Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry Before Their Meeting

3 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Treaty Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I’m very pleased to have Foreign Minister Sabry here.  We had a chance to meet on the margins of the ASEAN —

FOREIGN MINISTER SABRY:  Yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — meetings, so second time we’re able to get together in person.  We’ve had almost 75 years of partnership with Sri Lanka.  We’ll celebrate that next year, and of course we are working very closely together on issues of global import, including the climate crisis, where Sri Lanka has been taking some important steps to help the world address it.  And of course the United States has been working closely with Sri Lanka in the midst of the serious economic challenges that Sri Lanka is facing.  We provided some $240 million in assistance and loans, and we’re also working together both to support economic stability but also political stability and progress.

So I’m looking forward to continuing our discussions here today.  Welcome.  It’s really good to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER SABRY:  Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken, for inviting me, and it’s a pleasure being here.  Sri Lanka and the U.S. have been long-term partners – 75 years of diplomatic relationship that – almost the period of independence.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

FOREIGN MINISTER SABRY:  So one of the first countries to recognize us.  We were very happy.  And then we have had a very good relationship.  I must take this opportunity, Secretary, to pay my gratitude for American people and your administration, Biden administration, for a lot of support during a very testing time for Sri Lankans.  So we are grateful particularly for your humanitarian support – loans, grants – and technical support.  We are extremely grateful, and we are looking forward to work for even better relationship and particularly in the Indian Ocean and eastern Pacific.  And I must make this opportunity to also thank you and the Treasury for playing a leading role in allowing us and facilitating us to approach the IMF, restructure our debt, and to go to the board sooner than later in order to get our EFF as soon as possible.

Thank you very much, my friend.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Come on in.  Thanks, everyone.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

In recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, the United States reaffirms its critical role as a champion of disability inclusion around the world.

The Department of State advances this priority through funding grants, while also sharing resources and expertise to support governments, disabled persons organizations, and other stakeholders in designing and implementing disability-inclusive policies and practices. U.S. Special Advisor on International Disability Rights Sara Minkara spearheads our international disability policy efforts.

The United States also co-chairs the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network with our civil society partner, the International Disability Alliance. Through GLAD, we initiated a new ad hoc working group on inclusive democratic participation and political action.  In addition, we are continuing our work on disability-inclusive democracy with governments, civil society, and the private sector as a part of the Summit for Democracy.

Successful inclusion also requires visibility; persons with disabilities must be included and reflected in policy solutions, whether in the context of climate action, political participation, or crisis planning.

Today we recommit to making disability an integral consideration in all foreign policy endeavors.  We do so knowing that societies are more secure, innovative, and productive when all people are valued and empowered to fully participate in society

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the Business Council for International Understanding World AIDS Day Commemoration

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

The Hay-Adams Hotel

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning, everyone.  To my friend – longstanding friend – Nelson Cunningham, thank you for those wonderful words.  But thank you even more for your leadership, for BCIU’s leadership.  It is making a profound difference, and we are grateful for it.  And to everyone here this morning, I see a remarkable community in this room.  And “community” is the word, because so many people from so many different areas have come together in this fight, and it’s because of that, it’s because of that community – an enduring, powerful community – that so much extraordinary progress has been made.

Dee, thank you.  Thank you for sharing your story.  In and of itself, that takes remarkable courage.  And in sharing it, you are inspiring so many other people.  You are showing a way forward, and that’s going to make a difference in countless lives.  It already has.  That you’re here with us, and that you have a healthy baby daughter, that is – (applause).  It tells us, it reminds us that an AIDS-free generation really is within our grasp, and how much that our world has to gain by actually achieving it.  Your story is continuing; a new story is starting.  It couldn’t be better than that.

Dr. Fauci, Dr. John – Mother Barbara.  (Laughter.)  It’s – we throw words around and we say it’s an honor to be with someone.  It genuinely is an honor to be with the three of you.  Those of us who are in government service in one way or another, we get to do a lot of things in our jobs.  But to each in your own ways to have been the most extraordinary leaders in quite literally saving lives over so many years – I don’t think it gets any better than that.  You have made, continue to make the most profound difference in the lives of so many people around the world.  It is genuinely an honor to be with you today.

And let me just say one last thing.  I think the first rule of politics is never follow Barbara Lee onto a podium.  (Laughter.)  But you have to do it sometimes.

So we are marking a celebration, but also a solemn occasion this World AIDS Day.  We have – we’re celebrating a lot, but we have to start by acknowledging that 40 million lives were lost since the beginning of this epidemic in 1981.  Those of you in this room who have been working on this for decades now – doctors, researchers, lawmakers, implementers of the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief – you’ve lost patients, you’ve lost colleagues, you’ve lost friends, you’ve lost loved ones.  You know, you understand better than anyone, the human toll that lies behind the numbers that we talk about and throw around all the time.

