At the One Year Anniversary of the Abraham Accords: Normalization Agreements in Action

17 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

The White House

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Morning, everyone, or good evening, good afternoon, depending on where everyone is. Minister Bourita, Minister Lapid, Dr. Gargash, Ambassador al-Khalifa, friends, it’s very, very good to see all of you, and thank you for being here. And to our Israeli colleague, Shana tova.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID: Happy new year.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: You know, September 15th, 2020, leaders from Bahrain, Israel, the United Arab Emirates signed the Abraham Accords. A few months later, on December 10th, Israel and Morocco also signed a normalization agreement.

Today, a year after the Accords and normalization agreements were signed, the benefits continue to grow.

We’re seeing deepening diplomatic relationships. It’s been a year of firsts: the first Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi, the first embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Tel Aviv.

This month, Israel named its first ambassador to Bahrain. And earlier this week, Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel presented his credentials.

Minister Lapid, your visit to Morocco last month to meet with Minister Bourita and others was the first by an Israeli minister to the Kingdom since 2003.

And both countries recently opened liaison offices that are expected to be upgraded to embassies by the end of the year.

We’re seeing growing people-to-people ties, even with the serious challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Diplomatic relations have made it possible to fly between Israel and Bahrain, Israel and Morocco, and Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Some of these flights have never been allowed before.

Your governments are making it easier for your citizens to take advantage of those flights.

For example, Israel and Bahrain were the first countries to mutually recognize one another’s digital COVID-19 vaccine passports, which means that people from your countries can go to restaurants and concerts when visiting each other’s countries without quarantining.

And the people of your countries are seizing the opportunity. Again, despite COVID-19, more than 130,000 Israelis visited the United Arab Emirates just in the first four and a half months after the Accords were signed. There is a hunger to learn about each other’s cultures, to see new sights, to try new foods, forge new friendships – all experiences that have been impossible for so long and for so many, and now they’re making up for lost time.

We’re seeing new economic opportunities, innovations, collaborations. The United Arab Emirates has pursued significant investments in strategic sectors in Israel, including energy, medicine, technology, healthcare. Private firms across your countries are working together on everything from desalinization to stem cell therapies. These opportunities would be exciting at any time – but they are particularly important today, as we work to build back better from the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

The deepening diplomatic relationships also provide a foundation to tackle challenges that demand cooperation among nations, like reducing regional tensions, combating terrorism, mitigating the impact of the climate crisis.

And we all must build on these relationships and growing normalization to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians, and to make progress toward the longstanding goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, and dignity.

This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward. We’ll do that in three main ways.

First, we’ll help foster Israel’s growing ties with Bahrain, with Morocco, with the United Arab Emirates – as well as with Sudan, which has also signed the Abraham Accords, and Kosovo, which established ties with Israel at the beginning of the year.

Second, we’ll work to deepen Israel’s longstanding relationships with Egypt and Jordan – partners critical to the United States, Israel, and Palestinians alike.

It was 43 years ago today that Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, and next month will mark 27 years since Israel and Jordan signed the Wadi Araba Treaty.

The visit to Cairo this week by Prime Minister Bennett to meet with President Sisi – the first trip at this level in over a decade – and the negotiations between Israel and Jordan around new agreements on water and trade show how these relationships continue to build on the trailblazing agreements signed decades ago.

And third, we will encourage more countries to follow the lead of the Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco. We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy, because it’s in the interests of countries across the region and around the world for Israel to be treated like any other country. Normalization leads to greater stability, more cooperation, mutual progress – all things the region and the world need very badly right now.

Let me close by bringing us back to the primary beneficiaries of normalization: people across borders whose lives will be improved by these new possibilities.

Abdulla Baqer is an investor who co-leads the newly created UAE-Israel Business Council. He wants to spend a month in Israel to learn more about its people and culture, so that he can better connect entrepreneurs in the two countries. He says, and I quote, “Everything is possible if we sit together and have a dialogue and understand each other.”

