Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel December 5-11 to the United Kingdom, Italy, Vatican City, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic to further strengthen our bilateral relationships, deepen our unified support for Ukraine, coordinate on our response to the Russian Federation’s unprovoked war, and discuss our strategies in the Indo-Pacific.
In London, Deputy Secretary Sherman will reaffirm the special relationship between the United States and the UK and address a range of shared foreign policy priorities, including support for Ukraine, in meetings with UK National Security Advisor Sir Tim Barrow; Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee Sir Simon Gass; Minister for the Americas David Rutley, MP; and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Permanent Under Secretary Sir Philip Barton.
The Deputy Secretary will then travel to Rome, where she will meet with senior Italian officials including Diplomatic Advisor Francesco Talo and Secretary General Ettore Sequi to discuss mutual priorities, building on President Biden’s recent bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Meloni. The Deputy Secretary will deliver remarks to university students at LUISS on the importance of the transatlantic partnership, the U.S.-Italy relationship, and continued support to Ukraine. The Deputy Secretary will also meet with UN Food & Agriculture Organization Director General Qu Dongyu to discuss the ongoing global food security crisis, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the Vatican, she will discuss shared priorities with Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
In Paris, she will meet with Diplomatic Advisor Emmanuel Bonne, Secretary General Anne-Marie Descôtes, Director General for International Relations and Strategy Alice Rufo, and other senior French officials, to discuss international efforts to support Ukraine and to build on the December 1 State Visit by President Macron.
Deputy Secretary Sherman will then travel to Berlin, where she will discuss mutual priorities with senior German officials including National Security Advisor Jens Ploetner and Secretary General Andreas Michaelis. She will also deliver remarks at Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung on U.S.-German cooperation in advancing our foreign policy goals in the Indo-Pacific and hold a roundtable with business leaders.
In Prague, Deputy Secretary Sherman will meet with Foreign Minister Lipavsky and other senior Czech officials, where she will highlight the Czech Republic’s leadership during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, as well as its outsized support for the people of Ukraine. While in Prague, the Deputy Secretary will also speak at the Aspen Ministers Forum and celebrate the legacy of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with young Czech leaders.
The United States government, in partnership with the Government of Japan, is sponsoring the fifth Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IPBF) on January 12, 2023. The hybrid event will feature an in-person program in Tokyo and a robust virtual component timed to allow meaningful participation from across the Indo-Pacific region.
Government and business leaders from the United States, Japan, and across the Indo-Pacific will exchange ideas through interactive discussions organized around the theme of inclusive and sustainable growth. The IPBF is an opportunity to discuss our shared ambitions for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, as well as our respective priorities for the United States’ APEC host year and Japan’s G7 presidency in 2023.
Attendees will also be able to explore regional government and business partnerships and commercial opportunities. The IPBF will showcase high-impact private sector investment and government efforts to support market competition, job growth, and high-standard development for greater prosperity and economic inclusion in the Indo-Pacific.
The IPBF, building on productive discussions at the East Asia Summit, APEC Leaders’ Meetings, and the G20 Summit, advances a vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. The Indo-Pacific region will shape the trajectory of the global economy in the 21st century. It is the fastest growing economic region on the planet, accounting for 60 percent of the world economy and two-thirds of all economic growth over the last five years. Together with our Japanese co-hosts, we are underscoring our sustained commitment to the region and highlighting the economic ties that have contributed to regional prosperity and interconnectedness.
The fifth Indo-Pacific Business Forum is supported by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. Registration and media accreditation will open soon.
For further information, please visit the Indo-Pacific Business Forum website.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will deliver remarks at the J Street National Conference on Sunday, December 4, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. EST at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.
Secretary Blinken’s remarks will be open press and live streamed on the State Department homepage and Youtube channel. To register for in-person coverage, please complete this form. Call time and access instructions will be provided to all registered media prior to the event.
For additional information, please contact Logan Bayroff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marking the Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare, the Secretary-General said that chemical weapons have claimed countless victims across the globe. He stressed that on this Day, the international community must honour them and reaffirm its commitment to achieve a world free from this threat.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West will travel to Japan, India, and the United Arab Emirates December 1-8. Special Representative West will consult with partners and Afghans regarding the humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan, protection of Afghans’ rights, and shared security concerns. Special Representative West will also engage with the Afghan diaspora, including human rights, business, political, and media leaders on how to address these challenges.