The world was a different place before PEPFAR’s launch in 2003.  At that time, a gap – a large gap – had emerged between wealthy and poor nations over access to antiretrovirals.  In some parts of the world, when HIV-positive patients were first given their diagnosis, they were also told to prepare for the end.  Coffinmakers, in many of these places, were making record profits.

When President George W. Bush launched PEPFAR, it changed the course of public health history – and, I would say, history in general.  Much of the program’s success has been made possible by the leadership of, as I said, so many of you in this room, and of course many more outside it.

Dr. Fauci, as is well known, had already been working on HIV/AIDS for decades when, in the spring of 2002, President Bush asked him to travel to Africa to see if a program like PEPFAR could actually work on the ground.

It was on this trip that Dr. Fauci first met a CDC lab director in Côte d’Ivoire who happens to be with us today, Dr. Nkengasong, who helped show him that such a program was in fact feasible.  So we are incredibly fortunate that Dr. John has continued his illustrious career in public health – including most recently as the first director of the Africa CDC.  We’re luckier still that he is now leading PEPFAR’s future as our U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.  John, thank you.  (Applause.)

So as history will record, on his return to Washington, Dr. Fauci presented his findings to President Bush, and he had in mind a strong program – $500 million.

At the end of the meeting, President Bush pulled Dr. Fauci aside and asked him to raise the program’s ambitions even higher and build what he called a game-changer for the developing world.

Months later, in the 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush announced the United States Government would invest $15 billion in the global fight against HIV/AIDS over five years, noting – and I quote – that “seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.”

Dr. Fauci, again, we – the world, the country knows you now so well for everything that you’ve done to lead us through this epidemic of COVID, but it’s so vital that people also know you for all that you’ve done for PEPFAR from its very outset, and for a lifetime of service that you’ve devoted to our country and to the world.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Now, there’s another very important piece of history that needs to be recorded.  You heard reference to it earlier.  President Bush was able to launch such an ambitious program in no small part thanks to the tireless efforts of Congresswoman Lee and the Congressional Black Caucus.  There is a letter sent to President Bush by the CBC in 2002 that should be in the Smithsonian, because that document was absolutely critical in focusing the president’s attention and urging him to take action.  It called on the president to “launch a major new U.S. initiative to fight AIDS.”  This leadership – that letter, Mother Barbara – that leadership was integral to PEPFAR’s start, as well as its subsequent congressional reauthorizations in 2008, in 2013, in 2018.  And Barbara continues to be – and I use the word advisedly – one of the fiercest advocates to this day.

PEPFAR has benefitted from bipartisan support, as we’ve heard, across four presidencies, across ten Congresses.  It’s resulted in an investment of more than $100 billion to the global HIV/AIDS response.  This is the largest commitment by one country ever to address a single disease.

PEPFAR’s successes – bolstered through our multilateral contributions to the Global Fund – and the U.S. just hosted a very successful Seventh Replenishment of the fund in September – again, it’s easy to throw words around, but I think in this case they really apply – it’s been nothing short of extraordinary.

You’ve heard the numbers.  More than 25 million lives saved; 70,000 community clinics, 3,000 laboratories built; 340,000 health care workers hired.  Entire public health systems formed, with over a dozen countries which have either reached their HIV-treatment goals or managed control of the virus altogether.

And again, I just want to come back to what’s so important, I think, for – as a takeaway, and it really goes to what we heard from Dee.  These numbers to so many of us are, yes, big numbers, but they’re abstractions.  These are real lives.  These are real stories, stories, again, that would have ended, but instead continued and started new stories – and not just stories, contributions – contributions to our world, contributions to our communities.  That’s what this is all really fundamentally about.  That’s what so powerful about it.

There’s something else that’s powerful, too.  The systems put in place by PEPFAR have become an integral part of the health security architecture of countries around the world.  They helped us to respond to emerging outbreaks like avian flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014.  And the lessons that it’s taught public health experts, epidemiologists, community health workers, and others have played a central role in shaping our response to COVID-19 – from efforts to track the virus’s spread, to the quest to swiftly fund and manufacture safe, effective vaccines and treatments, to the logistics behind getting hundreds of millions of shots into arms.  Now, we are continuing to build on PEPFAR’s many successes to create a stronger global health security architecture to prevent, to detect, to respond to future health emergencies.  Doctor Fauci, you once said that PEPFAR “shows what the goodwill of a nation can do,” and you were right.  PEPFAR also shows us what American diplomacy can do: bring together governments, bring together the public and private sectors, communities to tackle challenges that none of us can actually effectively deal with alone and that creates and has created a healthier, safer, and ultimately more secure world.