Ebrahim Nonoo is the head of the Jewish community in Bahrain. Just last month, he led Shabbat services in a synagogue for the first time in 74 years – making Jewish life visible in Bahrain for the first time in generations.

And so many people are eager to rekindle longstanding connections that had been cut off – until now. More than a million Israelis have Moroccan heritage, including five ministers in Israel’s current government. How meaningful it will be for more Israelis of Moroccan descent to travel back and forth between the two countries, rediscover cultural ties, and pass them on.

The 2020 World Expo was delayed by COVID-19, but it will soon open in Dubai. The Abraham Accords had not yet been signed when Israel’s pavilion was first conceived. It consists of seven consecutive free-standing gates – no walls, completely open. Across the final gate is a giant sign that reads, “For Tomorrow,” in a script that combines Arabic and Hebrew letters.

What an apt metaphor for the new horizons that open when countries are no longer closed to each other.

Thanks to the countries here today, others who have joined, and the people forging ties between these nations, that vision is becoming a reality. May it be a model for others to follow.

Thank you all.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID: Well, apparently, Mr. Secretary, being the one with the longest history as a host of talk shows, we need your direction. Who should start? Maybe my friend, Nasser Bourita —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think – I think yes, I think our friend from Morocco is next up.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOURITA: Thank you. Mr. Secretary of State, Your Highness, dear colleagues and friends, allow me first of all to commend you, dear Tony, for this opportunity to renew together our commitment for peace. The normalization of relations with Israel is indeed a historic event that is worth commemorating. It fostered new hope and paved the way for an unprecedented momentum.

Although Morocco’s relationship with Israel preceded the Abraham Accords by few decades, we do recognize and subscribe to the significant impetus generated by the resumption and revival of relations. As you all know, in our case it is the U.S.-Morocco-Israel agreement signed last December, and that the auspices of His Majesty King Mohammed VI – it is the bedrock for the renewed relationship. For His Majesty, the signing reflects the profound links between the kings of Morocco and the large Moroccan Jewish community. At the same time, it ties in with the spirit and the dynamic generated by the Abraham Accords.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate Morocco’s sincere appreciation for the pivotal role of the United States as sponsor and guarantor to this process.

Colleagues and friends, Winston Churchill was right when he said that, “Peace will not be preserved by pious sentiments.” Yes, the normalization accords are the result of good will – lots of it – but more than anything we see action. Since the signing of the trilateral agreement and following the high instructions of His Majesty, many bilateral actions have been undertaken. Let me name a few.

We have established a platform of bilateral dialogue and cooperation around five main sectorial working groups. Our government official talk, meet, and work together. Around dozen ministers initiated diverse contacts, laying the ground for the signing of more than 20 agreements. Diplomatic missions have been opened and are operational. We have established – and I will count myself, my friend Yair last month – and we look forward to other important visits, including of ministers of economy and defense.

Channels have been opened between the business communities through the establishment of the Moroccan-Israeli Business Council, and the Morocco-Israel Chamber of Industry. We are happy to note that exchanges grew 50 percent just in the first six months of 2021. Twenty flights operating under two airlines companies already established their rotation, and one million Israeli tourists are expected per year to visit Morocco.

Partnerships in sensitive sectors have been launched, including in cybersecurity and interoperability of forces through joint military special forces exercises like the HD ANNUAL-21, to which Morocco participated.

Colleagues and friends, the challenge of reconnecting was a great one, but it is now behind us. The challenges of preserving, improving, and giving sense to the normalization are still ahead of us. I see four elements or areas in this regard.

First, the impact of the normalization process is meant to be felt in generations to come. We must actively and constantly demonstrate benefits on regional peace and security, on people-to-people relations, on business opportunities. These are the best arguments for other countries to follow suit.

Second, relaunching the peace process is fundamental. Morocco believes that there is no other alternative to a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state within borders of June ’67. Besides and for His Majesty King Mohammed VI, chairman of Al-Quds Committee, the status of Jerusalem has to be preserved as a common heritage of humanity, as a symbol of peaceful coexistence of the followers of the three monotheistic religions. Morocco has always played a significant, still discreet role in facilitating peace in the past, and is ready to pursue this role today.

