Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud Before Their Meeting 

15 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

FOREIGN MINISTER AL SAUD:  Good afternoon.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s a real pleasure to have my friend and colleague, the Saudi Foreign Minister, here.  Faisal and I have been working very closely together these many months that we’ve been in office, and I’m especially happy to have an opportunity to have you here at the State Department in Washington.

We have a strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  We are committed to the defense of the Kingdom.  We have a lot of work that we’re doing together on a variety of very significant issues, from climate to energy to Yemen to Iran.  So we have a full agenda, including also talking about the continued progress we hope to see in Saudi Arabia on rights.

But there is, I think, a fundamental proposition, which is that for us this partnership with Saudi Arabia is an important one, a vital one, and in terms of dealing with some of the most significant challenges we face, one that we are very appreciative of.  So Faisal, it’s very good to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL SAUD:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you, Tony.  It’s great to be here in Washington.  As you said, lots to talk about.  Important relationship.  And our relationship has delivered immense value for both of our countries, but not just for us, also for the region and for the world.

We’re going to talk about regional security and how we can work together on that, but also, as you mentioned, climate change, energy, recovery from COVID-19.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes. 

FOREIGN MINISTER AL SAUD:  All of these issues, important issues.  And it just shows how important and strong this partnership is, and I look forward to the conversation.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  It’s great to have you.  Thanks, everyone.

Signing of Protocol of Amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement with Greece

14 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Alongside Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, today I signed an amendment to the U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA).  The MDCA is the bedrock of our defense cooperation and has helped strengthen our common defense for more than three decades.  This second amendment to the MDCA in as many years demonstrates the continued ability and resolve of the United States and Greece to address the security challenges of today and tomorrow through our strategic relationship.

The amendment to the MDCA deepens and expands on our partnership to maintain strong, capable, and interoperable militaries.  The MDCA has allowed for U.S. forces to train and operate within Greek territory since 1990. Today’s amendment extends the MDCA’s validity, making it consistent with other bilateral defense cooperation agreements between NATO Allies and durable enough to allow for Greece and the United States to advance security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.

The United States welcomes Greece’s continued investment in defense capabilities and its commitment to fulfilling the pledge it made at the NATO Wales Summit.  Our defense relationship is rooted in a common history and shared values and interests going back more than two centuries.  Our shared values extend to efforts beyond our defense cooperation and include a partnership in addressing climate change, increasing bilateral investment and trade opportunities, and strengthening educational and cultural connections.  These efforts ensure that the U.S.-Greece relationship is stronger than ever.

I am pleased to update the MDCA and hope that the Hellenic Parliament quickly approves this Protocol of Amendment.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at Top of Meeting with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell

14 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I’m very, very pleased to be here with my friend and colleague, Josep Borrell.  We’ve spent a lot of time seeing each other in various parts of the world and on the phone, but it’s particularly good to have you at the State Department today.

It really is simple on one level.  When it comes to virtually all of the challenges that we face around the world, the European Union is a partner of first resort to the United States, and there is virtually not a challenge that we are not working on together.  So we have a very lengthy, important agenda, both matters European, Indo-Pacific, Western Hemisphere.  All of that is on the table.  But it just underscores the fact that as the United States is looking at the challenges we have to meet around the world to actually improve the lives of our own citizens, the first place we’re looking is Europe, the European Union, as our partner.

So welcome.  It’s great to have you here.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE BORRELL:  Thank you.  Thank you to the Secretary of State for the meeting.  Thank you for your time.  You are completely right; it appears we are the best partner and the best allies of the U.S., and the transatlantic relationship is the most important relation that we have with the rest of the world.

So we have to turn the leaf of any misunderstanding and to continue working together.  There are many places in the world that need us to work together – the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, China, Russia, Sahel.  Wherever you look in the globe, you see a place where there is a challenge that you have to face.  And from this point of view, working with our common values, I think this meeting will be an important step towards the relationship across our nations, especially on the issues of security and defense.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE BORRELL:  Thank you.

