. We had an opportunity yesterday to meet with the Emirati foreign minister. We had an opportunity the day before that to meet with the Saudi foreign minister. And in each and every one of those discussions, as indicated by the readouts and the tweets that we released, there was a discussion of Lebanon, and the crux of that discussion was the challenges, the significant challenges, including the economic challenges and hardships that Lebanon faces. And the United States continues to work with our partners, including our Saudi partners, our Emirati partners, in this case our French partners who have also played a significant role here, and in close coordination with Prime Minister Mikati and the Lebanese Government to see to it that we can do all we can to support the Lebanese people, to support their humanitarian needs and their growing humanitarian needs in light of the economic challenges that Lebanon faces. So again, we’d refer you to these – to our Gulf partners to explain and to speak to their positions, but our position is that diplomatic channels should remain open if we are to seek to improve the humanitarian conditions of the Lebanese people, seek to improve the economic and broader challenges that Lebanon faces today.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on this. You know how this crisis exploded. There was basically a statement by the minister of information before he became minister where he said that the war in Yemen was nihilistic or futile, or something like that, and the Houthis were defending themselves. Do you agree or disagree with the premise of his statement? Do you call for his resignation, and do you feel that this was blown way out of proportion, for instance?

MR PRICE: We aren’t going to offer a position on his employment. What we can say – what I can say – is that the notion that the Houthis have been anything but a destabilizing force and a force that has inflicted additional hardship on the people of Yemen – that is not an idea that we recognize. We have been very clear in condemning the Houthis’ assault, including their ongoing assault on Marib, other parts of Yemen as well. The Houthis, despite their claims to the contrary, have been a primary cause of the hardship that the people of Yemen face today. There have been credible proposals put on the table, proposals that the Republic of Yemen Government, proposals that Saudi authorities have also been behind that – on which the Houthis have so far been unwilling to engage.

So I will leave it to the Lebanese Government to speak to the status of any ministers that may or may not be within the coalition, but when it comes to Houthi activity, when it comes to Houthi conduct, we’ve been very clear about where the United States stands.

Kylie.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up —

QUESTION: Do you call for his resignation or do you support his resignation to solve the problem?

MR PRICE: We believe that diplomatic relations, that channels of communication between Lebanon and its partners should remain open. We support steps that help advance that.

Kylie.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to Iran. Sorry to return to something we already discussed, but we’re just processing this news. So I’m just wondering, when these talks resume at the end of November, is it the U.S. understanding that they’re going to resume where they left off or that you guys are going to have to go back to ground zero given there’s new Iranian leadership?

MR PRICE: We’ve been very clear that the talks, if they are to succeed, if we are to close the remaining areas of disagreement, they should start precisely where the sixth round of talks left off. As you alluded to yourself, this announcement is just emanating today, so we’re not in a position to offer too much beyond that. But we have been unambiguous when it comes to our position that there was tremendous progress achieved in rounds one through six of these talks in Vienna. It would be neither productive nor wise to take up from any other position from where we left off in June at the conclusion of the sixth round.

QUESTION: And just one more question on that. So I know you guys have said there’s no exact timeline for when parties can no longer return to the deal or it’ll be useless, but Rob Malley said I think earlier – or last month that there’s no chronological clock, it’s a technological clock at some time. So how far do the Iranians have to go technically for the deal to no longer be useful in the eyes of the U.S.?

MR PRICE: What we don’t want to do is to provide the Iranians or anyone else with a blueprint as to how they may push the envelope. We’ve been quite clear – Rob Malley has made this quite clear, Secretary Blinken has made this clear, the President has made this clear – we still believe there is a window in which we can achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We still believe that’s viable; we still believe that is in our national interest, precisely because it would once again impose permanent and verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program and it would foreclose Iran’s ability to ever acquire a nuclear weapon. But we’ve also made the point that at some point, Iran’s – the advancements Iran has made, the know-how that Iran has garnered throughout this process will make a return to the JCPOA as it was written and finalized in 2015 and implemented in 2016 – not worth it as a proposition for the United States and our partners. We are not there yet. Rob has made the point, as you pointed out, that these are assessments based on our understanding of a number of factors: our understanding of what the Iranians are – have been doing in the interim, our understanding of what the so called breakout time may be – that is to say, the time it would take Iran to produce the fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon if they chose to pursue one.