Third, the normalization did not generate only sympathy. It generated animosity as well. Such animosity must be dealt with with vision and solidarity. For example and unfortunately, one neighboring country decided to sever its relations with Morocco, pretexting – among other things – the establishment of relations with Israel.

Fourth, there is a need for a new regional order where Israel is a stakeholder and no longer an outsider in its own region. This new regional order should not be perceived as against someone, but rather to benefit us all. Also, this new regional order should be based on an updated joint assessment of threats, but also on how to generate opportunities that favor stability and development forward.

Colleagues and friends, today we are showing to the whole region and the world that brave actions must be taken by all of us in order to push the envelope a bit further for a greater good. Again, thank you, my friend Tony, for convening this important meeting, and stay assured of Morocco’s unwavering and continuous commitment to doing what it takes to contribute genuinely to regional peace and stability. I thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Nasser, thank you so much. And now the floor is yours, Yair.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID: Yes. There’s only one correction I want to make to my friend, Nasser Bourita. This is not colleagues and friends; it’s friends and colleagues – friends far most.

As the Secretary has mentioned, today, September 17th, is the 42nd anniversary of the signing on the White House lawn of the Camp David Agreements. Menachem Begin, the late Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, and Jimmy Carter – who’s still with us – stood on the lawn of the White House, signing peace agreements. And since then two of them has died, assassined, and regimes and governments came to power and fell out of power in both countries, but the peace lasts. Because peace has this energy to it and tendency to last longer than the people who are signing it, and may this peace last long after all of us are gone. And we have to also mention the fact that this Abraham Accords club is open for new members as well, and one of our goals, our common goals, is to make sure that other countries will follow suit and join us in this Accords and in this new era of cooperation and friendship.

The relations between countries are always the right mix of interests and friendship that is based on values, what Henry Kissinger used to call the right mixture between the ideal and the real. And in this event, the ideal and the real are completing each other, and as long as all of us are involved, they will continue to complete each other in friendship. If you look at the last year, ambassadors were appointed, embassies were built, we launched direct flights, we have mutual visits, we have signed dozens of agreements in this last – in this past month, and many are to follow – and we have more than $650 million in direct trade and extra hundreds of millions in other agreements. We have cooperation in the academy. We have hosts with the UAE and Bahrain, and with Morocco to follow.

And we’re going to dedicate the next couple of years to strategic progress of infrastructure, mostly water, energy, security, food, connectivity, and all of this is going to happen on a regional level. The COVID-19 has taught us all that there’s no such thing as local problems or local challenges; all challenges and all problems are global. And the same way we have dealt together with the COVID-19, we’re going to deal with positive things as well, with creating an economy, with creating an atmosphere, with creating a new discourse in the region.

Looking forward, by the end of the month, I’m going to visit Bahrain for the first time ever for an Israeli minister, and we’re talking also about – and I’ve discussed this in length with Minister Bourita when I was in Morocco – we’re going to have 3+1 and 3+2 and 3+3. We have – we’re going to make this a bigger and bigger event and a bigger and bigger initiative for peace in the region. On top of this, I have – only this week I have launched my initiative about economy for security in Gaza, trying to stabilize the Palestinian arena as well. So I invite you all to be part of this initiative that will help both for the Palestinian economy and to secure and help – and help to secure the entire region.

So this is an optimistic event, and it was created by optimistic people for a better future. And I couldn’t be happier than doing this on the 42nd anniversary of the Camp David agreements. And a Happy New Year, Shana Tova, to you all from the people of Israel.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yair, thank you very, very much, and optimism is definitely a good thing. We need more of it and we need to be energized by it, so I appreciate that very much.

Ambassador al-Khalifa, Abdullah, over to you.

AMBASSADOR AL-KHALIFA: Thank you, Honorable Secretary, Your Excellencies. Allow me to personally relay the appreciation of His Excellency Dr. Abdullatif Rashid al-Zayani, foreign minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, for convening this very important gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of the signing of these historic agreements.