Election of the United States to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC)

14 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Since the earliest days of this Administration, President Biden has made clear that our foreign policy would be grounded in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms, respecting the rule of law, and treating everyone with dignity.  He also promised to restore American engagement internationally and renew our leadership to catalyze global action on shared challenges.  We have taken up that charge to tirelessly pursue and promote those values – in our bilateral and multilateral relationships and at the United Nations.

Today, I can announce that the United States was elected to serve on the UN Human Rights Council for the next term, beginning in 2022.

We will work hard to ensure the Council upholds its highest aspirations and better supports those fighting against injustice and tyranny around the world.  The path towards the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms will be filled with challenges.  The United States commits to continue this steadfast pursuit, at every opportunity, with any and all countries that will join us.

The Council plays a meaningful role in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms by documenting atrocities in order to hold wrongdoers accountable.  It focuses attention on emergencies and unfolding human rights crises, ensuring that those who are voiceless have a place to be heard.  The Council provides a forum where we can have open discussions about ways we and our partners can improve.  At the same time, it also suffers from serious flaws, including disproportionate attention on Israel and the membership of several states with egregious human rights records.  Together, we must push back against attempts to subvert the ideals upon which the Human Rights Council was founded, including that each person is endowed with human rights and that states are obliged to protect those rights.

I want to thank the UN Member States for affording the United States the opportunity to serve again on the Human Rights Council.  We look forward to the work ahead with our international partners to protect, defend, and advance human rights and the work of the Council globally.

Sixth Anniversary of Iran’s Wrongful Detention of Siamak Namazi

14 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Today marks six years that Iran has wrongfully detained Siamak Namazi, a U.S. citizen who has committed no crime and has been held by the Iranian government for the better part of a decade.

In 2016, Siamak’s father, Baquer, traveled to Iran to help free his son.  In retaliation, the Iranian government arrested Baquer as well.  The Iranian government sentenced both father and son to ten years in prison.  Now 84 years old, without any charge pending against him, and in dire need of medical attention, Baquer remains held by the Iranian government, which refuses to allow him to depart Iran. 

I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Siamak’s brother and Baquer’s son Babak today.  The Iranian government continues to subject the entire Namazi family to unimaginable abuse.  Through it all, the Namazis have shown remarkable courage. 

The United States is committed to securing Siamak and Baquer’s freedom as soon as possible, as well as that of the other U.S. citizens wrongfully detained in Iran.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Before Their Meeting

14 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone, and let me just say again, welcome to my friend, Sheikh Abdullah.  It’s wonderful to have him here.  We spent the morning with our Israeli colleague and had a very good and productive meeting among the three of us, both in celebration of the anniversary of the Abraham Accords, but also focused in on the work that we’re actually doing together and the work that the UAE and Israel are doing as well. 

But we now have a lot to talk about in our bilateral agenda.  The work that we are doing as strategic partners, a partnership we place great value in.  I want to just, at the very outset – and we’ll talk about this – express deep thanks to the UAE for its remarkable help and generosity in helping with the evacuation of Afghan partners.  We deeply, deeply appreciate this.

At the same time, we have a wonderful start to Expo and I’ve already gotten great reports about that start.  I’m looking forward, I hope, to an opportunity to visit and see the great work.  But we have a lot to talk about in terms of regional – shared regional challenges, whether it is Iran, whether it’s Syria, whether it’s Lebanon.  Lots to discuss there.  And we’re also very much looking forward to the role that the UAE is about to take on on the United Nations Security Council.  And so we’ll be talking about that agenda as well.

But, my friend, welcome.  Great to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  We are always honored to be among friends.  The U.S. is our closest partner.  We could not have asked for a better partner and a stronger ally on every single topic. 

You mentioned Expo, and that’s just a way where the United States and the rest of the world are appreciating the efforts in the UAE for the last 50 years and showing that for the very first time in 171 years, an expo is not only taking place in the Gulf or in the Middle East, but in a Muslim country.  So I really hope that the UAE can shape the future for many, many friends around our region.  And if it wasn’t for our 50 years of cooperation, we would be in a far different place.  But it’s only (inaudible) friends we have in the United States, we should be grateful to you.  And hopefully we can, in the next 50 years, double down and do far more.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I look forward to doing that.  Thanks, and welcome again.