The Security Council today extended the mandate of its subsidiary 1540 Committee, for a period of ten years until 30 November 2032. The Committee monitors implementation of Council resolution 1540 (2004) that aims to prevent non-State actors from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting, transferring or using nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery.
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, welcome to the program. I just wanted to ask you, because you’ve just been meeting with your Ukrainian counterpart —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Christiane, great to be with you.
QUESTION: — who has told you all that they need weapons faster, faster, and faster. So is it true that NATO is running out of ammunition for, for instance, artillery that the Ukrainians are using?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Christiane, from day one – in fact, even before day one, before the Russian aggression started but we saw it coming – we’ve been working with the Ukrainians to get them what they need to defend themselves and to push back the Russian aggression. In every step along the way, in consultation with them, in consultation with allies and partners, we’ve adjusted as the nature of the aggression has shifted to make sure that they were getting into their hands as quickly as possible exactly what they needed to deal with Putin’s war. And that process continues.
We’re now very focused on air defense systems – and not just us – many other countries. And we’re working to make sure that the Ukrainians get those systems as quickly as possible, but also as effectively as possible, making sure that they’re trained on them, making sure that they have the ability to maintain them. And all of that has to come together, and it is. We have a very deliberate process established by the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, in Ramstein, Germany that meets regularly to make sure that the Ukrainians are getting what they need when they need it.
QUESTION: So let me ask you, then, about the somewhat confusion from the Pentagon and from you all at NATO regarding American Patriots. As you say, they definitely need anti-air defense systems, and clearly you must think they need more as Putin ratchets up his missile attack and his missile wars against cities. So will the United States give Patriot systems, and if not, why not?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So I’m not going to speak to specific systems. The Pentagon is focused on that. What we’ve been working to do is to make sure that, at any given time, they have the most effective systems possible to deal with the threat that they’re facing. We just recently, for example, provided them with a very effective system called NASAMs that they’re using very effectively. Before that, of course, we had the HIMARs, which they used to great effect both in southern and eastern Ukraine.
So virtually every single day, Christiane, the Pentagon is looking at this, listening to the Ukrainians, consulting with allies and partners, and, if we don’t have something, trying to find it elsewhere. That’s part of this entire coordination process.
QUESTION: What goes through your mind when you see how President Putin and the Russian military is basically shifting from what you all are terming failures on the battlefield and losses of territory to this relentless, relentless attack on the cities? Again, are you satisfied that as much anti-air and the sophisticated missile defense systems are getting to them in time?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Christiane, what we’re seeing, to put it in one word, is barbaric. And precisely because Putin is not able to succeed on battlefield, he’s taking the war to Ukraine’s civilians. And he’s doing it in a very deliberate way – going after the entire energy and electric infrastructure to turn off the lights, to turn off the water, to turn off the heat, and that at a time when of course Ukraine is heading into winter.
The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, talked about weaponizing winter, and that’s exactly what Putin is doing. It’s also why not only are we seized with making sure that Ukraine has the systems it needs to defend itself, but we’re also seized with making sure that we’re doing everything possible – again, as quickly as possible – to help them repair and replace everything that’s being destroyed by the Russian onslaught.
And just as we put this process together some months ago in Ramstein, Germany to get them the defensive weapons systems that they need, so too we’re doing that with energy, with equipment, with transformers, with generators, with spare parts. We met here in Bucharest not just with NATO Allies but with the G7 countries and some other countries to put in place a very coordinated process to make sure that, as fast we can, we’re getting Ukraine what it needs to get through the winter, to make sure that men, women, children are not literally freezing to death.
We heard from Foreign Minister Kuleba, my friend and counterpart, who just came from Kyiv and described for all of the ministers here what life is like under this Russian onslaught. And by the way, this is not normal. This is the brutalization of a country and directly attacking everything its civilians, its citizens need to simply survive. And I hope that the world understands it and sees it that way. We are seized with this and we’re acting on it to get Ukraine everything we possibly can to get through the winter.
QUESTION: So just one last question, then, on this issue of weaponry and what they need. You know The New York Times has reported that you all at NATO are considering investing in, for instance, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria – factories that have made Soviet-era ammunition – for artillery that apparently Ukraine is mostly using. Is that correct?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re looking at every option to make sure that, again, they get what they need and what can be most effective for them. Some of that does to go Soviet-era systems that they’ve had in their inventory for decades and, for example, making sure that the ammunition is there for those systems. And in some cases that may require producing things that haven’t been produced for some time. So we are looking across the board at all of that.