The foreign minister unfortunately couldn’t join us today’s – to today’s virtual meeting, going to being en route to New York for the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. But he has asked for his remarks to be included in the form of a recorded video, and so please allow me to turn the floor to the foreign minister’s recorded message. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-ZAYANI: “Secretary Blinken, Your Highness, Your Excellencies: Thank you, Secretary Blinken, for hosting this virtual event celebrating the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords. I am delighted to join you today as we not only recognize what has been achieved, but also look ahead to how we can build on these historic agreements to take forward the peace, stability, and prosperity of the entire Middle East and its peoples. Because the past year has clearly shown that despite challenges, change is possible for our region, that there really can be a path toward security and cooperation for us all. Already, we have seen further countries joining the process. And I am so pleased that we are joined from Morocco by my brother, His Excellency Minister Bourita, also with His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan from the brotherly United Arab Emirates, and His Excellency Minister Yair Lapid from the state of Israel. And already, we are seeing our cooperation bear fruit with a host of agreements and cooperation projects between the countries involved.

“In Bahrain, we have moved quickly to consolidate our new ties with Israel and to seize the new opportunities they have created for the benefit of both countries and the region. I’m particularly pleased that our first ambassador to Tel Aviv has this week presented his credentials to President Herzog, the first step in what I am sure will be a full role in developing our ties.

“Indeed, the Kingdom of Bahrain has been proud to be at the forefront of this historic process, showcasing our deep-rooted values of dialogue, mutual respect, and coexistence, and demonstrating how they can make a real practical difference on the regional and international stage.

“Looking to the future, we must make sure that this past year is only the start of the process and sustain the genuine momentum and progress we have seen. We need to redouble our efforts to highlight the benefits of our cooperation, whether bilateral or multilaterally, among the countries involved. We need to demonstrate what genuine regional peace, interdependence, and prosperity can mean in practice for the day-to-day lives of all the peoples of the Middle East. And we need a real push to resolve the underlying issues affecting the region, most notably the importance of a just and comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“All of this will require real engagement and support from our friends and allies around the world, not just those involved in the Abraham Accords process, but all countries with a genuine interest in a peaceful, secure, and stable Middle East.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain therefore welcomes the strong and active support from the Biden administration. And I want to thank you, Secretary Blinken, for your close involvement in this ongoing historic process. It is my hope that as the benefits become increasingly clear, and with the assistance of our international partners, the region will move forward towards a cooperation of which we can all be proud.

“Secretary Blinken, dear colleagues, I want to close by congratulating all the countries represented here today on what we have achieved together so far by underlining the Kingdom of Bahrain’s continued and active commitment to this process and by looking forward to further progress towards our shared goal of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Middle East. Thank you.”

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, thank you very much, and Abdullah, please convey our gratitude to the minister for his participation. And we very much look forward to seeing him in the days ahead.

And now, Dr. Gargash, Anwar, so good to see you. Over to you.

MR GARGASH: Good to see you. Good to see you. Good to see you. But I would actually like to start by wishing Minister Lapid, Israelis, and the Jewish people a happy new year. So I think that I would like to start with that. And I hope that this is a year where we can consolidate our relationship, bring better prospects for the future for all of us joined together. But the first anniversary of the Abrahamic Accords is truly an auspicious occasion, and it certainly is an occasion to celebrate. Peace, stability, opportunity are things worthy of celebration in our region, and I think they should really be keywords in a region that we all know is extremely difficult.

Looking back a year ago and seeing this positive new normal, we in the UAE are very, very encouraged. We are encouraged with what has taken place, we’re encouraged with our communications with the Israeli side, we are encouraged with the opportunities that are there, and a lot has happened in the past year. And I would say that a lot of positive, really, things have happened, and this is really a counter-narrative for a region that needs positive counter-narratives.

I also take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the United States, for if it wasn’t for the American role, this wouldn’t have been possible. And the continued engagement of the United States in this initiative, in expanding the Abrahamic Accords and diversifying the benefits of peace, is something that is welcome, because America is best when it can congregate friends together and allow them to prosper and allow them to build a positive future for a very troubled region.

