Designation of Paraguayan Vice President Hugo Velazquez and Yacyretá Bi-National Entity Legal Counsel Juan Carlos Duarte for Involvement in Significant Corruption

12 Aug

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States is designating Paraguayan Vice President Hugo Velazquez and Yacyretá Bi-National Entity Legal Counsel Juan Carlos “Charly” Duarte for involvement in significant corruption, including bribery of a public official and interference in public processes.

Duarte, a close personal and professional associate of Vice President Velazquez, offered a bribe to a Paraguayan public official in order to obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests. Corrupt acts such as these also contribute to diminished confidence in the government and public perceptions of corruption and impunity within the office of the Paraguayan Vice President. Additionally, Duarte’s act of corruption abused and exploited his powerful and privileged public position within the Yacyretá Bi-National Entity, risking public confidence in one of Paraguay’s most vital economic assets.

This public designation is made under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2022. As part of this action, the Department is also designating Velazquez’s immediate family members, including Lourdes Maria Andrea Samaniego Gonzalez, Dionicio Adalberto Velazquez Gimenez, Sonya Rebeca Velazquez Escauriza, and Hugo Jose Velazquez Escauriza; and Duarte’s immediate family members including Ninfa Concepcion Vera Moreira and Tamara Duarte Martinez.

These designations reaffirm the commitment of the United States to combat corruption, which harms the public interest, hampers countries’ economic prosperity, and curtails the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of their people. The United States continues to stand with all Paraguayans in support of democracy and the rule of law and will continue to promote accountability for those who abuse public power for personal gain, regardless of their position or political affiliation.

MAGA Hot Mic: Trump-Endorsed GOP Nominee for Michigan Secretary of State Kristina Karamo

12 Aug

Today’s MAGA Hot Mic honors falls on Trump-endorsed GOP nominee for Michigan secretary of state, Kristina Karamo. 

Kristina Karamo attacked women who make deeply serious medical decisions about their own bodies with a ludicrous comparison. 

CNN: “CNN’s KFile discovered troubling comments Michigan’s Trump-backed secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo made about abortions, comparing them to ‘child sacrifice’ in her podcast. CNN reached out to her campaign to get a response and has not heard back.”

Kristina Karamo: “Child sacrifice is a very satanic practice, and that’s precisely what abortion is. And we need to see it as such.”

It doesn’t stop there. Karamo has even gone as far as calling abortion “the greatest crime of our nation’s history.”

CNN: “In another comment, Karamo called abortion the ‘the greatest crime of our nation’s history.’ Karamo and her campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment by CNN.”

Kristina Karamo’s comments confirm what Americas are learning every day — MAGA Republicans are extreme and out of touch on abortion. Americans will hold them accountable for their focus on stripping away Americans’ right to make decisions surrounding their reproductive health.

The post MAGA Hot Mic: Trump-Endorsed GOP Nominee for Michigan Secretary of State Kristina Karamo appeared first on Democrats.

U.S. Diplomatic Representation for Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe Moves to U.S. Embassy Luanda

12 Aug

Office of the Spokesperson

U.S. Ambassador to Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe Dr. Tulinabo S. Mushingi presented his credentials to President Carlos Vila Nova of São Tomé and Príncipe on August 10.  U.S. diplomatic representation for São Tomé and Príncipe is moving to Embassy Luanda in Angola from U.S. Embassy Libreville in Gabon because of São Tomé and Príncipe’s longstanding cultural, linguistic, and economic ties to Angola.

Ambassador Mushingi and the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Luanda look forward to working with the people of São Tomé and Príncipe to advance our shared goals of peace, prosperity, and good governance.  We are also eager to partner with São Tomé and Príncipe on our mutual regional objectives, such as ocean conservation and maritime security.

Situation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant ‘Very Alarming’, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Tells Security Council

12 Aug
The situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has deteriorated rapidly to the point of becoming “very alarming”, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi warned the Security Council today, in a meeting requested by the Russian Federation and marked by resounding calls to allow the Agency’s technical experts to visit the area to address mounting safety concerns.

Department Press Briefing – August 11, 2022

11 Aug

Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy SpokespersonBureau of Global Public Affairs

Washington, DC

2:02 p.m. EDT

MR PATEL: Hey everyone, good afternoon and welcome to the daily press briefing. This is Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson here at the department. I don’t have anything for you at the top today, so I am happy to take your questions. Operator, would you mind giving the instructions one more time?

OPERATOR: Thank you. And once again, if you have a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad, 1 followed by 0.

MR PATEL: Let’s go to the line of Leon Bruneau with AFP.

OPERATOR: Okay, sir, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, yes. Hi, Vedant. Leon here. Just a quick question. What can you tell us on the record on the Iran nuclear deal? Should we be expecting the United States to – they’re reviewing the draft. Could we expect a decision soon, an answer to the EU on this, on the proposal on the table? And to what effect, if any, does the plot that was unveiled yesterday hurt those prospects, or not at all? Thanks.

MR PATEL: We and the Europeans have made quite clear that we are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna for a mutual return to the full implementation of the JCPOA. But for that to happen, Iran needs to decide to drop their additional demands that go beyond the JCPOA. Ultimately, the choice is theirs. This administration along with our allies and partners are preparing equally for scenarios with and without a mutual return to the full implementation of the JCPOA. The President and Secretary Blinken will only conclude a deal that we determine is in the national security interest of the United States.

On the second part of your question, I will reiterate what Secretary Blinken reinforced in his comments. Our message to Iran is very clear: we will not tolerate threats of violence against Americans, and that certainly includes former government officials. This administration has been clear that it will ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, and we believe the best path to achieving that goal is through diplomacy. And as long as we believe pursuing a JCPOA is in U.S. national security interest, we’re going to continue to do so.

Let’s go to the line of Simon Lewis with Reuters.