We are continuing with our partners – with our partners in the P5+1, with our allies and partners in the Middle East and beyond – to compare notes on Iran’s status, on Iran’s progress. And we will make a determination based on what is in our national interests and what’s in the national security interests of our allies and partners.

QUESTION: But Ned, this meeting is going to happen just four or five days after the Board of Governors, the BOG meeting at the IAEA. There had been a push ahead of today’s announcement to get the board of – the governors to actually censure Iran or to bring a resolution of – if not condemnation, of pretty much extreme disapproval for their activities that have been going on outside of the deal and in violation of other commitments that they’ve made to the IAEA. Is that something you guys are prepared to forego now? Will you seek to censure them at the Board of Governors before the indirect talks began in Vienna?

MR PRICE: So I don’t want to get ahead of the Board of Governors. What I can say is that we have the full – we have full confidence in the IAEA. We have full confidence in Director General Grossi of the IAEA —

QUESTION: Yeah, but this doesn’t have to do with the actual IAEA. This has to do with the Board of Governors, which is something that you’re on even though you’re no longer in the deal. It’s something that – and if you ask the director general, as you do, I know, he says, “This isnt’ up to me. This is up to the members.” So it is up to the members to decide whether they’re going to bring a resolution to censure Iran. And this meeting is going to happen on – I think on the 24th or the 25th, which is four or five days before the – now we understand the Vienna talks are going to begin. So is the U.S. interested in pursuing a resolution of condemnation or censure ahead of the resumption?

MR PRICE: I was speaking to our full faith and confidence in the IAEA because they too, as you know, have produced reports on Iran’s activities in recent months. We have expressed our concern at those reports. We have made clear that Iran’s continued nuclear escalations are unconstructive, that they are inconsistent with the stated goal that Iran has put forward of seeking to return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. We’ve also been very clear that Iran’s nuclear provocations and escalations won’t provide Iran with any additional negotiating leverage when talks resume.

But as you know, the Board of Governors is set to meet. I don’t want to get ahead of the Board of Governors, but we’ve made very clear where we stand on those escalations and our concern with them.

Nazira?

QUESITON: Thank you very much Ned. That’s a good opportunity. I have a few question, but may be a short answer. Number one, do you have any update toward the Taliban government? And the second question, what is the status of the Afghan Embassy in Washington, D.C.? And the third question, the passport agency in Kabul issuing passport, are these recognized by the United Nation, er, the United States? Sorry. And the last question, the P-2, SIV visa. Some people still in Afghanistan left behind. They try to leave Afghanistan, but they are difficulty. The P2 visa, how long is going to take? Does the State Department started the processing? Because some people, they went to the third country, but still they have a lot of difficulty.

MR. PRICE: Thank you for those. Let me see if I can address all of them. You asked about SIVs and P2s and the processing. Let me actually take a step back and provide an update there on our efforts to facilitate the departure of those to whom we have a special commitment. And that, of course, includes American citizens. That includes lawful permanent residents. That includes Afghans who have worked for and with us over the years. As of today, we have assisted in the departure of 377 U.S. citizens and 279 lawful permanent residents. That’s in addition to a number of Afghans to whom we have a special commitment. There have been two additional flights, two flights yesterday. Again, our goal is to routinize these operations, so that those who wish to leave Afghanistan have additional options to do so. The United States will continue to directly support the efforts of American citizens; of lawful permanent residents; of Afghans to whom we have a special commitment to do that, again, if they so choose.

That gets us to your question regarding the production of passports. We welcome the production and provision of travel documents. We know that travel documents are an important – in many cases a prerequisite to travel, including across borders. We know this is important for – we’ve heard from the Taliban that it’s important that people be documented. We know from our partners in the region as well the priority they place on ensuring that those who transit through their countries have appropriate travel documents, and that is why we do welcome the production of passports.