But here’s the truth: even as we celebrate the successes of PEPFAR, we cannot, we must not lose sight of the very serious work still required for us to end the global HIV health epidemic by 2030.  Infection rates are again rising in many parts of the world.  The UNAIDS report that was released just this week confirmed that persistent inequities continue to threaten progress for children, for young women and girls, and other at-risk populations such as the LGBTQI+ people, people who use drugs, and sex workers.  Too many countries still have fragile and insufficiently resourced public health systems, which makes it difficult to offer services beyond HIV/AIDS treatments, and that undercuts our capacity to respond to emerging threats.

We now have a new Five-year PEPFAR Strategy; we launched it yesterday.  And the primary purpose of that strategy is to fill those gaps.  Among other efforts, PEPFAR will invest in targeted programming to reduce inequities among underserved populations like young women and girls.  It will partner with more local organizations – faith-based, women, minority-led groups – which have trusted relationships with hard-to-reach communities.  It will connect countries with development finance, commercial banks so that they can build their own regional manufacturing capabilities for antiretrovirals, for diagnostic tests, for personal protective gear, giving countries the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else – and indeed not only the capacity to meet their own challenges, but to help others meet theirs.  That is a powerful thing to do and vitally important.

In 2006 Ida Mukuka looked out at her two young daughters and wondered if she would be around to help them go to university.  She’d recently been diagnosed as HIV positive in Zambia, treatments were still difficult to access – she wasn’t sure if she would survive until her daughters made it to school.  Today, Ida is another one who is healthy.  She has two daughters who are now young women, one on her way to grad school and the other a lawyer who is arguing cases before the high court of Zambia.  And like the story you heard from Dee, like this story, like so many others, these are precisely the kind of achievements that PEPFAR has helped to make possible by furthering research on life-saving drugs, making those treatments available to individuals like Ida, like Dee, to people around the world.

Over the next five years, this latest PEPFAR strategy will keep making advancements like that possible so that millions more people can live healthy lives and live lives to their full potential.  So it was important for me to come by today to see all of you, to be with all of you, to simply say this: thank you for such extraordinary work over so many years, but there’s work to do.  The job is not finished; we’ve got to see it to the finish line.  We’re determined to be your partners in doing that.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Religious Freedom Designations

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs.  In some instances, they stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain.  These actions sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace.  The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.

Today, I am announcing designations against Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.  I am also placing Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.  Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as Entities of Particular Concern.

Our announcement of these designations is in keeping with our values and interests to protect national security and to advance human rights around the globe.  Countries that effectively safeguard this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not.

We will continue to carefully monitor the status of freedom of religion or belief in every country around the world and advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination.  We will also regularly engage countries about our concerns regarding limitations on freedom of religion or belief, regardless of whether those countries have been designated.  We welcome the opportunity to meet with all governments to address laws and practices that do not meet international standards and commitments, and to outline concrete steps in a pathway to removal from these lists.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Thomas Sotto of France 2

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, DC

U.S. Department of State

Via Translation

QUESTION:  Good afternoon, Antony Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon.

QUESTION:  Thank you for giving a little bit of your time, which I know is very precious, for Télématin and for the viewers of France 2.  Thank you also for doing this interview in French, which is a language you master perfectly.  You lived in Paris for many years.

Emmanuel Macron is on a state visit here in the United States, a warm state visit.  Yet, if you look in the rearview mirror over the last 20 years, the relationship between our two countries has not always been simple. There have been disagreements on Iraq, there have been disagreements on Syria, on the climate crisis during Donald Trump’s time, on the Australian submarine contracts that you have somewhat stolen, it must be said.  How would you characterize the relationship between our two countries today?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Quite frankly, excellent.  And that’s mostly because we don’t look in the rearview mirror.  We’re looking straight ahead, and we both see that we have a deep interest in doing what we’ve been doing for years, which is working together on issues that impact the lives of our citizens.

Neither France nor the United States has the capacity, alone, to act effectively on these issues, whether it be climate, whether it be global health, whether it be all the new technologies, the necessary investments in infrastructure – on all these levels, we both need to work together.

QUESTION:  There is a topic that is kind of upsetting people about the economy, at the moment.  It is said that you are very protectionist, and Emmanuel Macron said: it is a choice that risks fragmenting the West.  Is there a way to negotiate on this or not?  On the Act on inflation…

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There was a very good conversation between the presidents today on this issue. We have the same goals. We both have to face the climate challenge. To do that, one of the things we need to do is invest in new technologies and energy that is conducive to dealing with this challenge. We want to do it in a way that creates jobs, but not only jobs –

QUESTION:  You want to create jobs and attract everyone in the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Exactly, we agree that we need to do it in a way that creates jobs here, yes, but jobs in Europe; jobs here, but not at the expense of what’s happening in Europe.  And the two presidents have agreed to work with the European Union to synchronize our approaches.