OPERATOR: Please stand by. Okay, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. Thanks, Vedant. Yeah, just I wanted to see if the United States has a response or a comment on the decision by Latvia and Estonia to withdraw from the cooperation group with China that they announced today. And I wondered how does that – how does that sort of reflect Europe’s response to the tensions happening in Taiwan? And do you think this has any – any impact on the relationship between – between – well, any – is this connected in any way to China’s relationship with Russia given the invasion of Ukraine? Yeah, any comment on those? Thank you.

MR PATEL: Sure, let me try to address that in a couple parts. First, to the first part of your question, we respect and support Estonia and Latvia’s sovereign decision to no longer participate in the 16+1 initiative. We will continue to closely support their efforts to make the Baltics a more resilient and prosperous region. Estonia and Latvia are important and valued NATO Allies and key U.S. partners across a number of issues, including through our strong defense ties, our strong economic ties, as well as the promotion of democracy and human rights. Beyond our commitments to these same values, our free, democratic countries produce prosperity that helps both of our economies thrive.

On the second part of your question relating to China’s relationship in Europe, a pillar of this administration’s approach to the PRC is aligning with our allies and partners in Europe and around the world. This administration believes that our likeminded allies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific hold similar visions for the future of the international order and can realize our goals most effectively when we work together.

Over the past year, we’ve seen countries around the world express deep concern about the PRC’s strategic alignment with Russia as well as Beijing’s support for Moscow’s war against Ukraine. As Secretary Blinken has said before, there is a growing convergence about the need to approach relations with Beijing with more realism.

Next let’s go to the line of Ellen Knickmeyer with the Association Press.

OPERATOR: Please, stand by. Your line is open now.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this. Secretary Blinken is in Rwanda today, and it looks like he was quite outspoken about human rights and democracy there. He – there was some talk of – he raised the issue of – and I’m sorry, I’m – I don’t – I can’t pronounce his last name very well, and I’m hesitant to try – but the Texas-based Rwanda critic of Kagame who is in prison there now. Is the U.S. treating that person’s case with the same immediate concern that it’s treating Griner and other Americans being held in Russia? Has it – is it – what is it – what is it doing now and what has it been doing to gain his release?

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question, Ellen. I believe you’re referring to the case of Mr. Paul Rusesabagina, who, as you mentioned, is currently being detained in Rwanda. I will reiterate what the Secretary said at his joint press availability today, which is that we continue to urge the government to address concerns about the legal protections afforded to Mr. Rusesabagina and his case, as well as establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future.

More broadly speaking, the U.S. is aware of the appellate court’s decision upholding the conviction of Mr. Rusesabagina. Our concerns over the trial and conviction remain. We have also been made aware of some serious health concerns of Mr. Rusesabagina, and we’re continuing to urge to the Government of Rwanda ensure that he receive all appropriate and necessary medical care.

More broadly, this department is laser-focused and committed to any American citizen who is wrongfully detained abroad. We have our team at the State Department, including – led by Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who remains in close touch on this issue, and it continues to be a top priority.

Let’s go to the line of Jen Hansler with CNN.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. Thank you, and your line is open now.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for doing the call. Questions on two topics. One, the Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan proposal. Has there been any movement on that deal? Have any U.S. officials interacted with Russian officials since Secretary of State Blinken’s call with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and has anyone from the U.S. embassy been able to visit or speak with Brittney Griner since her sentencing last week?

And then on the New START Treaty and the impasse over the inspections, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov seemed to suggest that there was a U.S. team that intended to go do an inspection without Russian approval. Is there anything you can tell us on that? Did a team intend to go or go to Russia to do an inspection there? Thank you.

MR PATEL: So on your first question, the U.S. Government continues to urge Russia to release wrongful detainees Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. The conviction and sentencing by a Russian court of Brittney Griner to nine years in prison further compounds the injustice of her wrongful detention.

The administration – and Secretary Blinken has spoken to this a number of times – has been quite clear that there is a substantial proposal on the table to facilitate their release, both the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. This proposal has been raised through appropriate channels. Secretary Blinken has been able to raise this directly with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Lavrov. And ultimately, the ball is in Russia’s court.

As it relates to any visits, our embassy staff were able to be in touch with Brittney most recently on the day of her sentencing on August 4th.

On New START – on New START – so just to take a little bit of a step back, the U.S. and Russia had paused inspection activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic since the spring of 2020. Both sides have continued to provide data declarations and notifications in accordance to the treaty. The U.S. is committed to implementation of the New START Treaty. And as President Biden has said, today perhaps more than any other time since the Cold War, we must work to reduce the risk of an arms race or nuclear escalation. We keep discussions between the parties concerning treaty implementation confidential.

I will also note that – what Secretary Blinken noted recently, that the New START Treaty makes the U.S., Russia, and the world safer by persevering – preserving verified restrictions on our strategic nuclear arsenals and avoiding an arms race.

Operator, let’s go to the line of Camilla Schick with CBS News.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. And your line is open now.

QUESTION: Hi, Vedant. Thanks. The State Department put out a release yesterday ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the abduction and disappearance abroad of American journalist Austin Tice. That release said that the State Department will, quote, “continue to engage with the Syrian Government.” Are you able to say at all whether this engagement with the Syrian Government is current or not, and if it is direct or indirect? Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question. So, again, to take a little bit of a step back, Austin Tice this week will have spent 10 years in captivity in Syria. We call on the Syrian Government to ensure Austin Tice and every U.S. national held hostage in Syria is able to return home. We can’t get into investigative details, but what I will underscore is that the U.S. Government knows with certainty that Austin was held by the Syrian Government and that they have the power to release him. We think Bashar al-Assad has the power to release Austin Tice, and we call on Syria to work with us to secure his release and bring him home.

Operator, let’s go to the line of Michel Ghandour.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. And your line is open now. One moment, please. One moment.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Do you have any comments on that? And the second question: Is there any updates on Advisor Hochstein’s mediation between Israel and Lebanon?

OPERATOR: Okay, sir, your first question, the line was not open yet, so please state your first question.