I would say that the main achievement of the Abrahamic Accords in the beginning was breaking the psychological barrier, and I think once that psychological barrier was broken, this was really the difficult part. And following that, a lot of things and opportunities have appeared – people-to-people opportunities, economies, even our ability really to consult on political issues. The messages of hope and opportunity – and opportunities are the language that we all like to hear, and these opportunities are in a myriad selection or grouping of things that we can do in technologies, in life sciences, in health, in agriculture, in tourism, and in simpler things, really, of allowing Israeli companies to expand and allowing country – companies from our countries also to expand and partner. And I think these are all positive messages as we celebrate the first anniversary.

Politically, also, we feel that the Abrahamic Accords will allow us to help and assist further in the peace process, leading to what we all see as the ultimate goal of a two-state solution. This, of course, will be up to the Palestinians and Israelis to agree. But I think we can all be more constructive as we build a network of trust, and that network of trust I think will allow us to put away a lot of the fears of the past and replace it by the hopes for the future.

But the most important message, also, from my perspective is really to a demographically young region. This is a region where all of our countries are demographically very young. And I think the Abrahamic Accord has been received with overwhelming support among the young in the United Arab Emirates, because they can see that this is a narrative that is positive. It’s a narrative of opportunity, of peace, of doing things together, and also understanding that countries can have very fruitful and forward-looking relations but can disagree on issues and need to work the disagreements together. It can’t be just zero-sum games but it has to be positive as we move forward.

The messages of the great possibilities for peace and cooperation are these messages that we are sending to the young. On behalf of the UAE Government, I will say that we will continue on what we see as a strategic path. We will continue with our utmost power and initiative in order to make it wider, to make it deeper, and to make it more diversified.

And I would end by saying that the satisfaction of building bridges is a satisfaction that has a moral compass, and it’s a satisfaction that has economic and political opportunities. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Anwar, thank you very much. And my thanks and gratitude to each of you. I think you’ve each underscored eloquently and powerfully why this is such an important moment to mark, and why the vision of each of your countries is already demonstrating concrete results and a vision now that carries forward.

Abraham, in our Bible, had the temerity to engage God, to argue with God, to ask why, and maybe more important, to ask why not. And I think each of you and each of your countries asked, “Why not?” And the answer now we see before us with the accords, with normalization, and with the manifest benefits that it’s bringing to people not just in the countries concerned, but I think increasingly more broadly.

So it’s both an honor and an imperative for the United States to continue strongly to support everything you’re doing and, as several of you have said, to widen the circle going forward. So thanks for spending for the time today. Looking forward to seeing each of you in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID: Thank you. Bye-bye, everybody. Hope to you see you next year in Israel.

Issuance of New Executive Order Establishing Sanctions Related to the Crisis in Ethiopia

17 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

In the midst of ongoing violence, abuses against civilians, and growing humanitarian plight in Ethiopia, President Biden today signed an Executive Order (E.O.) establishing a new sanctions regime in response to the crisis. With it, the United States will be able to impose financial sanctions on individuals and entities in connection with the conflict, including those responsible for threatening peace and stability, obstructing humanitarian access or progress toward a ceasefire, or committing serious human rights abuses. Designated individuals are also subject to visa restrictions. This conflict has sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with more than five million people requiring assistance, of which over 900,000 are living in famine conditions. This new tool underscores our resolve to use every appropriate tool at our disposal to bring relief to the long-suffering people of the region.

For too long, the Government of Ethiopia, the Government of Eritrea, the Amhara regional government, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have failed to stop fighting and invest in diplomacy required to solve the ongoing crisis. Instead, violence has escalated and spread, and human rights abuses and obstruction of humanitarian access continue. The Administration, in concert with our international partners, including in the region, has employed a range of diplomatic tools. Most recently, the United States designated Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) Chief of Staff General Filipos Woldeyohannes under the Global Magnitsky sanctions authority in connection with serious human rights abuses committed by the EDF in Ethiopia. In May, we also announced a visa restriction policy on the issuance of visas for individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the resolution of the crisis in Tigray.