QUESTION:  Our two countries, France and the United States, are very involved in the war in Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.  Just this week, you announced $400 million in American aid to the Ukrainians.  It’s been more than nine months now since this war started.  Do you see a way out of it, Antony Blinken?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I would like to, but it depends entirely on decisions made by Moscow, by President Putin.  This war could end tomorrow if Putin stops.  In a sense, it’s very simple: he must stop what he started.  But, apart from that, what is needed – both presidents are in full agreement, is to continue our support for Ukraine, for the Ukrainian people, both in terms of economic and humanitarian security.

But of course, what is Putin doing right now?  Even though he sometimes says he’s ready for diplomacy, he’s attacking the civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

QUESTION:  He’s playing the cold card.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  He’s playing the cold card.  He’s weaponizing winter.

QUESTION:  So, Antony Blinken, do you think it’s time for Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky to talk?  Has this time come?  Has the time for dialogue and direct conversation come?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  If we saw Putin was serious about diplomacy and dialogue, yes. The problem is, he’s doing just the opposite.  He’s inciting now to escalate things.

QUESTION:  So, dialogue is impossible today?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  If there is a seriousness on the Russian side, dialogue is always possible. We’re always open to that.  Zelensky, the president, has made it clear that at the end of the game, there’s going to have to be negotiation, diplomacy.  We think exactly the same thing.  Moreover, President Zelensky has put forward a plan to bring about an end to the war. For the moment, Putin is not on board. It depends on him.

QUESTION:  Do you still have contacts? Do you have contacts with Russia and with the Russians, which are not necessarily official?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, we have contacts.  We have contacts, especially if there are important moments when we have to talk.  For example, there was contact with Russia because there was a fear that they might use a nuclear weapon, which would be catastrophic for…

QUESTION:  Is that a fear for you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s a fear. I wouldn’t say we haven’t seen a specific movement on that, but it’s still a fear in an emergency for them, exactly.

QUESTION:  You don’t rule it out, do you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’re not ruling it out, but more importantly, it’s not just us.  You even have Xi Jinping in China who has made statements on this. Other leaders who have made, who have said very clearly to Putin, don’t go there.

QUESTION:  Are you concerned that this could lead to a third world conflict, or are we playing scare tactics?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No, for President Biden, it’s critical that we avoid expanding the conflict.  On the contrary, we want to bring it to an end, but above all, we don’t want to expand it.  We don’t want a war with Russia.  We do not want a third world war.  That’s not what we want at all.  On the other hand, what we need for peace: it must not be only on paper, the peace, but it must be fair, so with the principles of the UN charter.  And it must be sustainable, because, in a sense, there is no point in making a false peace that will be rejected very quickly and Russia goes to war again.  What we have to avoid, for example, is the idea that we freeze things in place.  Russia in this context will never negotiate the territories that were taken by force.

QUESTION:  What is the scope? We have to go back to the pre-February 24 borders or even Crimea?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s Ukraine’s decision.

QUESTION:  Okay.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We don’t make decisions for Ukraine. We’re going to support Ukraine’s decisions.

QUESTION:  Let’s imagine, Antony Blinken, that this war finally ends tomorrow. Would Vladimir Putin automatically become an interlocutor for the United States again?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Uh, really, I can’t speculate.  What he’s done is very difficult for everyone to digest.  The most important thing now is to end this war, but in a fair and lasting way. After that, we’ll see.

QUESTION:  Do you fear that the post-Putin era will be even worse than Putin?  I am thinking in particular of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the formidable founder of the Wagner militia.  Does that worry you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  You know that for us… What’s important is not the personalities, it’s the policy that Russia will follow. So, having, you know — and President Biden said it earlier, President Putin has miscalculated very badly on Ukraine.  Everything he tried to avoid, he precipitated.  In the West, we are not divided.  On the contrary, we are united and unified.  Ukraine is more united than ever.  What we see in Russia is catastrophic for Russia. More than a million Russians have left.  It may be good for Putin because it’s the very people who might be opposed to him, but it’s catastrophic for Russia and for its future.

QUESTION:  There are also demonstrations in China in reaction to Xi Jiping’s authoritarian policies under the guise of fighting Covid.  Does that make you happy in the name of democratic values or does it worry you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  You know, the fact that people are demonstrating, that they’re trying to express their frustrations, obviously we support that, whether it’s in China, whether it’s in Iran, whether it’s wherever you want.

QUESTION:  You support the protesters.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We support their freedom to express themselves and to show their frustrations. At the same time, if there is a crisis, if there is a problem with Covid in China, we are not happy at all.  On the contrary, for us, it would be a very good thing if China could find a way to deal with this problem, both for the Chinese people, but also for everyone.

QUESTION:  But do you think that this unrest, these demonstrations that we’re not used to, can rock the regime?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I can’t make a prediction.  Is it — for us, what we want to see is: what are the desires of the Chinese people, and do they have the capacity to express their desires?  Does the political system have the capacity to respond to the wishes of the Chinese people?