Thanks, everyone.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Before Their Meeting

13 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And it looks like we have a full house.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Hope you’re enjoying the balcony.  It’s a particular pleasure to welcome my friend Yair Lapid here to Washington and to the State Department, I think your first official visit as foreign minister —

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  As foreign minister, yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — but we’ve had – oh, excuse me – we’ve had much opportunity to see each other, to talk in recent months, and we had a, I think, very significant and important morning this morning marking the anniversary of the Abraham Accords and the very important work that’s been done with Israel and the UAE on normalization. 

And now we have an opportunity to talk about a number of important issues, both in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Israel, an opportunity as always to affirm, reaffirm the ironclad commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, work that we are doing together throughout the region, and indeed, beyond the region.  So we’ll have an opportunity to discuss a series of those issues and challenges, as well as, of course, work that we’re doing together on a bilateral basis, everything from the economy to climate to COVID.  There’s a long agenda.

But as we talked – as we discussed this morning, we also have an opportunity to focus on some of the regional security challenges that we face together, including the challenge posed by Iran and its nuclear program, and other activities that are of concern to both of our countries as well as to many other countries in the region and around the world.  And we’ll have an opportunity as well to talk about the importance of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians and the United States to finding a two-state solution going forward.

But with that, Yair, welcome.  Great to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for the hospitality here in the U.S.  And again, thank you for this superb trilateral meeting we just had.  It was a powerful moment and a strong message not only about Israel’s relationship with the United States but with the region in general. 

We have a lot to discuss, as you said: Iran, the normalization, there’s the Abraham Accords, all the regional challenges.  And even before that, just to – maybe it’s important that we have a moment to pause and look at the powerful relations our two countries have based on – not only on mutual interest, but on mutual – on a number of shared values, and based on the way we see the future and the world and the way we think the world should look in the future.

So – and the (inaudible) personal relations we have and the people around us have.  So thank you for this meeting, and let’s go to work.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Sounds good.  Thank you all.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a Joint Press Availability

13 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning or, almost, good afternoon, everyone.  Just over a year ago, the leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed the Abraham Accords.  Today, I am honored to host Foreign Minister Lapid, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah, to review the progress that’s been made in the past year in the normalization of relations, and what more we can do together to shape a more peaceful and prosperous region.  The UAE-Israel relationship has, I think it’s fair to say, flourished this past year.  This May, Israel opened an embassy in the UAE, the first it has ever had to a Gulf nation.  And a few days ago, Israel’s new ambassador to the UAE presented his credentials.  In July, the UAE opened an embassy in Israel, the first Gulf state to take that action.

In addition to these diplomatic strides, the people-to-people ties between the two countries are also thriving, even with COVID.  Direct flights are now connecting Israel and the UAE.  Tourists are seizing the opportunity.  Around 200,000 Israelis have visited the Emirates this past year alone.  We strongly support these historic steps, and we’re committed to continue building on the efforts of the last administration to expand the circle of countries with normalized relations with Israel in the years ahead.

We believe that normalization can and should be a force for progress, not only between Israel and Arab countries and other countries in the region and beyond, but also between Israelis and Palestinians.  As President Biden has said, Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, democracy.  The President has also been clear that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign, and democratic Palestinian state.

Today, our three countries discussed two new working groups that we are launching together.  The first is on religious coexistence.  This is a moment of rising anti-Semitism, rising Islamophobia, and we want Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States to work together to build tolerance and ensure that all religious groups can worship in their traditional ways without violence, without intimidation, without discrimination.

The second working group is on water and energy, critical issues for our countries in the face of the climate crisis, and places where the United States, Israel, and the UAE can be in a sense greater than the sum of our parts to the benefit of our people, the region, and even the world.  We’re very pleased that Israel has joined the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, a joint U.S. and UAE initiative to catalyze new investment in climate-smart agriculture.  Israeli and Emirati firms are already planning to collaborate on a number of renewable projects.

And I want to commend the UAE for its plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the first country in the GCC to do so, and Israel for its new plan to reduce emissions by 85 percent by 2050. 