The United States calls on the Ethiopian government and the TPLF to cease ongoing hostilities and enter into ceasefire negotiations immediately and without preconditions. Talks to achieve a negotiated ceasefire should lead to a broader dialogue to find a durable political solution to the conflict. Eritrean forces should immediately and permanently withdraw from Ethiopia. If the parties take immediate steps in this regard, the United States is prepared to delay imposition of sanctions and focus on supporting a negotiated process.

Absent clear and concrete progress toward a negotiated ceasefire and an end to abuses – as well as unhindered humanitarian access to those Ethiopians who are suffering – the United States will designate imminently specific leaders, organizations, and entities under this new sanctions regime. Any sanctions imposed under this new authority would target those responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that are prolonging the conflict in northern Ethiopia, obstructing humanitarian access and a ceasefire, or committing serious human rights abuses. We have taken a series of steps to help ensure legitimate humanitarian assistance (including COVID-19 related assistance), as well as personal remittances, food, and medicine continue to reach the Ethiopian and Eritrean people and that the activities of international organizations and non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia and Eritrea can proceed.

Today’s action demonstrates that the United States will continue to use all appropriate tools at our disposal to end the conflict.

The United States Imposes Sanctions on International Networks Supporting Terrorism

17 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States has designated Lebanon- and Kuwait-based members of a financial network that funds Hizballah, as well as members of an international network of financial facilitators and front companies that operate in support of Hizballah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). Together, these networks have laundered tens of millions of dollars through regional financial systems and conducted currency exchange operations and trade in gold and electronics for the benefit of both Hizballah and the IRGC-QF. This action is being taken pursuant to the counterterrorism authority within Executive Order 13224, as amended.

Hizballah uses revenues generated by these networks to fund terrorist activities and to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region. The United States will not relent in targeting these networks, and we will continue to take actions to disrupt their activities.

Hizballah is increasingly looking for additional sources of revenue to bolster its coffers. We call on governments around the world to take steps to ensure Hizballah and other terrorist groups do not exploit their territory and financial institutions.

For more information on today’s action, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton At a Joint Press Availability

16 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Dean Acheson Auditorium

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon.  I know that I speak for Secretary of Defense Austin when I say what an absolute pleasure it’s been to host our friends from Australia – Foreign Minister Payne, Defence Minister Dutton – here in Washington today.

Today’s ministerial consultations reinforce the breadth and depth of our relationship with our Australian ally.  We will have a lot to cover, but I just want to start by saying that the alliance between our countries quite simply has never been stronger, and it’s never been more important.  This year marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty, which is the foundation of the security partnership that’s been vital for our countries, for the Indo-Pacific region, and, I would argue, for the world.

We also recently marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the only time the collective defense article of the ANZUS Treaty was formally invoked.  That meant a great deal to us.  We also remember how Australia’s parliament very swiftly passed a motion offering support for the United States after the 9/11 attacks.  Simply put, we will always be deeply grateful for Australia’s solidarity, for its friendship at one of the darkest moments in our history.

In Afghanistan, Australian and American troops served side by side for 20 years as part of the NATO-led multinational missions.  More than 40 Australians lost their lives as part of those missions.  We’ll never forget their courage and their sacrifice.  And we’ll continue to work together as we look to the future in Afghanistan to ensure that terrorist groups never again use it as a base for external operations that could threaten Australia, the United States, or our allies.

Yesterday, President Biden announced a historic new chapter in our security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom.  It’s called AUKUS, and it reflects our countries’ shared commitment to work together to safeguard peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific now and in the future.

Through AUKUS, we will significantly deepen our cooperation on a range of security and defense priorities, including by strengthening our joint capabilities and interoperability in a number of key areas: cyber, AI, quantum technologies, additional underseas capabilities.  We’ll also work to sustain and deepen information and technology sharing between our countries, and we’ll foster a deeper integration of security- and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains.