QUESTION:  You could support the wishes of the Chinese people?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Of course. But what we must look at is what is the path that China will take in the face of Covid, and we want China to be successful because it’s bad not only for the Chinese people, it’s bad for everybody – the global economy.  There are consequences for the global economy when China shuts down.

QUESTION:  You have a trip planned there in January, in a month.  Is that trip still on?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, we’re going to China early next year. Whether it’s January or February, we’re not sure yet, but it’s based on a conversation that President Biden had with President Xi Jinping at the G20 a few weeks ago.

QUESTION:  And then there’s Iran, which has also been in a state of rebellion for the past few weeks, since the death in September of Mahsa Amini, the young woman who was arrested by the morality police and eventually killed. Men are now starting to join protest movements there.  And then, there was that image you must have seen, of the Iranian soccer team refusing to sing the Iranian anthem in the first games in support of the protesters.  What does that image mean to you, Antony Blinken?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m inspired mainly by the fact that, since the death of Mahsa Amini, we have seen this extraordinary demonstration of the will of the Iranian people to express themselves, led by women, led by young people.  This too is something we support.

But we must be very clear on this.  The subject is not us, the United States.  It’s not the West. France is not the subject.  It’s the Iranian people and it’s their desire to be able to express themselves freely, and that’s what we support.  Moreover, we are trying to –

QUESTION:  Would you say that Iran, the Iranian regime, is a threat to the world or to the equilibrium of the world today?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What we’re seeing, both in the region itself and then even beyond that, because we’re seeing for example of armaments to Russia for aggression in Ukraine –

QUESTION:  Iran is supporting Russia.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Iran is not only supporting, but supporting with drones that are killing Ukrainian civilians, as we speak – and trying to destroy their infrastructure.  So, it’s a threat in that sense.  It is a threat in the region, supporting terrorist groups, supporting groups that destabilize countries.  So, I think that here too, France and the United States are in complete agreement on the need to face this challenge, but obviously –

QUESTION:  Could there be a joint response one day?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There are already joint responses.  We have worked together.  We still do on the nuclear issue.

QUESTION:  Yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We are in full agreement.

QUESTION:  A military response?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And we’re also working on how to deal with the security challenge posed by Iran.

QUESTION:  All these people, these populations, the Iranians, the Chinese, we could add those who fight for the defense of human rights in Qatar, they need social networks to express themselves.  Is Elon Musk’s Twitter working for you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We will have to see what the facts are. Again, it’s not about a person, it’s about –

QUESTION:  We’re starting to see, though –

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’ll see in the weeks and months to come.  This is obviously a very important platform worldwide.  We hope that this platform is a space where people can express themselves but not with false information, disinformation.

QUESTION:  He will have to apply the European rules on content moderation, otherwise Twitter could even be banned in Europe.  That’s what the European Commission said today.  Are you on the same page?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  For us, it’s important to do everything possible to maintain the free exchange of expression and information.  It’s the first amendment.  We take that very seriously, but we have to deal with this problem that we both face: how to deal with spaces where misinformation wins the game.

QUESTION:  You have two Twitter accounts, one is your Secretary of State account and the other one, personal.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Did you pay, will you pay the eight euros for the subscription fee or not?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Laughs) I’m going to ask my staff if they paid for — uh — with the State Department.  We’ll see how.

QUESTION:  We’re going to stay in the United States.  How is your President Joe Biden really doing?  Because there’s some concern that he’s tired, a little bit absent, a little bit disconnected.  Is there a little bit of concern there, or not?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Laughs) I have a hard time keeping up with him because he’s always ten steps ahead of me, both physically, but also in terms of ideas.  He has not only – how could I say it – an enormous amount of physical energy, but also an enormous amount of intellectual energy.

QUESTION:  So, you’re not worried.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Not at all, on the contrary.  My only concern is being able to keep up with him, myself.

QUESTION:  All right, then.  Let’s talk about you.  You’re 60 years old.  You’re young.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  You’ve been in all the most strategic positions in the United States for over 20 years.  When you shave in the morning, do you ever think about the presidency of the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Laughs) Oh, not at all!

QUESTION:  Never?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No.  You know, I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do this job.

QUESTION:  Yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I have spent almost 30 years in foreign policy.  So, to be able to have the opportunity for a few years to do this job, and especially here at the State Department where I started, almost 30 years ago, for me, it’s really all I could have wanted.

QUESTION:  We’re coming to the end of this interview, Antony Blinken. Seen from Europe, we sometimes have the impression that we are at the end of a world, with the wars we have talked about; the environmental alert that seems more and more irreversible; with the set back of fundamental rights that also concerns you; with the set back of the right to an abortion.  How do you manage to remain optimistic?  How do you manage to keep the faith?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s true that this is a period, an inflection point, where the world we knew, the post-Cold War world, is over.  And there is a competition to define who will follow and what will follow.