QUESTION: Yeah, the first question was Turkish foreign minister has announced that he met the Syrian foreign minister in Belgrade in October, if you have any comment on that.

MR PATEL: Let me take your second question first, Michel. So the U.S. remains committed to facilitating negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to reach a decision on the delimitation of the maritime boundary. Progress towards a resolution can only be reached through negotiations by the two governments. We welcome the consultative and open spirit of the parties to reach a final decision which has the potential to yield greater stability, security, and prosperity for both Lebanon and Israel, as well as for the region, and we believe that a resolution is possible.

On the subject of the meeting, I would refer you to the governments of those entities.

Operator, let’s go to the line of Elizabeth Hagedorn.

OPERATOR: Please stand by to have your line open. Please stand by.

QUESTION: Hi.

OPERATOR: Okay. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. – sorry. Will the U.S. be granting Iranian President Raisi a visa to attend next month’s UN General Assembly? Thanks.

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question. So, broadly speaking, visa records are confidential under U.S. law, but as host nation of the UN, the United States is generally obligated under the UN Headquarters Agreement to facilitate travel to the headquarters district by representatives of UN member states. We take our obligations under these agreements very seriously. But again, to reiterate, visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Let’s go to the line of Said Arikat.

OPERATOR: Please stand by. One moment. Your line is open now.

QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant, for doing this. I have a quick question. Today the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued a very strong statement expressing alarm over the death of Palestinian children. In the past week, 19 Palestinian children were killed, taking the toll this year, Vedant, to about 37 children. Are you alarmed by the number of Palestinian children that are being killed in conflict, and have you raised this issue with the Israelis, or will you raise it with the Israelis?

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question, Said. So you saw both Secretary Blinken and President Biden speak to this over the weekend in their comments relating to the ceasefire over the recent Gaza conflict. So I will reiterate that this agreement brought a welcome respite to Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and allowed deliveries of critical supplies to Gaza. We express our condolences to the families of civilians who lost their lives, and we also support a timely and thorough investigation into these reports of civilian casualties. We are grateful for Egypt for their role in reaching this agreement, as well as to Qatar and Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, as well as the UN. Our team as well played an important role and worked around the clock to support this outcome, and we also remain dedicated to our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and are fully engaged to promoting calm. We continue to work with partners to improve the quality of life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.

Let’s go to the line of Jiha Ham of Voice of America.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. And your line is open now.

QUESTION: Hey. Thank you very much for doing this. I have two questions today; one on North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday declared victory in the battle against the coronavirus in order to lift some of their restrictions. So do you have any comments on this? Do you still assess North Korea as preparing its seventh nuclear test? And this new announcement may allow, do you think, North Korea to move forward with their plans?

And my second question is that China has been demanding South Korea not to deploy the U.S. anti-missile defense system, THAAD. It is asking South Korea to maintain the “three noes” policy. So one of the noes is no additional deployment of THAAD. So what’s your position on the “three noes” policy and China’s strong opposition on THAAD? Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thanks. So first on your question about COVID-19, look, we are very concerned about how COVID-19 could affect the North Korean people, and we continue to support the provision of vaccines to the DPRK. To this end, we strongly support and encourage the efforts of international aid and health organizations in seeking to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the DPRK and to provide other forms of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups in the country. To date, DPRK has refused all vaccine donations from COVAX. We continue to support international efforts aimed at the provision of critical humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable North Koreans. Should the DPRK request vaccines, we stand ready to offer them, and we urge and reiterate for the DPRK to work with the international community to facilitate the rapid vaccination of its population.

On your – the second part of your question, the U.S. assesses the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site for what would be its seventh nuclear test. This assessment is consistent with the DPRK’s own public statements. We are preparing for all contingencies in close coordination with our Japanese and ROK allies. Furthermore, we are prepared to make both short and longer-term adjustments to our military posture as appropriate in responding to any DPRK provocation. We’re concerned by the regime’s strengthened rhetoric around its nuclear program. A seventh nuclear test since 2017 would constitute a grave escalatory action and seriously threaten regional and international stability as well as security, not to mention undermine our planet’s nonproliferation efforts. Such an action would also be dangerous and deeply stabilizing to the region.

On THAAD – on THAAD, we believe THAAD is a prudent and limited self-defense capability designed to counter DPRK weapons programs. Criticism or pressure on the ROK to abandon its self-defense is inappropriate. The United States and the ROK made an alliance decision to deploy THAAD to the ROK as a purely defensive measure to protect the ROK and its people from armed attack and to protect alliance military forces from the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile threats.

Let’s go to Joseph Haboush with Al Arabiya English.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Thanks for taking my question. I just want to try again on Jennifer’s earlier question. Is the U.S. planning on sending a delegation or has it sent a delegation to inspect Russian nuclear weapon sites without Russian approval? And does the State Department condemn Russia’s suspension of its participation in the New START treaty?

And just a second one: Turkey said it was sending a delegation to Washington on Monday to discuss the sale of F-16s. Are any State Department officials meeting with the delegation? Thank you.

MR PATEL: On the second part of your question, I have no meetings to preview at the moment. And as it relates to your first, I will reiterate what I said previously, is that we will continue to exercise our on-site inspection rights under the New START treaty will also prioritizing the health and safety of personnel conducting and hosting inspection activities. We look forward to continuing to implement this important treaty with the Russian Federation. It is an important instrument of stability in the bilateral relationship. And I will reiterate again what Secretary Blinken said, which is that the New START treaty makes the U.S., Russia, and the world safer.

Let’s go to the line of Alex Raufoglu.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. And your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much, Vedant, for doing this, and Happy Thursday. Couple of questions on Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian foreign minister called on Western countries yesterday to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens. Yesterday, DAS (inaudible) staff from the visa services bureau confirmed to me that there is no restriction at this point on Russian travelers. Are you considering to review this in response to Ukraine’s request?

Secondly, if there’s any comment on your end from Latvia parliament yesterday naming Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Do you applaud that? What is your reaction?