And Christiane, even as we’re working to get Ukraine what they need most urgently, we’re also working to make sure that, over the medium and long term, we’re helping them build up their capacity to deter and defend against future aggression, because when this war eventually comes to an end, one of the things that’s going to be so critical is making sure that we’ve done everything possible to ensure that it doesn’t repeat itself, that Russia doesn’t renew its aggression against Ukraine. Part of that is making sure that Ukraine has over the long term the ability to deter aggression and to defend itself if aggression comes.
QUESTION: Can I move on to Iran? Because on the one hand, you and others obviously accuse Iran of supplying the Russians with much weaponry, but also especially these kamikaze drones that have caused a huge amount of damage and death. But I also want to ask you about your reaction to reports that Iran has told you and the international community and the IAEA that it plans to upgrade and increase its production and purity – power – of uranium near to bomb capacity, move that to an area that’s difficult for you all to attack – I believe it’s the Fordow – and to increase its nuclear fuel production in other places that both the United States and Israel are accused of having sabotaged.
What is your reaction to that? Have they told you that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Christiane, I think the world is rightly focused on what’s happening on the streets in Iran throughout the country, and that is incredibly brave young people – mostly women – who are standing up speaking out for their most basic rights. And that of course has been the case since the killing of Mahsa Amini some months ago. And that’s where the world’s focus is; that’s where our focus is. We’ve taken steps, as you know, to sanction those who’ve been responsible for trying to repress people peacefully protesting. We have worked as well to make sure that Iranians have, to the best of our ability, the communications technology that they need to continue to communicate with one another and to stay connected to the outside world.
At the same time, we have continued to believe that the best way to deal with Iran’s nuclear program is through diplomacy. As you know, we had an agreement, the so-called JCPOA, that put Iran’s nuclear program in a box. Unfortunately, the decision was made to pull out of that agreement, and what we’ve seen virtually ever since is Iran building back its program. We’ve been very clear with them – and not just the United States, but others, including European partners – that they should not take additional steps to increase their nuclear capacity, including by enriching to higher levels. And if they pursue that direction, we’ll be prepared to respond.
QUESTION: Regarding the protests inside, we’ve seen some Iranian protesters at the actual games in Doha – the World Cup – be wrestled to the ground for wearing the woman life – Women, Life, Freedom t-shirt and other such things. We know that the match between the United States and Iran last night, which the U.S. won, was highly charged to the point that President Biden, who’s not known as a soccer fan, said afterwards: USA, USA; that’s a big game, man; they did it; God love ‘em. So all of this is going on around these very serious issues that you’re talking about. Is there anything that the United States will do to support the protests, this – other than sanctioning some of the people who you’ve said that you’ve sanctioned?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Christiane, I watched the game last night. I think Team USA performed remarkably. I also have to salute the performance of the Iranian players throughout the tournament, as well as in the game yesterday. And yes, it was a highly charged atmosphere, but I’m glad that the players actually had a chance to play the game and that we got the result that we got.
But this is – what’s happening in Iran is first and foremost about Iranians, about their future, about their country, and it’s not about us. And one of the profound mistakes that the regime makes is to try to point the finger at others – at the United States, Europeans – claiming that we are somehow responsible for instigating or otherwise fanning the flames of the protests. That is to profoundly, fundamentally misunderstand their own people.
But as I said, not only have we sanctioned those responsible for cracking down on protesters, we’ve also worked to make sure that, again, to the best of our ability, technology, communications technology that the Iranian people need in order to continue to be able to communicate with one another and to be connected to the outside world is available to them. And so we’re focused on that.
There are other steps that we’re taking diplomatically, across international organizations and with many other countries, to make clear how the world sees the repression that’s going on in Iran to try to hold down those who are simply trying to peacefully express their views. But the main focus has to remain on the Iranian people. This is about what they want, what they need, what they expect.
QUESTION: And finally, your next trip is to China. I believe it’s going to be your first such trip as Secretary of State. And President Biden has been, and he was trying to, as he said, lower the temperature and make sure that we don’t enter a new Cold War. But I want to ask you, given what China did along with Saudi Arabia to block any meaningful word on fossil fuels and emissions at COP27 – and the fact that all they pretty much talk about in terms of international relations are security and Taiwan – if they’re not going to play ball on climate and if they’re angry about Taiwan, and particularly Nancy Pelosi’s visit, what is it that you all have to talk about? What can you hope to get out of visiting China?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Christiane, President Biden and President Xi had, I think, an important meeting in Bali, and one that was productive in the sense that it’s vitally important that we communicate clearly and directly to one another about our interests, about our intentions, about our policies because – precisely because we’re in a competition with China, the potential for miscommunication, for not at least understanding what each other is trying to do, that’s something we have to guard against. And that’s necessary particularly if, as President Biden has said, we want to ensure that the competition we’re engaged in does not veer into conflict. No one has an interest in that.