QUESTION:  Are you worried about your children?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What gives me hope, I’ll tell you, is precisely what happened today with France, with our allies, because the challenge for President Biden was to renew our alliances, to energize our partnerships, precisely because we’re convinced that, on all these issues, we need to work together.  We need to find cooperation, and we need to demonstrate that democracies can deliver. This is precisely what we are doing with France.

QUESTION:  For my very last question, let’s go back to soccer, the World Cup.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  (Laughs)

QUESTION:  You have a double culture, American and also French.  Really, who do you support?  The United States or les Bleus?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I support the U.S. team, but –

QUESTION:  Ah!

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  If the U.S. team doesn’t make it, and if France is still in the game, Allez les Bleus!

QUESTION:  Ah, very good!  Thank you very much, Antony Blinken, for giving us a little bit of your time.  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

UAE National Day

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the United States of America, I want to convey our sincere warm wishes to the people of the United Arab Emirates as you celebrate your 51st National Day.

Our partnership is strong, as represented by our troops who have served together in defense of our shared security, the tens of thousands of Emiratis who have studied at American universities, business leaders from each country working together to pursue economic opportunity, and the exceptional and wide-ranging cooperation between our two governments. I commend the United Arab Emirates for the historic cooperation with Israel forged over the past two years through the Abraham Accords. I also commend the work of the Negev Forum, as well as our collective work with India through I2U2, which is striving to deliver tangible benefits to the region and beyond and make real our aspirations for greater regional integration in the Middle East and beyond. I also congratulate you on the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, demonstrating the UAE’s resilience despite COVID’s various mutations. We continue advancing our joint efforts to combat climate change, including through the historic recent launch of a US-UAE climate cooperation partnership, and we will continue to support your efforts when you host COP28 next year. We remain hopeful for an enduring peace throughout the Arabian Peninsula and appreciate your efforts to this end.

May you enjoy continued peace and prosperity during this National Day celebration and beyond.

Thailand National Day

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

spokesOn behalf of the United States of America, I congratulate the Kingdom of Thailand as it celebrates Thai National Day.

This past year, the United States and Thailand have strengthened our partnership and alliance. Thailand successfully hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and we held our first-ever Strategic and Defense Dialogue.  Our cooperation was far reaching, from energy and sustainability to regional security.  As we enter the 190th anniversary of our diplomatic relationship, the United States is committed to deepening the economic, security, health, and people-to-people ties that exist between our two countries.  In the coming year, as we work together to advance our cooperation through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and the implementation of the U.S.-Thai Communiqué on Strategic Alliance and Partnership, we welcome Thailand’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

Congratulations to all the people of Thailand on this important day.  We are honored to have you as a friend, partner, and ally.  I wish you a peaceful and prosperous year ahead.

34th Commemoration of World AIDS Day

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

World AIDS Day reminds us that HIV/AIDS continues to pose a threat to global health and global health security. With 650,000 people having lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses last year, the United States government remains committed to working with our global partners to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The data released today by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) indicates that we are making steady progress to address the gaps that continue to put people at risk, particularly the most vulnerable populations. Over the nearly 20 years since the program began, PEPFAR has saved 25 million lives. PEPFAR’s success is the result of close to two decades of bipartisan support across presidential administrations and from the U.S. Congress. That unwavering support is evidenced by the more than $100 billion investment in the global fight to end HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR. We will continue our commitment to sustained support of these efforts to help reach the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

PEPFAR also relies on partnership. Since inception, the program has built global partnerships with multilateral and public-private organizations, communities, governments and the private sector. Together, we have taken the bold action required to protect and advance global HIV/AIDS gains and we will continue our focus on these targeted efforts in the midst of the needs to address other health crises around the world. Since 2020, our effort has included supporting COVID-19 responses in PEPFAR countries by leveraging the robust public health and clinical platforms established by PEPFAR.

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.” It emphasizes accountability and action and affirms the Administration’s dedication to ending HIV/AIDS, domestically and abroad, through an approach that centers on fighting inequities, advancing equality, and rallying the world to end HIV as a global health threat by 2030.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR, guided by the PEPFAR five-year strategy released today, the United States government will continue to support the global HIV/AIDS response with great determination and in close collaboration with our partners, who share our commitment to saving lives and ending this pandemic.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At State Luncheon in Honor of French President Emmanuel Macron

1 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Well, good evening, everyone.  (Laughter.)  Thank you for your patience.  President Macron, Mrs. Macron, it is an honor to welcome you to the State Department.

(Via interpreter) Professionally, but also on a personal level, this is an honor for us to have you here.

It’s also an honor to be joined by my co-host for this lunch, the Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris.  (Applause.)  And also – and also the Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.  (Applause.)