We are continuing to process SIV applicants, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, at all stages of the application process. When it comes to SIV holders, those who have completed the process, we have been able to work with a number of them to facilitate their departure from Afghanistan if they have chosen to do so. But again, for everyone at every single stage of the process, we are continuing to support them. And for those who are beyond a certain stage in the process, we are looking at processing alternatives, knowing that we are no longer able to provide consular access and consular support on the ground in Kabul, although we do have a team on the ground in Doha that – where we are working many of these issues as well.

When it comes to the Afghan government, we’ve been watching very closely their conduct. Because the point we’ve always made is that it is not a question of what we hear from them; it is a question of what we see them do. And this goes back to some of the very issues we were speaking to before. The United States, but also our allies and our partners around the world, have set forth a series of expectations that we need to see from the Taliban, that we would need to see from any future Afghan government. And among those expectations are freedom of movement and safe passage for those who do wish to leave Afghanistan, to go back to your question; but also the protection of human rights, including for women and girls, ethnic minorities, and others in Afghanistan; the facilitation of humanitarian aid, humanitarian access, not standing in the way of much-needed supplies and assistance for the people of Afghanistan.

And on that score, the United States, as you may know, just a couple days ago announced an additional $174 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing our total humanitarian assistance in 2021 to some $474 million, as I recall, some $4.2 billion since 2001.

So we will continue to watch very closely as the Taliban does or does not live up to its commitments, and we’ve also been very clear that we want to see a future government in Afghanistan that is inclusive, that represents the will of the people of Afghanistan – and again, that importantly upholds the rights of all of Afghanistan’s citizens.

Missy.

QUESTION: Afghan embassy? Last one.

MR PRICE: I –

QUESTION: What’s the status of the Afghan embassy in Washington?

MR PRICE: I don’t believe there’s been any change to that status. Missy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Ned, I’d like to ask you about the NSO Group, the entity designation. What can you say about what the State Department or the U.S. Government knows about Americans or people with U.S. numbers being hacked or being targeted for hacking as part of the NSO or the other firm – I believe it’s called Candiru? And there was a report about – a report from Israel saying that the Biden administration gave the Israeli Government only an hour advance notice of this designation. Is that true? And it sort of gets to the question I’m hoping you can address: What in – what does – what can you say about the Israeli Government’s knowledge of the activities that NSO was conducting, including against people who the United States has advocated for in terms of political activists and human rights defenders, and all of that? Thank you.

MR PRICE: Sure. So broadly speaking, let me just level set and make sure everyone is following the issue you referred to. This is that today the U.S. Government added four entities – four foreign companies, I should say – to the Department of Commerce’s entity list for engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. This follows an October 2021 interim final rule published by the Department of Commerce establishing controls of certain items that can be used for malicious cyber activities. The four entities are located in Israel, Russia, and Singapore.

When it comes to the two companies that you mention, the NSO Group and Candiru, they were added to the entity list because investigative information has shown that these companies developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers. NSO Group developed and supplied this tool – so Pegasus, as it’s known – to governments that used it to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy personnel.

It’s important to note that we are not taking actions against any countries in which the four entities are located or the governments themselves. This is about the conduct of these private companies.

When it comes to the notifications that were involved in this action, look, I don’t want to speak to or discuss private diplomatic conversations other than to note that, as is the case with all announcements of this kind, partner governments are notified in advance and that was the case here.

QUESTION: Okay, just – the first question was: Do you know – can you say whether or not the U.S. Government has knowledge that Americans, including allegedly Rob Malley, were targeted by NSO?

MR PRICE: I think you would understand why we just wouldn’t entertain that question from here. But as I said before, investigative information had led the U.S. Government to conclude that these private entities should be listed under the Department of Commerce Entity List and we did confirm and announce that today.

QUESTION: What punitive measures are we likely to see against Israel? Will there be any punitive measures?