And lastly, there’s – there are reports that during last couple of weeks Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement on UAV transfers from Iran to Russia. Any reaction to those reports? Thank you so much again.

MR PATEL: Sorry about the delay there. Thanks for your question. I will answer the last one first. So on the delivery of UAVs to Russia, what I will first say and go back to is, as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN in July, the U.S. Government has information indicating Iran is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs. We’ve also said that we assess an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-capable UAVs. We can confirm that during the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement of the UAV transfers.

Let me be clear: We will vigorously enforce all U.S. sanctions on both the Russian and Iranian arms trades. The kind of transactions you’re mentioning are potentially sanctionable under numerous authorities, including but not limited to Russia-specific authorities and our worldwide nonproliferation sanctions. We remain incredibly concerned about Iran’s use and proliferation of UAVs. They have been used to attack U.S. forces, our partners in the region, and international shipping entities. We will continue to use all available tools, including but not limited to sanctions, to prevent, deter, and dismantle the procurement network that supply UAV-related material and technology to Iran.

Alex, would you remind – would you restate your other two questions, please?

OPERATOR: Sir, please press 1 then 0 to restate your questions. One moment, please. Okay, your line is open now.

QUESTION: Yes, of course. Thank you so much. Yeah, other two questions were about, first of all, reaction to Latvian parliament’s yesterday’s decision on naming Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Do you applaud that decision? And what is your reaction?

And lastly, as you know, Ukrainian Government has been urging – calling on Western countries – in particular G7 countries, which the U.S. is one of them – to stop issuing visas to Russian tourists. And as a State Department official confirmed yesterday, the Russian citizens are still able to obtain those visas. Are you in a position to give us any detail about whether or not State Department is considering to review that policy in response to Ukraine’s request? Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question. So on a potential designation, we’re just not going to discuss deliberations or potential deliberations on a potential designation from here. As a matter of law, in order to designate any country as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

The U.S. Government has already taken a number of significant and effective steps to respond to Putin’s war of choice, from export controls as well as sanctions and economic consequences as well. Our unprecedented sanctions are having a drastic impact on Russia. Russia’s stock market has lost a third of its value, inflation has risen 20 percent, Russia’s imports of goods from around the world could fall by 40 percent.

On your question about any visa ban, we’ve been very clear that we intend our actions to not harm or have significant impact on the Russian people. That is not who our disagreement with is on this.

Let’s next go to the line of Janne Pak from U.S. Journal Korea.

OPERATOR: One moment.

QUESTION: (In progress) beautiful day. I don’t know because I’m late a little bit listening about your statement. Maybe somebody ask already these question on that, but I have two questions for you. One is North Korea, one is China again. So North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, said yesterday the coronavirus was delivered from South Korea, and she announced that she would take the strong retaliation against South Korea. What is your comment on this?

The second one: China announced that it would resume trading with North Korea, which had been suspended. Trade with China will allow North Korea to secure foreign currency. Can this be seen as a violation of sanctions against North Korea? Thank you.

MR PATEL: Thanks. So on COVID-19, one of your colleagues did ask that, but I’m happy to reiterate. We are incredibly concerned about how COVID-19 could affect the North Korean people and continue to support the provision of vaccines to the DPRK. To date, the DPRK has refused all vaccine donations from COVAX. We continue to support international efforts aimed at the provision of critical humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable North Koreans. Should the DPRK request vaccines, we stand ready to offer them.

On the potential resumption of trade with China, the second part of your question, let me reiterate what my colleagues here have said before. United Nations sanctions on the DPRK remain in place. We will continue to implement them and encourage others to fully implement them, including at the United Nations and with the DPRK’s neighbors. It is important for the international community to send a strong, unified message that the DPRK must halt all provocations and abide by its obligations under numerous UN Security Council resolutions, as well as engage in sustained and intensive negotiations with the United States.

Let’s go to the line of Hiba Nasr with Asharq News.

OPERATOR: One moment please. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Thanks for taking my question. Thanks for taking my question. My question about Austin Tice. Can you confirm that officials from the Biden administration met with Syrian officials to discuss this matter?

MR PATEL: Again, so I am just not going to get into investigative details, but I will underscore that the U.S. Government knows with certainty that Austin Tice was held by the Syrian Government and that they have the power to release him. We call on Syria to work with us to secure his release, and we believe Bashar al-Assad has the power to release him. As the White House has recently said – and you heard Secretary Blinken say this as well – the U.S. Government is extensively engaged with Syrian officials to bring Austin home, but that Syria has never even acknowledged holding him.

Operator, let’s go to the line of Laurie Mylroie from Kurdistan24.

OPERATOR: One moment, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for taking my question. The Israeli defense minister today denounced Iranian support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, calling it a violent Iranian proxy; it funds Palestinian Islamic Jihad, trains them. Do you share the Israeli views that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is so closely tied to Iran that Iran can be held accountable for its actions?

MR PATEL: Thanks so much. So look, the United States is under no illusions about Iran’s destabilizing actions throughout the region. If Iran wants to show it can be a responsible actor, now is the time for it to play a constructive role in the region.

Next let’s go to the line of Roj Salla with Rudaw TV.

QUESTION: Hi, yes, thanks.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for taking my question. So Turkish defense minister said that a delegation will be visiting U.S. on August 15 to discuss the F-16 program. Can you update us on your position on the F-16 program? Is there any change, or do you see a way that Turkey and the U.S. could find a way to resolve the issues around the F-16s?

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question. The United States strongly values its partnership with our important NATO Ally, Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey have a longstanding, deep relationship with important defense ties, and Turkey’s continued NATO interoperability remains a priority. As a matter of policy I’m just not going to comment or confirm or get into proposed defense transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress, and I’d refer you to the Turkish Government for anything additional.

I think we have time for one final question. And so we will close it back out with Ellen Knickmeyer from the AP.

