Russian bounties on American soldiers remain subject of investigation

F.P Report

WASHINGTON: U.S State Department spokesperson on Friday briefed media on the important political changes. Ned Price commented on the Israel-Palestine issue saying that we believe when it comes to settlement activity that Israel should refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. That includes the annexation of territory, he said.

He further underlined that we’ve been equally clear when it comes to the potential actions of the Palestinians, whether that is incitement to violence, providing compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism. That, too, moves us further away from a two-state solution.

Regarding the two-state solution he said that the two-state solution is precisely what will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in dignity and security, securing the interests in the interests of Israelis, in the interests of Palestinians together.

While commenting on U.S administration’s additional aid of $75 million to Palestinians, he said that  we have been clear that resuming assistance to the Palestinian people is a priority, and we are working with Congress on this right now.

All U.S. assistance to the Palestinian people will be provided consistent with requirements under U.S. law, and that includes the Taylor Force Act.

We just announced last week, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, our ambassador to the UN announced – $15 million in humanitarian assistance to some of the most vulnerable populations throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Ned Price commented.

While responding to a question on Foreign Minister Lavrov statement saying that U.S.-Russia relations have hit bottom today and said there’s no date for their ambassador to come back to Washington.

Ned Price commented that we have spoken of several of them from this podium in recent weeks, and many of them remain the subject of inquiry, investigation, analysis by the U.S. Government, including our Intelligence Community.

We’ve spoken about Russia’s assault on our democracy in 2016 and more recently in 2020. We’ve spoken of reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, he said.

Regarding Lavrov statement he said it remains true that we continue to look for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia.

Importantly, Ned Price shed light over the reported bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan; he said that the department is still deferring to the Intelligence Community. Those reports originated with the Intelligence Community. That’s where this analysis currently rests, he said.

Highlighting updates on Afghanistan, he said that Ambassador Khalilzad, is currently in Doha. He is meeting both with the Islamic Republic and Taliban negotiating teams to push for further progress in negotiations and a reduction in violence.

 He’s also meeting with other international partners to explore how the international community can best help the two negotiating sides accelerate the peace process, Ned Price remarked.

Special Representative Khalilzad recently traveled to Turkey, as you also alluded to, to meet with Turkish counterparts on the upcoming international conference on the Afghanistan peace process to be held in Istanbul in the coming days, he said.

Building on recent international gatherings in support of the peace process, the Istanbul conference is meant to help Afghan negotiators make progress in their negotiations and will complement peace talks currently ongoing in Doha, Price remarked.

During his visit, Ambassador Khalilzad and Turkish officials agreed that an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned gathering supported by high-level attendance from the international community provides the best means to accelerate that peace process. They also agreed to urge the Afghan parties to prepare for constructive participation in that conference, he said.

Regarding Taiwan, he commented that we are committed to deepening ties with Taiwan. Taiwan, of course, is a leading democracy; it’s critical. It’s a critical economic and security partner of the United States, and that’s why we will continue to engage Taiwan consistent with the longstanding “one China” policy.

We will consider, just as we have, opportunities for visits to Washington and Taipei by senior-level authorities that advance our unofficial relationship and enable substantive exchanges on issues of mutual concern, he said.

Referring to human rights violations in Hong Kong, he said  today’s convictions in Hong Kong of seven pro-democracy activists on politically motivated charges once again show the degree to which the PRC and Hong Kong authorities seek to crush all forms of peaceful dissent in the city.

The United States continues to condemn the PRC’s continuing assault on fundamental freedoms and democratic institutions in Hong Kong. The April 1 convictions are yet another example of the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms by PRC and Hong Kong authorities, he said.

The seven pro-democracy activists – Martin Lee, Jimmy Lai, Albert Ho, Margaret Ng, Cyd Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Leung Kwok – participated in a peaceful assembly attended by 1.7 million Hong Kongers, he further remarked.

The United States continues to stand with those millions of Hong Kongers who have peacefully demonstrated to protect the autonomy and freedoms promised to them by the PRC, he said.

Commenting on relations with Saudi Arabia, he said that when it comes to our relationship with Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia is a key partner on many priorities, including regional security and counterterrorism.

 Saudi Arabia faces significant threats to its territory from Yemen and elsewhere in the region. Attacks on Saudi Arabia put the lives of innocent civilians, including U.S. citizens, in danger, he added.

There are many areas where we believe it is in our interest to maintain strategic cooperation with Riyadh, and that includes working together to deter and defend against threats to the kingdom, including those ultimately emanating from Iran, he remarked.

We do want a working partnership with the Saudis to help defend against this aggression, to end the war in Yemen, and to take on other challenges, Ned Price remarked.