Finally, the trilateral partnership also makes it possible for our countries to discuss other urgent regional issues more effectively, to do it together.  For example, today we talked about a range of regional security issues, including Iran, Syria, Ethiopia.  That’s what normalization has made possible; transformative partnerships on the urgent challenges facing our countries and facing the world.  And that’s why it’s so important, and it’s why I am deeply grateful to both of you for being here today and for the work that we’re doing together.  So thank you very much, and with that, Yair.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:   Thank you, Secretary of State Blinken, Your Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, friends.  Two weeks ago in Bahrain, I met a king in his palace, an American admiral on his ship, and a Jew who cared for the only synagogue almost single-handedly.  And they all said the same thing.  They said no one believed the things happening here are possible. 

And they were wrong.  The things that are happening are happening exactly because people believed, because today there are leaders in the Middle East who believe we can change history together.  In the past four month, Israel opened embassies and offices in the UAE, in Morocco, in Bahrain.  We have turned the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan into a warm peace – we signed economic and civil agreements – and we greatly strengthened our relations with the European Union and with our neighbors in the Mediterranean.

His Highness Sheikh Abdullah and I have become friends and partners.  Our friendship is based on shared values, on moderation, on religious tolerance, on the importance of fighting terror and radicalization.  The partnership is based on economics, progress, and technological excellence.  This partnership isn’t just between Jews and Arabs, but between citizens of the world who want to be partners in the fight against climate change, against poverty, against the pandemic that has taken the life of millions.

President Kennedy said, all people are entitled to a decent way of life.  This includes, of course, the Palestinians.  Our goal is to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure that every child has that opportunity. 

At the center of my visit here is the concern about Iran’s race to nuclear capability.  Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country.  Every day that passes, every delay in negotiations brings Iran closer to a nuclear bomb.  The Iranians are clearly dragging their heels, trying to cheat the world to continue to enrich uranium, to develop their ballistic missile program.

Secretary of State Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors.  We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil.  If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act.  We must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it.  If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they’ll race to the bomb.

Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment, in any way.  That is not only our right; it is also our responsibility.  Iran has publicly stated it wants to wipe us out.  We have no intention of letting this happen.

I don’t want to conclude with fears, but with hopes.  We are writing a new chapter in our history.  There is an alliance of moderates focused on life, focused on hope, focused on optimism, focused on looking forward. 

I thank you both for this alliance, for the friendship we have.  It is a source of hope for the whole world.  Thank you. 

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED:  Secretary Blinken, for us, having us both – my dear friend Yair Lapid, the foreign minister of Israel, myself – in D.C. is a strong commitment of the United States in building bridges, yes, but building bridges between two successful nations, but also two successful nations which are committed and devoted for further development, changing the narrative in the region, especially among our youth, towards a more positive one. 

Our entire effort towards the future should be based on how can we make our people respect and admire good successes in the region.  Unfortunately, in the last few decades, we haven’t seen many of those.  And what I believe the United States is telling the rest of the world in embracing the Emirates and Israel is that the United States is serious about changing this narrative in the region, and thank you for that, Secretary Blinken. 

We in the UAE are very proud that in less than 50 years of our federation, we’ve managed to come where we are today.  And how can we create a nation which respects values but also respects and celebrates tolerance? 

I’m sure that this would have a further effect in the region, and I’m sure that the more of a successful UAE-Israeli relationship there’ll be, that would not only encourage the region, but also encourage the Israeli people and the Palestinian people that this path works, that this path is worth not only investing in but also taking the risk. 

We are extremely impressed, obviously, with our growing relationship with Israel, but we will always depend that we have a friend, a partner in the U.S., which will excite us and will show us how to do things even better.  So thank you, Secretary.

MR PRICE:  We’ll now turn to questions.  We will start with Will Mauldin of The Wall Street Journal

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Sheikh Abdullah, I wanted to ask if the conflict with Yemen came up, and if so, what was discussed in terms of humanitarian or – humanitarian efforts or possible durable ceasefire involving you or your neighbors? 

For Foreign Minister Lapid, I did want to ask:  I saw that you spoke yesterday with Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, about an alternative plan to the nuclear agreement if Iran doesn’t come back to the table.  I’m wondering if you discussed that with Secretary Blinken or if you will discuss that with him, and what that would involve – what you would want it to involve.