OPERATOR: Your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. I had just wanted to ask you a follow-up about the – about Rusesabagina. Was there any progress made during Blinken’s visit about obtaining his release? And does the U.S. plan to move to any of the kind of negotiations or perhaps detainee swaps that are being talked about with Whelan and Griner in Russia?

MR PATEL: Thanks for your question, Ellen. I’m going to reiterate again what the Secretary said, which is that we continue to urge the government to address concerns about the legal protections afforded to him and his case, and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future. We are going to also continue to push for consistent consular access, and we remain in close touch with Mr. Rusesabagina’s team. And the Secretary was able to raise this directly with President Kagame on his visit as well.

Thanks again, everybody, for joining today – for joining today’s press briefing. We’ll talk to you all again very soon.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:43 p.m.)

# # #

  1. A seventh nuclear test would be the first since 2017.
  2. Destabilizing

United States and Vietnam Continue Cooperation on Energy Security

11 Aug

Office of the Spokesperson

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at the conclusion of the fourth United States-Vietnam Energy Security Dialogue.

Begin text:

Delegations from Vietnam and the United States met in Washington, DC for the fourth annual United States-Vietnam Energy Security Dialogue on July 26-28.  Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade Vice Minister Dang Hoang An and the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) Senior Bureau Official Harry Kamian led the delegations.

The delegations discussed key areas for continued bilateral clean energy cooperation such as power market development; energy conservation and efficiency; transmission; power storage; and the steps necessary for an energy transition that will achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Vietnam and the United States discussed the future of advanced clean energy technologies such as offshore wind, nuclear, hydrogen, electric vehicles, and battery energy storage, as well as Vietnam’s consideration of the role of liquefied natural gas.  The delegations welcomed the participation of private sector representatives from CLASP, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

ENR’s Power Sector Program highlighted ongoing technical and regulatory engagements in support of the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership.  In addition, ENR invited Vietnam to two power market and renewable energy study tours in the United States.  The tours will take place later this year and will be led by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and U.S. Energy Association, with the participation of other partners.  Representatives from Dominion Energy shared valuable insight with the delegations regarding the company’s experience in U.S. offshore wind development.  ENR also highlighted AES Corporation’s intent to pursue offshore wind development in Vietnam, another reflection of the growing commercial ties between the United States and Vietnam in the clean energy sector.

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) announced a grant awarded to the National Power Transmission Corporation of Vietnam (NPT) for technical assistance to advance the deployment of smart grid technologies in Vietnam.  NPT selected Connecticut-based Actionable Strategies LLC to provide the assistance.

Also during the visit, on July 26, Vice Minister An chaired a roundtable on sustainable energy development organized by the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

End text.

U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Lenderking’s Travel to the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia

11 Aug

Office of the Spokesperson

U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking will travel to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia starting August 11, while members of his team travel to Jordan, as part of our vigorous diplomatic efforts to help secure an expansion of the UN-mediated truce and bolster peace efforts.  The Special Envoy and his team will focus on helping meaningfully expand benefits of the truce to all Yemenis and pave the way for a permanent ceasefire and an inclusive, durable Yemeni-led resolution to the conflict.  Special Envoy Lenderking will also discuss recent instability in Shabwa and the need for a return to calm.

During his trip, the Special Envoy will also highlight the need for additional financial assistance for Yemenis.  The United States has already provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid this year alone, bringing our total contribution to the humanitarian response in Yemen to nearly $5 billion since the crisis began eight years ago.  We urge donors both to give generously and to make previous pledges immediately available for the sake of the people of Yemen.

While in the Gulf, the Special Envoy will also continue to support UN efforts to raise awareness and funds for the Safer oil tanker emergency project.  With about $14 million unfunded and a UN-Houthi agreement to offload the oil to a temporary vessel, we are the closest we have ever been to addressing the threat posed by this derelict tanker.  An oil spill would exacerbate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, cause severe environmental damage, and impact global shipping and other economic activity.

For any questions, please contact Vanessa Vidal at NEA-Press@state.gov and follow us on Twitter @StateDept_NEA.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta at a Joint Press Availability

11 Aug

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Kigali, Rwanda

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

FOREIGN MINISTER BIRUTA:  Secretary Blinken, members of the press, good morning.  I would like to start by welcoming Secretary Blinken and his delegation to Kigali.  And this visit is an opportunity to enhance bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Rwanda and discuss matters of mutual interest.

Earlier today, His Excellency the President of Rwanda received Secretary Blinken and his delegation.  We had productive discussions about the partnership between our two countries.  At the bilateral level, we appreciated our substantial cooperation in various sectors, including defense and security, trade and investment, peacekeeping, and health.  The Government of Rwanda appreciates the significant support of the U.S. Government in the fight against COVID-19 in Rwanda, where the U.S. Government contributed more than 5 million doses of vaccines and 100 medical ventilators to Rwanda.  The U.S. continues to be, indeed, a strong partner in Rwanda’s efforts to build a strong and resilient health system.

We are also very pleased with our cooperation in the defense sector.  Our military cooperation has continued to grow, and we were happy to co-host with the U.S. the 11th Annual African Air Chiefs Symposium earlier this year in Kigali.

We also discussed the security in eastern DRC, the very real consequences for Rwanda, and reaffirmed our support to regional efforts, including the Nairobi and the Luanda initiatives toward peace and stability in our region.  We agreed on the need to eradicate all illegal armed groups operating in eastern DRC, including the FDLR and its factions.  We noted the resurgence of hate speech, public incitement, and genocidal ideology in DRC, and the need to address this issue.  We also reaffirmed the importance of respect of territorial integrity by all the countries in the region.

At the global level, this visit was an occasion to discuss the consequences of the war in Ukraine on Africa, and Rwanda in particular.  We look forward to working with the U.S. Government on addressing the challenges we are facing in relation to the consequences of this conflict.