It is only fitting that for the first state visit of the Biden-Harris administration, the United States is welcoming our oldest ally.  This very week, in 1776, a bedraggled, exhausted, and very sea-sick American landed in France after a grueling month at sea.  The Continental Congress had dispatched Benjamin Franklin – who looks out over us, our very first diplomat – to find support for the American Revolution.  Over the next year, Franklin and his counterpart forged America’s very first alliance, and that of course proved vital to winning our nation’s independence.

Now, France, Mr. President, made quite an impression on Ben Franklin.  Before he went to France, he would extoll the virtues of going to bed early.  (Laughter.)  Then he went to Paris and, as he said, “Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  (Laughter.)

I think it’s fair to say that Franklin also left his mark on France, where he became something of a celebrity.  His trademark fur cap even inspired a new wig style among French women: the “coiffure a la Franklin.”

Now, it’s also fair to say that no American diplomat since – and Henry Kissinger is here today and I think he can attest to that – none of us have lived up to Franklin’s legacy as a style icon.  (Laughter.)

But for more than two centuries, the United States and France have built upon the foundation of those early ties – and today, we are unwavering security allies, close economic partners, and most of all, cherished friends.

I am one of the countless beneficiaries of those bonds.  Living abroad in France taught me to see the world through another’s eyes – something that I carry with me to this day.  France welcomed me, educated me, inspired me – I doubt that I would be here if I had not gone there.

It quickly taught me something that everyone in France knows but, as of yesterday, is now officially recognized by UNESCO:  The French baguette is a global cultural treasure.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT MACRON:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Now, as my mother who’s here today can attest, I would probably add the pain au chocolat to that, so maybe we can work on that.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT MACRON:  (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Those years also gifted me with a lifelong love of soccer – or football, to use the correct word – and also the Paris Saint-Germain team.  So while I couldn’t be prouder to cheer on Team USA at the World Cup, I’m also thrilled to see Kylian Mbappé working his magic for Les Bleus.  And Mr. President, thank you for keeping him in Paris.  (Laughter.)

Today, as both presidents said when they were together at the White House, we find ourselves in a consequential moment – for both of our countries but also for the world.  The post-Cold War era is over, and we face a global competition to define what comes next.

This is a challenge that we can best meet as friends, and, for the United States, alongside our very first friend.

Together, the United States and France are defending the international rules-based order that we helped to build after the Second World War.  We’re also working together to reform that order so that it better reflects the realities of today.

We’re supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend their nation and resist President Putin’s attempt to redraw the borders of a sovereign, independent nation by force.  (Applause.)

We’re working together to strengthen European security and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific.

We’re taking urgent steps to save our planet for future generations, which continues to be driven in large part by the agreement that was reached in Paris.

We’re also making investments in global health to stamp out diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, to build greater capacity to prevent and respond to future health emergencies.

Mr. President, you’ve led on the world stage on all of these issues and so many more.  But even as we think about the individual issues, it’s also the vision that you bring to global leadership that is so exceptional.  Your commitment to a stronger, better future for all has been a galvanizing force for all of us, for all of our partners.  We could not do without it; we’re grateful for it.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And Mrs. Macron, I want to salute you as well.  You’ve been a beacon for so many families this year, particularly through your work on behalf of Ukrainian children when they so desperately need it.  Thank you.

(Applause.)

The bottom line is this:  It’s hard to find a challenge that we can’t solve if the United States and France work together.

For, in all that we do, our people and our nations are bound together by our core values – of liberty and democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, the belief that all people should have a chance to reach their full potential.

And that’s exactly what Franklin saw when he went to France.  He observed that the French saw – and I quote – “our cause the cause of all , and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.”

Those are values that continue to unite us today.  That’s the reason that your causes are ours – and ours are yours.

So I’d like to all – ask all of you to join me in a toast to our common history, but also – if we have glasses (laughter) – they’re coming (laughter) – great, thank you – but also, also to our shared future.  May the values that have brought us here continue to guide us for generations to come.

Vive les États-Unis.  Vive la France.

And now it is my particular pleasure and honor to introduce the Vice President of the United States.  Madam Vice President.

(Applause.)

(Vice President Harris makes remarks.)

(Applause.)

PRESIDENT MACRON:  Thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

PARTICIPANT:  Sir, your microphone.

PRESIDENT MACRON:  (In French.)  Thank you for hosting us, (inaudible), Ms. Ryan.  First, I do want to apologize because we had a very long meeting with President Biden.  (Laughter.)  We almost fixed everything.  (Laughter.)  So you will see a lot of big changes in your life in the coming hours and days.  (Laughter.)  So this is at least the argument I have to survive vis-à-vis you for the coming minutes and hours.  (Laughter.)

No, thank you very much for your patience and sorry to make you wait.  Let me first thank you, Tony, for welcoming us here and organizing such a wonderful lunch, and thank you once again, Vice President Kamala, for your friendship, and thanks to both of you for your words.