And then finally, for Secretary Blinken, I wanted to ask also about Iran.  Do you expect Iran to return to the negotiating table imminently in Vienna?  And if not, how much time do you think they should have?  A couple of months?  Should it be sometime next year? 

And I also wanted to ask you, if I may, about the consulate in Jerusalem.  Would that be something that you made progress on with Foreign Minister Lapid?  Is there any chance that that will be opened, which is something you had envisioned after traveling to Israel?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED:  Well, Yemen is always on the agenda with friends, and we have to just keep in mind that what’s dragging us in the situation is the lack of will and commitment on the Houthi side in ending this conflict.  We are all working very hard among friends to ensure that the Yemenis can have a better life.  But at the same time, we have to keep in mind that we don’t end up with a situation where we have another Hizballah threatening the borders of Saudi Arabia.  And the Houthis have managed to develop their capabilities in the last few years in a way which is much faster than the trajectory of Hizballah developing its capabilities. 

So absolutely, we would like to end this today.  We would like to help with the rest of the international community in developing and rebuilding Yemen.  But we have to make sure that we have enough partners and international understanding that we don’t have another Southern Lebanon situation in Yemen.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  Well, as President Biden has said in the visit when Prime Minister Bennett was visiting Washington, I think the exact goal, if diplomacy fails, other options will be on the table.  And yes, we are discussing in length the option and I discussed this with Mr. Sullivan, we’re going to discuss this in the bilateral meeting with Secretary Blinken, and we have mentioned this even in this session.  

As I was saying in my opening remarks, sometimes the world has to show its hand in order to make sure Iran understands the consequences of running to become a threshold country.  We’re not going to allow this to happen, and I think everybody in this room share this sentiment, and we are discussing how to make sure this will never happen. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’re united in the proposition that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, and President Biden is committed to that proposition.  We believe that the diplomatic path is the most effective way to ensure that that doesn’t happen. 

But as we’ve had occasion to discuss in recent weeks, despite the fact that we’ve made abundantly clear over the last nine months that we are prepared to return to full compliance with the JCPOA if Iran does the same, what we are seeing – or maybe more accurately not seeing from Tehran now – suggests that they’re not.  And time is running short because, as we’ve also had an opportunity to discuss together, we are getting closer to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not in and of itself recapture the benefits of the JCPOA, and that’s because Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear program in a variety of ways, including enriching uranium to 20 percent and even 60 percent, using more advanced centrifuges, acquiring more knowledge. 

And so that runway is getting shorter.  I’m not going to put a specific date on it, but with every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets short.  And so as the foreign minister said, we are discussing this among ourselves, and we will look at every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran.  We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not – we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point.

With regard to the second part of your question, Will, I mentioned this in my opening remarks:  We believe strongly that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely, securely, with equal measures of freedom, prosperity, democracy.  And we will continue our own efforts toward that end.  And in a sense, I can’t stress this enough, advancing equal measures of freedom and dignity is important in its own right and as a means to advance toward a negotiated two-state solution.  So our approach will be to work toward a more peaceful, secure, prosperous future for the people of the Middle East as a whole, and for Israelis and Palestinians as well in particular.  We are unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security, and we will work to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership.

To advance the goal that I mentioned, we will work closely with Israel, deepen our diplomatic ties with the Palestinians, and consult with partners in the region and beyond who have a common interest in supporting efforts to advance a lasting peace.  And as I said in May, we’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening those ties with the Palestinians.

MR PRICE:  We’ll turn to Yuna Leibzon from Channel 12.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  First question, Secretary Blinken.  You just mentioned that all paths are on the table and the diplomatic path is your preferred path.  But is a military path also something – is that something that you’re considering that is also on the table?

And the second question is:  Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Bennett, have said that Israel is operating all the time against the Iran nuclear deal, including that it has the right to defend itself.  Is that something that is being done in coordination with you?

And a question to Minister Lapid about Abraham Accords.  Have other countries been discussed?  Has — 

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  You have to raise your voice a little bit.

QUESTION:  Sorry.  A question to you about the Abraham Accords.  Are other countries being discussed?  Has there been any kind of process or something new that you can share with us about the efforts joining other countries?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  I’m happy to start. 