MR PRICE: So there are punitive measures against these companies and the inclusion of these companies on the Entity List is itself a powerful tool. The Entity List is used by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security to restrict the export, re-export, and in-country transfer of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations to persons, and that includes to individuals, to organizations, to companies reasonably believed to be involved, have been involved, or pose a significant risk to being or becoming involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. So it does impose additional restrictions on these entities, yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, you say that this is not – obviously, is not imposed on a country, but NSO Group has export licenses granted by the Israeli military. You’ve got a really close ally that has granted licenses to this company. Do you expect them to take action in response to these – the investigative findings that you’ve got here, and have you shared those with Israel or the Israeli military?

MR PRICE: Well, look, Israel of course is a steadfast friend, steadfast partner. In that vein, we have raised this conduct with – of these companies with the Government of Israel and we look forward to further discussions with the Government of Israel about ensuring that these companies’ products are not used to target human rights defenders, journalists, and others who should be protected.

QUESTION: But if you ask Russia to take action against entities in their country that are carrying out ransomware and cyberattacks on the U.S., why wouldn’t you ask Israel to do the same thing?

MR PRICE: Well, I think in this case, you’re referring to criminals. Private criminal actors in Russia. And we have been very clear that every responsible country has an obligation to take action against criminals operating within their territory.

In this case, we are talking about conduct of private companies that we see as contrary to our national security interests. We have had conversations with our Israeli partners about the conduct of the NSO Group. We will continue to have those conversations in private to make clear our concerns. Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) ..question from Brazil. Brazil has announced new goals and commitments on the climate issues (inaudible) in the COP. Could this new announcement can help to improve the relations between Brazil and the U.S. and advance partnerships and create new partnerships, or the U.S. are waiting more bold movements and effective results from Brazil to advance?

MR PRICE: Thank you. So in the runup to COP26, including in the Climate Summit that the President convened some weeks ago and since, we have seen a number of bold commitments from countries around the world. The United States in our own commitments by announcing that we would reduce our emissions by – between 50 and 52 percent by 2030, our goal was not only to help stave off the existential threat of climate change, but to have a catalytic impact and to galvanize action on the part of governments around the world.

We know that countries that are among the world’s leading emitters, the United States certainly falls in that category, Brazil certainly falls in that category. We have a special responsibility to do what we can, again, to combat the climate crisis, but also to demonstrate leadership and to demonstrate action. So commitments are important. Follow-through is also important.

I suspect that as COP26 continues for the next week and a half or so, we will hear additional commitments from countries around the world, knowing that this is what the President has called the decisive decade. The action that we take now or the inaction that we see now will be determinative in terms of our ability or not to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the level at which scientists have told us is absolutely imperative if we are to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

So we welcome announcements from countries around the world. We continue to urge our partners to raise their climate ambition, knowing that only by doing so will we be able to make good on the commitments that were put forward in Paris some years ago now, but even more importantly, to stave off the worst effects of climate change, knowing that this is the decisive decade.

QUESTION: One more question about Afghanistan, please?

MR PRICE: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Blinken mentioned that President Ghani has been agreed with him to hand over the power to the Taliban government without fight. But when Ghani escapes, everything got change. If it was agreed before that Taliban come to the power, then what is the different – I don’t know, you got my —

MR PRICE: I do. I do. So this is something that we have spoken to. Secretary Blinken has spoken to this. Our former Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has also spoken to this. But in the days prior to the collapse of the Afghan Government that was precipitated by President Ghani’s decision to flee the country, we were engaged in intense diplomacy with our Afghan partners, with the Ghani government, but also with the Taliban on a means by which to stave off what we feared could be massive violence if the Taliban’s military offensive continued.

And so there was – there were discussions, and there was a framework in place that we believe could have transitioned power to a government that included the Taliban, but was also inclusive and representative of the Afghan people. To us, that would have been a means by which to protect some of the important gains over the past 20 years – including for Afghanistan’s people, its women, its minorities – while staving off the potential for violence.

Now, of course, with the fall of the Afghan Government, with the steady advances of the Taliban, that diplomacy, those discussions became for naught. But again, our emphasis on seeing to it that any future Afghan Government respects the rights of its people, is representative of the will of its people, our emphasis on that has not abated at all. It continues to be a guiding principle for our engagement with the Taliban. It continues to be a guiding principle in our discussions with allies and partners. And you’ve heard that same message put forward from our allies and partners to the Taliban as well.