So first and foremost, the trip that I’ll take early next year is about continuing that communication, making sure that we have lines of communication that are open, that are clear even when we disagree and, indeed, disagree profoundly. The world also expects us to manage this relationship responsibly, to make sure that – again, to the best of our ability – we avoid any conflict and, yes, that where we’re able to cooperate, especially on issues that affect not only Americans and not only Chinese but people around the world, that we at least try to do that.
It’s going to be up to China to decide whether it wants to participate in that kind of cooperation on things like climate, on global health, on the macroeconomic environment that we’re all living in as we try to get beyond COVID and pursue an economic recovery. We can’t decide that for China. We can make clear that we’re prepared to engage and to cooperate where it’s in our interest to do so and where the world expects that of us. China will have to decide whether it wants to do the same thing.
QUESTION: Well, I’m being told that we’ve run out of time, Secretary Blinken. I just wonder whether you will answer one more question on the French president’s state visit. Do you have time?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Go ahead, Christiane.
QUESTION: Okay. French President Macron is being hosted by President Biden. It’s the first Biden administration state dinner, state visit. And at the same time, there is a – quite a difference between what Europe and the United States is saying – for instance, over trade; Macron’s accused the U.S. of an aggressive protectionism approach, plus the whole price of gas – they want a lower price of gas. What do you think will come out of this visit for Europe, and what are you hearing from your European colleagues now?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’re really looking forward to this visit. It is, as you said, the first state visit for President Biden, and I think the fact that President Macron is the first person that the President’s welcoming on a state visit speaks volumes about the importance that we attach to the relationship. Not only that, what I’ve seen over the last two years – with France specifically, Europe more generally, including the European Union – is greater and greater convergence on the issues that matter most, whether it’s Ukraine, whether it’s the approach to China, whether it’s dealing with everything from climate to food insecurity to energy.
And do we have differences on certain things? Of course. We always do, but we always work through them. And so, for example, when it comes to some concerns that we’ve heard in Europe over some of the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that go to creating incentives for investing in the United States – we’ve heard some concerns expressed by our European partners – we immediately set up a task force with the European Union to work through those concerns, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thank you so much for joining me.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us today.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s great to be with you, Andrea.
QUESTION: You are an avid soccer fan – I want to ask you about Ukraine, of course, the subject of this meeting, the main subject of this meeting here at NATO – but I want to ask you about soccer, about the game, the importance of the game. You’ve said that soccer is not geopolitical, but at this world cup it really was. The Iranian state media was challenging U.S. policies publicly at a news conference, so it was certainly part of the text. And there was global outrage over what’s happened to women – hundreds arrested, many killed, many others injured – outrage around the world.
So isn’t there inevitably some significance, some impact of the U.S. victory over Iran?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Andrea, let me just say how proud I am, like so many Americans are, of Team USA – how well they’ve performed in this World Cup, including last night in the game against Iran. And by the way, I thought the Iranian players performed with incredible valor and heart throughout this tournament, and it was great to see these athletes doing what they do. And yes, I also believe strongly – because I see it every place I go – that football, as it’s called in most parts of the world – soccer, as we call it – really is a universal language spoken pretty much everywhere. And it has a powerful way of bringing people together. People not only play soccer, they watch it, they argue about it, they get passionate about teams, whether it’s a national team or whether it’s a club team. That’s a powerful thing.
Of course, when you have countries that are playing against each other that are in a totally different area in a rivalry, a competition, or have a fraught relationship, that can spill over. And I think the American players were incredibly dignified off the field, just as they were successful on the field. But our focus was on the game last night, but our focus every day and the world’s focus is what’s happening in the streets of Iran – the extraordinary courage of women in particular who have been standing up, speaking up, speaking out for their basic rights. And we’ve seen that since the killing of Mahsa Amini some months ago.
So that’s where the attention is. We’ve been working to make sure that, to the best of our ability, those who’ve been involved in trying to repress the ability of the Iranian people and women to speak up and speak out, we’ve been sanctioning that. We’ve also been trying to make sure that Iranians have the ability to be able to communicate with one another and stay connected to the outside world, including through the provision of technology.