First, to be very clear, Israel has the right to defend itself and we strongly support that proposition.  We’ve also been clear, as I said a moment ago, that we believe a diplomatic solution to our concerns with Iran – concerns that are shared among the three of us and among many countries around the world, including our European partners, including Russia and China – that a diplomatic path is the best and most effective way to do that.  And so we’ve been clear that, as I said, we would like to see a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA.  But Iran’s responses, or rather lack thereof, have not been encouraging. 

So even as we remain ready to return to talks and think that we should do so soon, if Iran has a realistic position, we continue to believe that we could reach an agreement on a return to mutual compliance.  But for the reasons I cited a few minutes ago, the runway that we have left to do that is getting shorter and shorter, and so we are watching Iran’s comments, posture very, very carefully.  And as the minister said, we are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course, and these consultations with our allies and partners are a part of that.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  I would like to start by repeating what the Secretary of State just said.  Yes, other options are going to be on the table if diplomacy fails.  And by saying other options, I think everybody understands here, in Israel, in the Emirates, and in Tehran what is it that we mean.

About the Abraham Accords, yes, we want to expand the Abraham Accords.  We’re working on expanding the Abraham Accords.  But first and foremost, and we’ve discussed this today at length, we want to make sure the current agreements we have will be a success story.  And it is so far a success story on the people-to-people level, on the ability to make this into business, energy, water, the working groups we have decided to open today.  These are all great achievements, and we are going to push forward as hard as we can on this while working on expanding the Abraham Accords to other countries, including the ones you don’t think of.

If I may I will say a few words in Hebrew, but it’s going to be the same.  (Laughter.)

(In Hebrew.)

You listened to me like you understand every word in Hebrew.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:   Every third word.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  Every third word.  I know you know some. 

MR PRICE:  Our final question will come from Joyce Karam of The National.

QUESTION:  Yes, hi.  Thank you.  Joyce Karam with The National newspaper.  My question to Sheikh Abdullah:  A year on, how is the UAE planning to leverage the Abraham Accords to advance a two-state solution?  And given that your counterpart, Mr. Lapid, has already visited Abu Dhabi in June, are you planning a visit to Israel in the near future?

And to Secretary Blinken, two quick questions.  You mentioned that the administration is working to expand the pool of the Abraham Accords.  What incentives are you providing to other countries to join?  And allow me a question on Syria to Secretary Blinken.  A number of Arab countries are resuming normal ties with the Assad regime.  Does the Biden administration endorse this rapprochement and what is the U.S. policy in that regard?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED:  Well, Foreign Minister Yair was kind enough to invite me to visit Israel, and I’m going to visit soon to meet a friend, but also a partner.  We need to not only celebrate this relationship, but look at new venues of cooperation.  Today, one of the initiatives that we’ve signed off on when it comes to climate change – we are extremely interested in seeing how we can work with Israeli technology, Emirati technology in building not only bridges between us, but with third parties as well. 

The Palestinians are going to be the most important element of the success of peace in the region.  We cannot just talk about peace in the region without the neighbors – the Palestinians and the Israelis are not in talking terms to start with.  So I’m quite excited to see that in the last few weeks, Israeli ministers are starting to meet with the PA.  This is a good start.  We have to keep encouraging them, but also in broadening the opportunities for them.  Today, I think the relationship between Israel and the UAE helps us, both of us, to be more candid with each other, but also to encourage the others whenever there is more to be done.  So I think the UAE-Israeli relationship will be not only a way of encouraging our two people, but beyond, in the region.  So I look forward to seeing you, Yair, in Israel soon.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  My house is open to you.  You know that.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED:  Thank you, sir. 

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  And my wife is expecting for you to come over for dinner.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m tempted to leave it there, but – (laughter) – let me talk about Syria first and then come to the second part of the – the first part of the question second.

First, to put this in focus, these initial nine months of the administration we have been focused on a few things when it comes to Syria: Expanding humanitarian access for people who desperately need that assistance, and we had some success, as you know, with renewing the critical corridor in northwestern Syria to do that; sustaining the campaign that we have with the coalition against ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria; making clear our commitment, our ongoing commitment to demand accountability from the Assad regime and the preservation of basic international norms like promoting human rights and nonproliferation through the imposition of targeted sanctions; and sustaining local ceasefires, which are in place in different parts of the country.  So this has been the focus of our action for these last nine months. 