We’ll take a final quick question.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: On Turkey, officials have reportedly say Turkey brought the S-400 missile batteries to Incirlik Air Base, where the U.S. and NATO – and NATO forces are. Can you confirm that, and what’s your comment on it?

MR PRICE: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear the first part of your question that Turkey —

QUESTION: Brought the S-400 missile system to the —

QUESTION: Deployed.

MR PRICE: Ah, got it. Got it. Look, we’ve been quite clear on our position regarding the S-400 and Turkey. As you know, President Biden and President Erdogan has – had an opportunity within the past couple of days in Rome to have a bilateral discussion. President Biden reaffirmed our defense partnership and Turkey’s importance as a NATO Ally. But in that meeting, the President also noted concerns over Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system. So we’ve made our concerns with this system very clear. We’ve made the implications of that possession of the S-400 very clear as well, including in the context of the F-35 program.

QUESTION: Okay, and Ned, just – can I correct something that I said, just for transparency?

MR PRICE: This is a welcome change.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter.) So it was – sorry, I said – I think I said in a question earlier that Addis – that Embassy Addis had gone on – it’s Khartoum that was —

MR PRICE: Ah.

QUESTION: — went to authorized departure last Wednesday.

MR PRICE: That’s correct. That’s correct.

QUESTION: Not Addis.

MR PRICE: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR PRICE: Okay. Thank you very much, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:45 p.m.)