Once again, we are happy to host you, Secretary Blinken, and your delegation in Rwanda, and we look forward to continuing our work together and strengthening our partnership with the U.S.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Mr. Minister, thank you very much, and thank you for hosting our delegation today.

A few days ago in South Africa, I set out our administration’s new Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, a strategy that recognizes African nations and peoples as equal and vital partners in advancing our shared priorities, tackling together global challenges, and being able to deliver for our citizens.

You see those same goals reflected in the relationship between Rwanda and the United States.  The journey that Rwanda has taken over the past two decades has been remarkable.  You’ve risen from the ashes of genocide to become a global destination for innovation, for investment, for tourism.  You lead internationally on priorities that we share: making critical contributions to the United Nations and regional peacekeeping missions; speaking up for Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion; co-sponsoring a resolution at the United Nations to start negotiations on a legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution – with scores of countries’ support, including the United States.

And our two countries have worked closely together on the issues that matter a great deal to Rwanda’s future: improving the quality of your health care system; strengthening your agricultural production and food security; expanding economic opportunities; bolstering the education system, so that Rwandan youth are empowered to seize opportunities in the 21st century economy.

In partnership with COVAX, as the minister mentioned, the United States has donated more than five and a half million doses of safe and effective vaccines to Rwanda, which has helped the country vaccinate nearly 70 percent – fully vaccinate nearly 70 percent of its population.

In the last six years, we’ve helped more than 2.8 million Rwandans get access to electricity for the first time – electricity generated using renewable energy.

So the relationship between our peoples is deep and diverse, as is evident in the collaboration between Rwandan and American nongovernmental organizations, students, entrepreneurs, doctors, and others.

As the foreign minister said, we just came from a meeting with President Kagame, where we covered a wide range of issues, including many of the ones that I’ve just discussed.  I also raised issues where we have real concerns.  On those, our discussions were direct, candid, respectful.  The president candidly conveyed his views as well.  I discussed the credible reports indicating that Rwanda continues to support the M23 rebel group and has its armed forces inside the DRC.  We recognize that Rwanda has security concerns of its own, including reports of cooperation between the Congolese military and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the DFLR, an armed group.

My message to both President Tshisekedi and President Kagame this week has been the same: any support or cooperation with any armed group in eastern DRC endangers local communities and regional stability.  And every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of the others.  The United States has the same message for all neighboring countries.

We’ve seen where the failure to respect these principles can lead in the immeasurable consequences of the decades-long conflict in eastern DRC, which has taken the lives of more than 5 million people and displaced millions more.

Coming out of the discussions, both presidents have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other.  They’re both ready to resume the talks in the context of the Nairobi Process with armed groups, and both welcome the continued U.S. engagement in support of African-led mediation efforts.

We know that Rwandans are also alarmed – justifiably – by the increase in hate speech in the DRC targeting Rwandaphones.  The United States will continue to condemn such unacceptable and dangerous rhetoric, and I encouraged President Tshisekedi, his government, to do the same.

Leaders in the region – particularly Kenya and Angola – are working hard to lower tensions and address the problem of armed groups in the eastern Congo.  We’re deeply grateful for these efforts.  These initiatives are crucial for getting the actors to resolve their differences peacefully, through diplomacy rather than through violence, and to address the underlying drivers of the conflict.

In our discussions, I also raised serious concerns about human rights.  As I told President Kagame, we believe people in every country should be able to express their views without fear of intimidation, imprisonment, violence, or any other forms of repression.  That’s true whether they are political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists like the ones in this audience, or simply citizens.  These are values cherished by the American people and people around the world; that’s why I raised them, as have members of the U.S. Congress.

I raised the case of Paul Rusesabagina, who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and underscored our concerns about the lack of fair trial guarantees provided to him.

Later today, I’ll have an opportunity to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial.  It will provide a chance to reflect on the unimaginable horrors of the genocide, which reverberate to this day; to reaffirm the importance of standing up, rather than standing by, in the face of atrocities; and to ask ourselves what history teaches us about the need to prevent hatred and fear from taking hold again and squandering the progress the people of Rwanda have made since that time.

We have the deepest admiration for the people of Rwanda, their courage, their resilience, all that they have built.  And we hope the conversations we’ve had today will help our partnership grow even stronger.

Finally, Mr. Minister, if you would indulge me just a point of personal privilege, as we say back in the United States.  One of the most important tools in our arsenal is the power of the spoken word – what we say both at home and on the world stage.  In the past 18 months, our voice, my voice, has been shaped and sharpened by our chief speechwriter, Megan Rooney.  I raise this now because Megan will soon be leaving the department.  Others’ gain is our profound loss, and that loss is especially pronounced when it comes to me.  Not only is she a master wordsmith who can make what can sometimes be a dry policy soar, she’s a wonderful person.  Kind.  Funny.  Fun to be around.  To put her in the vernacular, she brings a trademark joie de vivre, which has been a light for me and our entire team, especially the case when we’re traveling around the world.

So, Megan, thank you, thank you, thank you, and I’ll end by saying that going forward should I happen to say something, I don’t know, less than artful, we’ll know why. Thank you.

MS ROONEY:  Okay.  That was so nice.

MODERATOR:  Thank you Minister, thank you Secretary Blinken. Now, we’ll take a couple of questions now starting with RBA.

QUESTION:  Isabelle Masozera from RBA.  I have a question for both officials.  Secretary Blinken, the State Department has designated Paul Rusesabagina as wrongfully detained.  What does this mean in this case?  Also, we understand that you are unable to meet the victims of FLN attacks due to your tight schedule, but what would you say to the victims and their families?

And also, to Minister Biruta, on the same issue – President Paul Kagame last night tweeted, saying there are things that just won’t work here.  Was this discussed this morning in the meeting, and what does the government plan to do about this issue of putting pressure on releasing Rusesabagina?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  We have been clear about our concerns related to Paul Rusesabagina’s trial and conviction, particularly the lack of fair trial guarantees.  We continue to urge the government to address our concerns about the legal protections afforded to him in his case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future.  I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with President Kagame this morning.  I’m not going to get into specifics, but we’ll continue to engage on it.  And I also had an opportunity just a few days ago to talk to Paul Rusesabagina’s family, and we’ll continue to be in contact with them as well.  Thank you.