So we’re focused on that. Sometimes these things blend together, but for the most part we’re trying to do whatever we can do to make clear that we support what Iranians are asking for, demanding in the streets, which is to be heard, to be able to make their views known peacefully, and not to have this terrible repression that we’re seeing.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, with so many women arrested, some killed, is there anything – anything – the U.S. Government can do besides sanctions and helping them with internet access?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, Andrea, first it’s really important to make clear that this is about Iranians, this is about the women, the young people who are protesting, trying to – it’s not about us. It’s not about any other country. In fact, one of the profound mistakes that the regime makes is in accusing the United States or any other country of somehow being responsible for, instigating what’s happening. That’s not at all the case. And to misunderstand their own people is at the heart of the problem that they’re facing.
But like the most important thing that we can do is first to speak out very clearly ourselves in support of the people’s right to protest peacefully, to make their views known, and as I said, to take what steps we can take to go after those who are actually oppressing those rights, including through sanctions; and also to try to help the Iranian people remain connected to each other and connected to the world. That’s exactly what we’re doing.
QUESTION: The women tell me that they think that change is now inevitable; that there is no turning back. Do you agree with that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s very hard for us to judge. First, we don’t have diplomatic relations. Our visibility inside Iran is limited. And again, it’s fundamentally about the Iranian people, their own aspirations, their own desires, their own needs for their futures, for their country. That’s what will determine what happens and where this goes.
QUESTION: Now that they are accelerating their nuclear program to the point where they’re just below the level of weapons-grade, is there – there’s no diplomacy going on clearly from their side. They’re not serious about it. So is the military option now the only option to stop them from having a nuclear weapon?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, we continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to deal with —
QUESTION: It’s not happening.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — with the nuclear program. That’s why we engaged in it over this – these past couple years. When there was an agreement, the so-called JCPOA that put Iran’s nuclear program into a box, the decision to pull out of that agreement allowed the program to get out of the box. And now what we’re seeing is, as you said, Iran continuing to take steps to make that program ever more dangerous, and it is something that we are very concerned about – not just us, but many allies and partners around the world, starting with our European partners. So we’ve made clear to Iran in a variety of ways that if they continue to take steps to advance their program, we will also have to take steps to oppose that and to deal with that.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about Ukraine. The secretary general said that Vladimir Putin is weaponizing winter. People are starving, they’re freezing, they need water. And Putin is carpet-bombing at this point. Is there any way to make sure that as we spend millions repairing these substations that he’s not just going to take them out and – it’s playing whack-a-mole.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So we’re doing two things – because you’re exactly right – but what Putin is not able to do on the battlefield, he’s actually now taking to civilians across the country by trying to deny them heat, deny them electricity, deny them water, to freeze them, to brutalize them in ways that we haven’t seen in Europe in decades. And that’s playing out across the entire country. It’s not just the frontlines in eastern and southern Ukraine; it’s literally every part of the country.
So two things are necessary, two things that are – we’re focused on. One is, yes, making sure that to the best of our ability we are getting to Ukraine what it needs to repair, to replace, to make more resilient its energy and electricity infrastructure. But at the same time – you’re exactly right – we also need to make sure, again to the best of our ability, that Ukrainians can defend that infrastructure. Otherwise, you just get into a cycle where stuff is destroyed, we help them replace it, it gets destroyed again, and that gets repeated.
So throughout this Russian aggression, we’ve been working to make sure at every stop along the way that Ukraine had in its hands the military equipment and weapons it needed to defend itself, to deter the Russian aggression, to push back. And the needs for Ukraine have evolved, depending on the nature of what Russia is doing. Now —
QUESTION: But they’ve asked for – they’ve asked for bigger, longer, stronger weapons earlier. Was it a mistake not to give them more air defenses – Patriots – sooner?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve been doing it all along; in fact, even before day one. When we saw the Russian aggression mounting, when we warned the world that it was likely to come, we didn’t just say that. We didn’t just warn people. Going back more than a year ago, we started to provide the Ukrainians with air defense systems, with things like Stinger missiles, Javelins, to deal with tanks.