More from: Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
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    Over the past 10 years, the number of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime cases has generally ranged between 23,000 and 30,000 each year. The compliance actions the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) used to address these cases primarily involved either on-site investigations or conciliations that seek a resolution between the employer and the worker by phone. Back wages due to workers for FLSA minimum wage and overtime violations increased from $129 million in fiscal year 2010 to $226 million in fiscal year 2019. Although the number of WHD investigators decreased by 25 percent from 2010 to 2019, WHD maintained its casework by using procedural flexibilities, such as not investigating low-priority complaints and by distributing work across offices to balance workloads. From fiscal years 2014 through 2019, most of WHD's FLSA compliance actions were targeted at priority industries—those WHD identified as low-wage, high violation industries that employ workers who are unlikely to file wage or overtime complaints, such as food services. In 2011, WHD developed a list of 20 priority industries, and encouraged its regional and district offices to focus on these industries by setting and monitoring performance goals as part of its annual enforcement planning process. The percentage of FLSA compliance actions involving the priority industries increased from 75 to 80 percent from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, according to DOL data. WHD uses several strategies, including supervisory reviews, to address FLSA complaints consistently, but does not track uniform data needed to ensure that the reasons complaints are filed with no WHD compliance action are applied consistently. WHD may file complaints without completing a compliance action because they are not within WHD's jurisdiction or for other reasons, such as that they are determined to be low-priority. GAO found that WHD filed about 20 percent of FLSA complaints with no compliance action from fiscal years 2014-2019 and the percent varied considerably (from 4 to 46 percent) among district offices (see figure). WHD lacks uniform data on the reasons complaints are filed with no compliance action at intake or the reasons cases are dropped after initial acceptance because there is no data field in WHD's enforcement database that can be used to systematically aggregate that information. Absent this data, WHD is less able to ensure that a consistent process is applied to complaints. Percentage of Fair Labor Standards Act Complaints Filed with No Compliance Action by WHD District Offices, Fiscal Years 2014-2019 Note: WHD filed about 20 percent of FLSA complaints with no compliance action from fiscal years 2014-2019, and the percent varied considerably among its district offices. The FLSA sets federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for millions of U.S. workers. WHD may investigate worker complaints of FLSA violations or initiate investigations in industries it prioritizes for enforcement. GAO was asked to review WHD compliance actions. This report examines (1) trends in WHD's FLSA minimum wage and overtime cases, (2) the extent to which WHD's FLSA compliance actions targeted priority industries, and (3) the extent to which WHD's reported efforts and data indicate that WHD applied a consistent process to FLSA complaints. GAO analyzed WHD data on FLSA cases for fiscal years 2010 through 2019, the last full fiscal year of data available when GAO conducted its analysis. GAO also conducted more in-depth reviews of recent efforts (fiscal years 2014-2019). GAO interviewed officials from WHD's national office, five regional offices, and five of WHD's 54 district offices with the largest share of FLSA cases in their regions. GAO also interviewed external stakeholders, including state agencies and organizations that represent workers and employers. GAO recommends DOL's WHD develop a method for systematically aggregating and reviewing data on the reasons complaints are filed with no compliance action or cases are dropped. DOL agreed with GAO's recommendation and stated it would take action to address it. For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime News
    Strachans SA in Liquidation pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to hide income and assets in offshore entities and bank accounts from the IRS, and was sentenced in accordance with the guilty plea, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna, and Chief James Lee of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
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    In Space
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    In Crime News
    A Montana man pleaded guilty in federal court in the District of North Dakota to a felony charge of obstructing an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proceeding stemming from the 2014 death of an oilfield worker in Williston, North Dakota.
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  • Opportunity Zones: Census Tract Designations, Investment Activities, and IRS Challenges Ensuring Taxpayer Compliance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The 2017 law commonly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created a tax incentive that gave governors discretion to nominate generally up to 25 percent of their states' low-income census tracts as special investment areas called Opportunity Zones. The U.S. Department of the Treasury then verified eligibility and designated the nominated tracts. GAO found that on average, the selected tracts had higher poverty and a greater share of non-White populations than eligible, but not selected, tracts. These differences were statistically significant. Most state government officials were aware of at least some Opportunity Zone investments but had differing views of the tax incentive's effect so far. State Respondents' Views on Overall Impact of the Opportunity Zones Tax Incentive Note: GAO surveyed government officials from the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and received 56 responses. Based on case studies of Qualified Opportunity Funds—investment vehicles organized for investing in Opportunity Zones—the tax incentive attracted investment in a variety of projects, including multifamily housing, self-storage facilities, and renewable energy businesses. According to survey responses and other sources, most projects are real-estate focused. Through 2019, more than 6,000 Qualified Opportunity Funds had invested about $29 billion, based on partial data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS developed plans to ensure Qualified Opportunity Funds and investors are complying with the tax incentive's requirements; however, IRS faces challenges in implementing these plans. Specifically, the plans depend on data that are not readily available for analysis. In addition, funds have attracted investments from high-wealth individuals, and some funds are organized as partnerships with hundreds of investors. IRS considers both of these groups to be high risk for tax noncompliance generally. However, IRS has not researched potential compliance risks these groups pose for this tax incentive. As a result, IRS may be unable to effectively direct compliance efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Congress created the Opportunity Zones tax incentive to spur investments in distressed communities. Taxpayers who invest in Qualified Opportunity Funds—that then invest in qualified property or businesses—could receive significant tax-related benefits. Funds and their investors generally must invest in Opportunity Zones for a minimum number of years and report information annually to receive tax benefits and avoid penalties. IRS administers and ensures compliance with these rules. GAO was asked to review implementation and use of this tax incentive. This report describes the process for designating census tracts as Opportunity Zones and compares characteristics of designated and non-designated tracts; describes Qualified Opportunity Funds' experiences with and states' views on the tax incentive; analyzes available IRS data; and evaluates IRS's taxpayer compliance plans, among other objectives. GAO analyzed census data on tracts designated and not designated as Opportunity Zones, analyzed data from a non-generalizable sample of 18 Qualified Opportunity Funds, and surveyed state officials. GAO also reviewed IRS documentation, including a compliance plan, and met with Treasury and IRS officials.
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    In Crime News
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  • Four Former Minneapolis Police Officers Indicted on Federal Civil Rights Charges for Death of George Floyd; Derek Chauvin Also Charged in Separate Indictment for Violating Civil Rights of a Juvenile
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota returned two indictments that were unsealed today. The first indictment charges former Minneapolis Police Department officers Derek Chauvin, 45; Tou Thao, 35; J. Alexander Kueng, 27; and Thomas Lane, 38, with federal civil rights crimes for their roles in the death of George Perry Floyd Jr.
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