Oh, and I’m sorry, the second part of your question.  One of the most profound reasons that we are engaged in support of African-led mediation efforts in the eastern Congo as well as in other parts of the region is precisely because at the heart of everything is human suffering and real people, individuals, men, women, and children who are the victims of conflict, the victims of violence, the victim of armed groups of one kind or another.  And it’s very easy to get focused on big questions of policy, but what this comes down to is actual lives – real human lives.  That’s what motivates me.  That’s what motivates us to seek to help wherever we can resolve conflict, preserve peace, and give people a chance.  And I think we’ve seen far too many victims of violence and conflict, and that’s why we have a strong incentive to do whatever we can to end it.

I have opportunities wherever possible to meet with those who have been victimized by violence of one kind or another, who have been victimized by conflict, who have been victimized by a lack of opportunity that results from places and societies being in conflict.  And if I don’t have an opportunity with an individual group, I usually have a pretty good idea of their stories, what’s happened to them.  And that is the motivating factor for me every single day.

FOREIGN MINISTER BIRUTA:  And listen, on the question about Rusesabagina, as far as the Government of Rwanda is concerned, Paul Rusesabagina is a Rwandan citizen.  And he was arrested.  He was tried and convicted along with 20 others – 20 other accomplices for serious crimes they committed against Rwandan citizens and which he committed while residing in the United States.  And this was done lawfully under both Rwandan and international laws.  Therefore, Rwanda will continue to abide by our rules, and the decisions that were made by our judiciary.  And we request our partners to respect Rwanda’s sovereignty, Rwanda’s laws, and its institutions.  That’s what I can state about your question on Rusesabagina.

MODERATOR:  Yeah, next question, Washington Post.

QUESTION:  I’m going to sit so I can read my questions so excuse me.  Secretary Blinken, as you mentioned in your opening remarks, there have been reports of – regarding harassment and arrest of domestic dissidents by the Rwandan Government along with reports of transnational aggression, including the use of spyware and alleged attacks against opponents in South Africa and Mozambique and elsewhere.  Some members of the U.S. Congress are calling on the Biden administration to withhold foreign assistance and employ the Khashoggi Ban.  At the same time, these messages have been made before U.S. officials.  Did you hear anything today that indicates there will be a change in these actions?

And going back to Paul Rusesabagina, now deemed as wrongfully detained, based on what I heard from the Foreign Minister, it doesn’t seem like the Rwandan Government is prepared to release him.  How do you believe this can be resolved?  And do you believe this issue – along with the others I mentioned – will pose a threat to the two countries’ ability to work together smoothly?

And for you, Mr. Minister, what is your response to the allegations of domestic and transnational repression and to U.S. advocacy on these points?  And what is your – how do you see the U.S. response to your government statements about Paul Rusesabagina’s alleged actions?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Missy, thanks very much.  First, let me start by saying this: we recognize Rwanda’s incredibly difficult history, the 1994 genocide.  And we know the ongoing legacy of that history of the genocide.  But criminalization of some individual’s participation in politics, harassment of those who express opposition to the current government, we believe underlie future peace, stability, and success – success which has already been extraordinary in the case of Rwanda over the last 20 plus years, but which will not reach its full potential if those who express disagreements – criticism of whatever the current government happens to be are repressed in their ability to do that whether that is here in Rwanda or abroad.

And to that point, as you noted, we established what is called the Khashoggi Ban to make clear that any country that engages in repressive actions against those who criticize it, if those persons are in the United States, they face consequences for those actions.

I’ve shared all of this with President Kagame today.  It’s not for me to characterize his response, but these are concerns that I shared.  And I did that, again, in the context of making clear our desire for an even stronger, even more productive relationship between the United States and Rwanda, building on what Rwanda has done so successfully, building on what we’ve already done together.  But these are issues that we care deeply about, our Congress cares deeply about, the American people care deeply about.

I also shared with President Kagame that in many ways our own focus and motivation on these issues goes back to our very founding.  It’s maybe a little bit particular in some ways to the United States, but it’s in our DNA.  As you heard President Biden discuss, we come – we came together as a country, not around any particular group, any particular race, religion, ethnicity.  We came together around an idea, a shared idea that all are created equal and that all are entitled to the same basic inalienable rights.  And of course, we have never made fully good on that ideal.  We’re in constant search of it, constant efforts to form our own more perfect union, which is an acknowledgment that we’re not perfect and this is a constant, ongoing effort.  But we do it openly, we do it transparently, we deal with our challenges, as I think the world can see.  And so by way of explanation as well why we care so deeply about what we believe to be universal rights, not simply those that pertain to Americans.

And again, on the – on the matter and the case of Paul Rusesabagina, all I can share with you today is that I raised this with President Kagame.  We had a discussion about it.  I’m not going to, again, characterize that.  We’ll continue to engage, and I’ll also follow up with the family.

FOREIGN MINISTER BIRUTA:  Yes.  When Rwanda deals with people who commit crimes against our country and our people, we abide by laws, both national and international.  We know some other countries have their own method to deal with those kind of people, those criminals who commit crimes against their own countries.  But as far as Rwanda is concerned, we do it along with, in respect of our laws, and in respect of international laws.  Any other people could qualify these as international repression or whatever, but when we deal with people who commit crimes against our country, against our people, we abide by the laws, both national and international with total (inaudible).

MODERATOR:  Our next question, New Times.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  My name is Edwin Musoni from The New Times.  I’ll ask the minister and the Secretary of State.  Minister, a (inaudible) UN group of experts report indicated that the DRC army was supplying arms to FDLR, and it’s also – it also indicated that the FDLR commander under that arrangement ordered the shelling of Rwandan territory in May.

