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Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

May 19, 2021

Aboard Air Force One
En Route North Kingstown, Rhode Island

9:42 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good morning. As you all know, we've -- we're headed to Connecticut today for the Coast Guard Academy's 140th Commencement Exercises, where the President will deliver the keynote address.

This is the second time the President has addressed a graduating class at the Coast Guard Academy. He first did as Vice President in 2013.

In his remarks, the President will discuss the challenges the graduating class has faced over the last year. During a pandemic that upended so many of our lives, they adapted and showed their resilience.

The President will also discuss the world -- the world the 140th graduating class is walking into and the challenges and threats our country faces. He will highlight the critical role of the Coast Guard in responding to those challenges, from COVID-19 to the hurricanes and wildfires exacerbated by climate change.

Finally, the President will explain how economic security is national security and the need to invest at home so we operate from a position of strength. He will underscore the critical role of the Coast Guard in maintaining maritime security and protecting Americans' interests around the world.

I have a readout for you. So, as you know, the United States is working tirelessly through various levels of government to express support for a ceasefire, get to a place of sustainable calm, and build a path forward to addressing the underlying causes of conflict.

The President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu again this morning -- the fourth time that President Biden has spoken with the Prime Minister -- Prime Minister Netanyahu -- in this week -- in this past week.

I'll read out -- I have the readout in front of me for you here. As I mentioned, they spoke this morning. "The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israelis' progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States. The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.

We, as you know -- and Jen has said this to you all already -- we have had over 60 calls in the past week, from the President on down, with senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and across the region. And we will continue to remain deeply engaged in intensive, quiet diplomacy to hold the current violence and find the way forward.

We'll -- we'll start with some questions.

Q: Did you get any assurances from Netanyahu? Any -- anything at all in terms of their plans, their actions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just going to reiterate that this is the conversation that they had this morning. Let the -- let the readout play out for itself. Our focus has not changed. We are -- we are working towards a -- a de-escalation, as I just read, to a sustainable calm, as we have stated over again.

And the way that -- our approach is to make sure that we do this quietly, intensively, in a diplomatic way. And, as you know, the President has done this for a long time -- right? -- for decades. And so he -- this is -- he believes -- with this, in particular, conflict situation that we're in, this is the approach that we need to be taking.

Q: Why the deadline? Why the deadline? That's a new, sort of, detail. Why today? And what recourse does the U.S. have to take if Israel doesn't meet that deadline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, again, I'm going to let the readout play out for -- say -- speak for itself. The President, as you all know, has said that he wants to make sure that we end the violence -- right? -- the suffering that we are seeing with the Palestinian and the Israeli people. And so -- but the way that we're going to continue to approach this is to have intense, quiet, diplomatic conversations.

Q: A significant de-escalation is not a ceasefire. Why did the President not call for an immediate ceasefire?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President is very clear here in the readout. He says he wants to be on a path to a ceasefire. That is what he's calling on.

Q: Can you say whether he had previously called for a de-escalation? Is this his first specific call to Netanyahu for a de-escalation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but we have -- you have heard from the White House, you have heard from us, you have heard from -- from the Secretary himself about how our approach has been -- and our focus, actually -- the outcome that we want is a de-escalation and sustainable calm.

Q: But it's been coy in the three previous readouts as to whether President Biden had actually specifically urged Netanyahu to deescalate -- to, you know, pull back Israeli forces or Israeli actions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to let the readouts in the past that we've put out speak for itself. What I can speak for today is this current readout, where the President conveyed a significant de-escalation today on the pa- -- on the path to a ceasefire.

Q: Has he spoken to any members of Congress about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to read out for you on that one.

Q: Did the weapons sale come up?

Q: What's the difference between expressing support for a ceasefire and calling for a ceasefire in the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it says here he wants a "path to a ceasefire." He wants this to be deescalated. He wants this -- he wants to be a sustainable calm. This is what we have been calling for for the past eight days, and this is what we're continuing to do.

As we have mentioned, we've had the President on down continue to have these kind of diplomatic conversations in Israel and also with re- -- leaders in the region.

Q: And was the President looking to send a message to Israel or the -- the global audience by making sure to meet with a Palestinian American congresswoman on the tarmac yesterday and by referencing her in his speech?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, just to be clear, like that -- the trip to Michigan was pre-planned before any of this.

Q: But there are lots of Democratic lawmakers in Michigan who he could have met with and spoke about.

AIDE: Sorry, guys. We have to sit down. We're going to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm sorry. We have to end.

Q: Can you confirm the Nord Stream news? Can you confirm the news on Nord Stream?

Q: Yeah, can you -- can you confirm on Nord Stream --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to do this last one, guys. And we -- we're literally landing. Give me one second here.

So the Biden administration has been clear that Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a bad deal; it's a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security, and that of the Ukrai- -- Ukraine and Eastern Flank NATO Allies and partners.

I don't want to get ahead of the report. I refer you to the State Department for details. Ultimately, it's their report to discuss.

I got to -- we got to --

Q: Are they easing sanctions? Are you considering sanctions on --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're getting pulled. We're getting pulled.

9:49 A.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350011

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