The first initiative under AUKUS is our shared ambition to support Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.  We’re now embarking on a trilateral effort to identify the best way to deliver that capability.

I want to emphasize that there is no regional divide separating the interests of our Atlantic and our Pacific partners.  This partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom is a signal that we’re committed to working with our allies and partners, including in Europe, to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.  We welcome European countries playing an important role in the Indo-Pacific.  We look forward to continued close cooperation with NATO, with the European Union, and others in this endeavor.  France, in particular, is a vital partner on this and so many other issues, stretching back generations, and we want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.

Our discussions today reflect how the alliance between Australia and the United States goes far beyond our military ties, deep and as important as they are.  Our economic relationship is robust.  The United States is proud to be the top foreign investor in Australia by far, and to be the top destination for Australia’s foreign investment.  We’re connected by people-to-people ties stretching back generations and thriving today.  Nearly 5,000 Australian students came to American universities in 2019, and more than 12,000 Americans studied in Australia, discovering for themselves Australia’s great natural beauty, its multicultural society, and its easygoing friendliness.

And beyond these bilateral ties, the partnership between our countries underpins stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.  We share a commitment to democracy and the rule of law.  We stand up for human rights and stand together against threats to democratic governance, including state-sponsored disinformation.  We work together to help neighbors in the Indo-Pacific and to take on urgent global challenges.

For example, we’re working together – both bilaterally, and through the Quad and other global fora – to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.  Today we also discussed the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis by making significant progress and cutting emissions by the end of this decade.

And our two countries together defend the international rules-based order that makes so much cooperation and shared progress among nations possible to begin with.  The world saw China’s aggressive response when Australia led calls for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.  And Beijing has seen over the past months that Australia will not back down and that threats of economic retaliation and pressure simply will not work.  I also want to reiterate what I’ve said before: the United States will not leave Australia alone on the field – or better yet, on the “pitch” – in the face of these pressure tactics.  We have raised publicly and privately our serious concerns about Beijing’s use of economic coercion against Australia – and we’ve made it clear that actions like these targeting our allies will hinder improvements in our relationship with the Chinese Government.

We welcome Australia’s leadership in standing up for universal values that we seek to uphold and helping to shape an Indo-Pacific region where nations conduct themselves in ways that enhance stability, reinforce international law, including freedom of the seas, allow for unimpeded commerce, and respect the sovereignty of all countries.

These past 70 years have proven that this is an unshakeable alliance.  We’re deeply grateful for our friendship with Australia.  We’re eager to continue to work closely together for the next 70 years and beyond to ensure a bright and hopeful future for Australians, for Americans, for people across the region.

So thank you so much again, Foreign Minister Payne, Defence Minister Dutton, for traveling here to Washington.  We’re looking forward to returning the favor and traveling to Australia as soon as we can – and to welcoming Prime Minister Morrison here next week when he meets with President Biden and the leaders of Japan and India for the Quad Security Dialogue.

With that, Foreign Minister Payne.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken.  And to Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin, thank you both for hosting the 31st AUSMIN Consultations.  May I also thank those many officials who have been toiling behind the scenes for some time now to prepare for a meeting of this consequence.  It is a great pleasure to be here in Washington with our friends and colleagues to engage in the AUSMIN talks, and it’s not possible without the work of officials that goes into it.

Two weeks ago, the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House were lit up with the Stars and Stripes of the flag of the United States, marking 70 years since the signing of the ANZUS Treaty.  And for those 70 years, our alliance has helped to safeguard our people and to enhance the security of our region.  ANZUS, along with the other alliances the United States has in the Indo-Pacific and the many good friendships and partnerships of both our nations, have formed a bedrock of stability enabling seven decades of peace and economic growth.  As we face a prolonged period of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, we are now expanding this network, the AUKUS trilateral security partnership being the latest example of that.