Now, this happens at a time when Rwanda is under pressure that it is allegedly supporting M23.  What is your take on that, and how can Rwandans be assured of their security?

Mr. Secretary, now given – given the fact that FDLR gets support from the Congolese army, how does the U.S. expect Rwanda to protect its borders against any attacks that happen like what happened in May?  And also at the same time, you cannot talk about FDLR without talking about the genocide.  They are responsible for the genocide.  Today, the United States remains the only country in the world that has deliberately refused to adopt the official definition of the genocide, the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.  Now, what’s the logic behind this deliberate stubbornness of the U.S. not adopting the genocide?  Yet as you said you stand by Rwanda.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BIRUTA:  Rwanda is not the cause of longstanding instability in eastern DRC, where we have over 130 armed groups, including the M23.  And the presence of the FDLR in the close collaboration with the army of the DRC has always been the most significant cause of insecurity.  And this enables the FDLR to conduct terrorist operations on Rwandan territory, something the Government of Rwanda cannot accept.  In Rwanda we always reserve the right to take necessary measures to protect its territorial integrity, its sovereignty, and to ensure the security of its people.  As we’ve said, Rwanda remains committed to the processes mandated by the African Union, and the other regional organization, which we hope the United States will continue to support for all of us to bring lasting peace to eastern DRC and to the entire region.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There are very credible reports of support for armed groups by all sides, including the FDLR by Congolese forces and M23 by Rwandans.  And our position is clear.  Whoever it’s by, whoever it’s to – that support needs to cease for any – any armed group.

When it comes to the FDLR, it has sought to conduct attacks on Rwanda and it’s supported hateful ideologies.  And we’ve seen support, as I said – we’ve seen reports of cooperation between Congolese forces and the FDLR.  I raised this directly with the president in the Congo, and we are pressing again for that support to cease, just as we’re pressing for any support to M23 to cease.

These groups need to end the violence, demobilize, and pursue talks with the government.  And as I noted, both leaders – here in Rwanda and in the Congo – made clear to me that they’re prepared to engage in talks with the various armed factions as necessary in order to pursue their demobilization in the context of the process led by President Kenyatta and others, the Nairobi process.  We’ll continue to support that.

And when it comes to recognition of the genocide and the horrors committed, we’ve been very clear about that.  I’ll have an opportunity to visit the memorial in just a few hours and to continuously take note, to take account of the almost unfathomable suffering of so many people that remains present in people’s lives.  And we’ll continue to work at the United Nations for every appropriate recognition of history, even as we do everything possible every single day to make sure that that history is never repeated.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Final question from (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Hi.  Following up on that same issue, Mr. Secretary, you mentioned your conversations with both the president of Rwanda and of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  And in Congo, you heard many complaints about the violence in eastern Congo and the support of Rwanda supposedly for some of the armed groups to the extent that they demanded sanctions be imposed against Rwanda.  And yet here, you probably heard a certain amount of popular support for the M deux trois group.  So how do you reconcile those two very disparate positions in your quest for negotiations as you described?  Did you specifically ask President Kagame to end the support for M23?  And then finally, do you now put the M23 and the FDLR on the same ground?  It seems like they’re almost making a – an equivalency between the two.  So I’m interested about that.

And then Mr. Minister, the U.S. Government is asking you to end support for M23.  How do you respond to that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  So it’s a matter of principle that applies equally.  This is not a question of weighing one group against another.  There’s a basic principle that there should not be support coming from governments or coming from their entities like their armed forces for arming groups like – non-state groups like M23 or like FDLR.  And that’s a basic principle, because to the extent that that happens, that’s likely to perpetuate conflict and violence, not end it.  It doesn’t suggest one way or another equivalence between groups or some valuation, but the basic principle is very important and it’s very important here.  And yes, I specifically raised that with President Kagame just as I raised it with President Tshisekedi in the DRC.

We also raised another principle, which is the territorial integrity of states and the need to protect that.  And we also raised another principle, which is that leaders have a responsibility to speak out against hate speech – something that we’ve seen, unfortunately, increasingly in recent months with regard to the Congo, and in particular, directed at certain communities, including Rwandaphones, and directed at the UN and its mission there.

So this is something that I raised in both – both meetings with both leaders.  And the question, of course, is now turning principle into practice, and that’s what we talked about.  And the best way to do that, in our judgment, is to pursue the African-led mediation efforts through the Nairobi process.  President Kenyatta has now been designated by the East African Community to carry on that mission, even when he is no longer in office as president of Kenya.  President Lourenço from Angola is also very engaged.  And what we heard from both presidents is their appreciation for our own efforts, the United States efforts to support that African-led mediation effort.  We’ll continue to do that just as we’ve been doing in the months leading up to this visit.

FOREIGN MINISTER BIRUTA:  Whatever Government of Rwanda could do in DRC or in our region would be about protecting our people and protecting the territorial integrity of our country and its sovereignty.  It is not about supporting M23.  And if we want a lasting solution for the problems in eastern DRC, in our region, we just need to deal with the root causes of the problem, which is the presence and the preservation of the FDLR, the FDLR in eastern DRC and their cooperation with FRDC.  Let me remind you that they have together, jointly they have shelled the Rwandan territory three times – on 18th March, on 27 May, on – and on 10th June.  And we have always warned the Government of DRC – we ask them to stop those attacks.  And if we need to get a lasting solution, we should go to the root causes of the problems, which is the genocide they acknowledge being spread in our region from – the genocide which took place here in 1994 – and the preservation of the FDLR, which is a genocidal force.

And there are mechanism in place, the original mechanism which were agreed on by the African Union, by the East African Community, by the ICJR, and we just need to go to those mechanism (inaudible) us with them, and you permit them.  And we find solutions to the existing political issues in DRC, and hopefully we achieve peace for all of us.  Eastern DRC – DRC needs peace, but we also need peace for us to develop our countries.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken.  Thank you, Minister.  Thank you much – thank you very much, everybody. (Inaudible.)