I have to say: both of you mentioned Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin.  I could add to this list Jefferson and so many others who built these incredible links between our two countries.  A lot of people ask President Biden: why did you choose President Macron to come for the first state visit?  (Laughter.)  Obviously, I’m not the one to answer this question – (laughter) – but I can tell you why the U.S. and France, definitely.  I think because a lot of people in this world do believe sometimes we are too proud, too self-confident and so on, but it’s because both of us do believe that we can – and we are in a certain way, in charge of universal values.

And you just quoted these words from Lafayette.  He had this in-depth feeling that he will fight for his own country and for liberty together.  And when your soldiers came during the First and the Second World War in our country, they had exactly the same feeling.  And we will never forget that a lot of your families lost children on soils they never knew before just because they were fighting for liberty and for universal values.  And I think this link in the current environment, in our world, is unique, and this is why I think we are here today and I am so proud to be here indeed with you.

(Inaudible) we have a wonderful delegation.  We have our ministers and a lot of civil servants working hard on a daily basis for the bilateral relation.  We have business leaders, and we were very proud two days ago to have the first Franco-American business council, and I want to thank all of those who contributed to this event.  We have a lot of members of our parliament on both side, and we had a wonderful discussion yesterday with the caucus – and, I will admit, representatives and senators right after this luncheon.  I want to thank our delegation as well for that.  You have a lot of tech players, a lot of investors, a lot of people involved in culture, sports, because we are so much linked by all these sectors, so much linked by the strength of creativity on both sides and our common ability to convey our faith in science and knowledge and our appetite for talent and creativity.

And indeed, we have a lot of common work and common challenge together.  We are very much engaged together to help the Ukrainians in this war and to resist to the Russian aggression.  And I want to thank your country for the unique commitment and investment alongside the Ukrainian people and in great solidarity with the Europeans.

And we are as well very much engaged for climate change.  More solidarity in this world, we will work hard for this new partnership between north and south in the coming months.  We are committed for climate and biodiversity, and yesterday we had a wonderful discussion for some initiatives regarding better conservation and protect our rainforests and our oceans.  And what we have in common is precisely to work very hard for these values and to make them concrete for our people.

We have huge challenges in our democracies.  Because our middle classes do suffer, and the recent years and decade was so, so tough.  And we see in our countries almost everywhere a sort of resurgence of hatred speech, racism, divisions.

One way is to accompany this move and to be a demagogue.  You decided not to do so, and I want to thank you for that.  And we try to resist on our side as well, to precisely deliver more and be efficient and provide concrete solutions to our fellow citizens when we speak about health, when we speak about climate, when we speak about (inaudible) our country, when we speak about defense and security.  And this is how our partnership has to work and deliver.  And this is why this morning we had a very useful and fruitful discussion to work on this issue.

I was very happy as well to have very concrete discussion yesterday with you on space, and we are so proud of our astronauts and our common journey (inaudible) in the future.  We had very good discussion on nuclear energy, on science and research, on quantic, and so many different fields.  And tomorrow I will go to New Orleans with a wonderful delegation to speak about green energy, climate change, culture, and Francophonie, as I can demonstrate it right now.  (Laughter.)  But I want to give you some time more, so I want to avoid translation.  But we will clearly as well launch a new program for French language, and you’re a perfect example – both of you – of this attachment for the French language.

But I come from a country where everybody knows that gastronomy and a good lunch is part of diplomacy.  (Laughter.)  And a lot of people pretended that Talleyrand was so successful because he was already with his cooker, and some people claim that in fact Talleyrand’s cooker is the actual diplomat.  (Laughter.)  So I don’t want to be longer.  I want you to enjoy this lunch, because I think it’s part of diplomacy – (laughter) – and I think it’s the best way to share a very good moment.

But let me tell that in these challenging times, this history and the friendship between the United States of America and France on both sides is part of our soul, our roots, but as well part of our future.  And I will be committed to deliver concrete results for our fellow citizens on both sides of the ocean in this context, thanks to this common history, and committed to this common destiny.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

Terrorist Designation of AQIS and TTP Leaders

1 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States is committed to using its full set of counterterrorism tools to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, including al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as part of our relentless efforts to ensure that terrorists do not use Afghanistan as a platform for international terrorism.

Yesterday, the Department of State designated four AQIS and TTP leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, for their leadership roles in their respective groups:

  • Osama Mehmood is the emir of AQIS
  • Atif Yahya Ghouri is the deputy emir of AQIS.
  • Muhammad Maruf is responsible for AQIS’ recruiting branch.
  • Qari Amjad is the deputy emir of TTP. He oversees operations and militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

As a result of these actions, all property and interests in property of those designated yesterday that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and all U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.

Yesterday’s actions again demonstrate that we will continue to use all relevant tools to uphold our commitment to see to it that international terrorists are not able to operate with impunity in Afghanistan.