QUESTION: What about the Patriots now?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And then throughout as we’ve seen that the nature of the threat from Russia change, moved to different parts of the country, used different tools, we’ve helped the Ukrainians adapt by making sure that the weapon systems that we were giving them – and many others are giving them – are actually fit for the threat that they’re facing. It’s not just getting them weapon systems; it’s making sure that they’re trained on them, it’s making sure that they can maintain them. There’s a whole process that goes into that. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has convened a group of countries over many months now to make sure that we’re doing that in a coordinated way. We’ve now just done the same thing on the energy side with G7 countries as well as in coordination with the European Union, making sure that just as we’re doing on the defense side, on the energy and electricity side we’re organized and coordinated. We’re bringing all of that together to help Ukraine get through the winter.
QUESTION: In China, they are cracking down on the protesters. In some ways does that give us more leverage? Has President Xi Jinping been weakened by this?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I can’t speak to what this says about his standing. But what I can say is this: First, the zero-COVID policy that we’ve seen in China is not something that we would do, and we’ve been focused on making sure that people have safe and effective vaccines, that we have testing, that we have treatment, and that has proven effective. China has to figure out a way forward on dealing with COVID, a way forward that answers the health needs but also answers the needs of the people. We can’t address that for them.
I think any country where you see people trying to speak out, trying to speak up, to protest peacefully, to make known their frustrations, whatever the issue is – in any country where we see that happening and then we see the government take massive repressive action to stop it, that’s not a sign of strength, that’s a sign of weakness.
QUESTION: Paul Whelan’s family is so worried about his health, his condition. They haven’t heard from him; he missed his Thanksgiving call. The embassy has had no contact. What can you tell us about what’s happened to Paul Whelan?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: First, one of my number-one concerns anywhere in the world is for Americans who are being arbitrarily detained, and that goes for Paul Whelan, Brittney Griner, and others in Russia; it goes for Americans in a number of other countries who are being imprisoned for political reasons, used as pawns. We’ve been very focused with Russia on trying to get Paul Whelan home, trying to get Brittney Griner home, get others home. Part of that goes to making sure that we actually have the ability to have access to them, to have contact with them, which is a requirement under basic international law, basic diplomatic conventions that Russia –
QUESTION: Do we know how he is now?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So the last time that our own team has had an opportunity to see Paul was I believe November 16th, when we actually had a visit with him. We spoke on the phone with him I think roughly around the same time. We’ve not had contact since then; we’ve asked for it. We’re pursuing it every single day.
QUESTION: We don’t know where or how he is? Could he be hospitalized?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I can’t speak to his condition now, his situation now. We are working every day to make sure that we have contact with him, that we understand what the exact situation is. Even as we’re working to bring him home, to bring Brittney Griner home, this isn’t the end of what we see Russia doing in terms of abusing very basic understandings that countries have had when it comes to having access to our citizens who are being detained.
QUESTION: I want to ask you, given your family background, your stepfather’s survival through the Holocaust, and what you know about world history, are you concerned we now have these Oath Keepers convicted – some for seditious conspiracy, but there are these – there’s a rise in white nationalism, in anti-Semitism all over the country. Is anti-Semitism becoming normalized, even with the former president hosting an anti-Semite? And do you have concerns about what this says to the world about America?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: My focus and my job is on anti-Semitism around the world. And we know —
QUESTION: But what about here at home?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, one of the things I stay out of is our own politics. That’s not my job, that’s not my brief. My brief is to make sure that our values and interests are advanced around the world. And one of my real concerns is the rise in anti-Semitism around the world. And it’s often a canary in the coal mine. Whenever we see anti-Semitism rise, usually (inaudible) —
QUESTION: How can we preach to the rest of the world when we see it so rampant in our political life at home? It’s not politics, it’s American values.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: In a variety of ways, we of course have to deal with our own challenges. But one of the hallmarks of the United States, one of the things that continues to set us apart, is that we do deal with them – openly, transparently. We confront them. We don’t sweep them under the rug. We actually talk about them, and we don’t pretend that they don’t exist. Even when we have problems that are painful, that are difficult to deal with that create conflict in our own society, we engage them. And one of the things that I’m able to say when I go around the world, whether it’s on anti-Semitism or any other issue, is, “Yes, even if we have problems at home, we’re actually dealing with them. We’re confronting them. We’re not pretending they don’t exist. We urge you to do the same thing.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today announced the appointment of Oscar Fernandez-Taranco of Argentina as Assistant Secretary-General for Development Coordination. He succeeds Robert Piper of Australia, who was appointed as Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement. The Secretary-General is deeply grateful to Mr. Piper for his dedicated service and commitment and his steadfast stewardship in operationalizing the new Development Coordination Office.
Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, observed on 5 December:
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