As we’re moving forward, in the time ahead, keeping violence down; increasing humanitarian assistance and focusing our military efforts on any terrorist groups that pose a threat to us or to our partners, with the intent and capacity to do that.  These are going to be the critical areas of focus for us, and they’re also, I think, important to advancing a broader political settlement to the Syrian conflict consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. 

What we have not done and what we do not intend to do is to express any support for efforts to normalize relations or rehabilitate Mr. Assad, or lifted a single sanction on Syria or changed our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria until there is irreversible progress toward a political solution, which we believe is necessary and vital.

The question of incentives.  I think – for others who might join in the normalization effort, I think the incentives are being demonstrated every single day by the UAE and Israel.  And the incentives are simply this:  These efforts and the normalization is profoundly in the interests of the people in the countries in question, and is providing all sorts of new opportunities, as evidenced by the extraordinary jump in tourism, the business relationships that are being built every single day, the work that our countries are doing together increasingly in a wide variety of areas.  Those are very powerful incentives, because it simply means that people will have a better life, more opportunity, more security, more prosperity.

So I think, going forward, it’s exactly what Sheikh Abdullah said.  The proof is in what has already been created, and I think as more and more people see that, understand it, become aware of it, they will want to do the same thing.

And I’d just conclude by saying – I think I mentioned this before – one of the most powerful things is this.  Abraham in the Bible was known for having the temerity to argue with God, to ask why, or maybe even more appropriately, why not.  Israel, the United Arab Emirates, they asked, “Why not?”  And now they are demonstrating every single day why it is so important that countries come together and work together and join together and create more opportunity for their peoples.

So this is a very powerful answer, and I suspect that more and more countries in the region and beyond will see that in the months and years ahead.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  That concludes the press conference.  We invite our delegations to remain seated as the press leaves the room.  Thank you.

United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Northern Ethiopia Crisis

13 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States is providing more than $26 million in additional assistance to respond to the humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia.  With this funding, the United States has provided nearly $663 million in humanitarian assistance for northern Ethiopia since the crisis began.

This assistance from the American people will enable our international humanitarian partners to help many of the estimated 6-7 million people in need in northern Ethiopia, including some of the 900,000 who are facing famine-like conditions, and over 48,000 refugees who have fled from northern Ethiopia to Sudan.  The assistance will provide lifesaving protection, shelter, essential health care, emergency food assistance, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services.  This funding will also help our partners re-establish contact between family members who have been separated due to the conflict.  The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team remains deployed in support of U.S. humanitarian response efforts.

We remain gravely concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia.  Immediate, full, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations and workers is essential to provide timely, need-based assistance to those affected by the conflict and to save lives.

The humanitarian situation will continue to worsen without a political solution.  A cessation of hostilities and an end to violence by all parties is essential.  There needs to be credible investigations of atrocities and human rights abuses and accountability for all those responsible. The United States and the broader international community are monitoring the situation closely to see to it that the Government of Ethiopia honors its public commitments to permit independent international and domestic investigations of the abuses and to hold those responsible accountable.

We welcome the contributions of other donors toward this crisis response and urge others to generously support the immediate humanitarian needs created by the crisis in northern Ethiopia.

Spain National Day

12 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States and the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Spain as you celebrate your National Day.

Spain is an enduring NATO Ally and a friend of the United States, and the strong relationship between our two countries is reflected in the growing economic, cultural, and educational exchanges between our citizens.

We are thankful for the Spanish government’s partnership over the last two decades in Afghanistan.  More recently, our work together to bring to safety those who supported our collective efforts in Afghanistan is a testament to the strength of our bilateral ties and our commitment as NATO Allies.  It is within that vein that I look forward to traveling to Spain next summer to participate in the NATO 2022 Summit.

On this special occasion, we look forward to deepening our friendship, strengthening our ties, and broadening our cooperation based on our shared values.

Best wishes for a happy Fiesta Nacional de España.