Indeed, Australia and the United States are continually identifying new ways to work together in our region, according to our values and interests and in concert with existing and new partners.  Prior to arriving in Washington, Minister Dutton and I visited Jakarta, New Delhi, and Seoul, where we discussed many of the same issues that have been on the agenda here today.  At today’s meeting, we have reiterated that our allies and our partners are our greatest strategic asset.  We are committed to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led architecture and will continue working with the Quad as a key vehicle to support the Indo-Pacific.  Next week’s Quad Leaders Summit, the first such meeting in person, will be a powerful demonstration of the commitment of our four nations.

We see that competition is happening across a wide range of areas – in economics, in diplomacy, in development, in health, technology, and in gray zones.  Our alliance has long evolved beyond its initial status as a military pact, which means it is contemporary, it is well suited to cooperate on countering economic coercion, or supporting our region’s response to COVID-19, as much as it is on those more traditional security challenges.

Our approach stems from our fundamental values as liberal democracies, of which we are deeply proud.  But it is inclusive.  There is room for each nation to be itself within that regional framework that protects and respects sovereignty, that champions openness, and resists unilateral assertiveness and breaches of international rules and norms.

We’re supporting that vision practically by ensuring that others in the region have confidence that there are options available.  We are guided by the priorities of our partner countries as we support them in their recovery from COVID-19 through enhanced access to vaccines and strengthened health security infrastructure.  Our question is what do you need, not how can you serve our strategic interests.

We also discussed working together to enhance cooperation on innovation and critical technologies, to advance the peaceful use of space through a space framework agreement, to counter malicious cyber activity, to build infrastructure to promote economic growth and independence, to combat dangerous disinformation, and to drive clean energy solutions that meet the world’s climate targets.  Our determination to combine our strengths in critical technologies to drive prosperity, to meet security challenges, as well as to increase regional stability is well demonstrated by the AUKUS partnership, which will integrate our efforts across science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains.

Today, we also discussed strategic competition.  We discussed the competition of China at a number of levels that requires us to respond and to increase resilience.  This does not mean that there are not constructive areas for engagement with China.  Australia continues to seek dialogue with China without preconditions.

Let me conclude by emphasizing that United States leadership in the Indo-Pacific remains indispensable.  We must compete in order to preserve and to shape the international order that has underpinned decades of prosperity and economic stability in the Indo-Pacific.  Australia’s message is that we are an ally that is looking for opportunities to work together across the region alongside U.S. leadership to maintain, to improve security and prosperity for all.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Good afternoon, Minister Payne and Minister Dutton.  Let me also thank you for coming all the way to Washington to join us.  It’s great to see you.  Your presence here reflects the strength of what we’re proud to call the unbreakable alliance.

Our alignment on the most important strategic issues of the day attest to the enduring value of our partnership.  And speaking of partners, I want to thank my friend and colleague, Secretary Blinken, for welcoming us all to the State Department.  Tony, you’ve been a great host, and thanks for having us.

As my colleagues have made clear, the United States and Australia share an enduring bond, united by our common values and common interests and deepened through more than a century of shared battlefield sacrifice from the Somme to Afghanistan.  It’s not lost on me – and certainly what Secretary Blinken highlighted just a moment ago – that Australian troops have been at our side through thick and thin, through every conflict of the modern era, and certainly over the last two decades.  I’ve served with and fought alongside our allies from down under and I can attest to their bravery, their skill, their professionalism in the face of danger.  I’m extraordinarily grateful for their courage and for their mateship.  And here today, we still stand shoulder to shoulder as mates, ready to face the challenges and the opportunities of the future.

And that’s what this new trilateral security partnership between the U.S., the UK, and Australia is all about.  And as Secretary Blinken noted, an important first step for AUKUS will be our efforts to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.  This will significantly improve the Australian navy’s reach and defensive capabilities.  It will also help to contribute to what I call integrated deterrence in the region, the ability for the United States military to work more effectively with our allies and partners in defense of our shared security interests.  This morning, we had a robust discussion across the full range of those security interests, to include terrorism, climate change, and the increasingly contested security environment in the Indo-Pacific.

We spoke in detail about China’s destabilizing activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries, contrary to established rules and norms.  And while we seek a constructive, results-oriented relationship with the PRC, we will remain clear-eyed in our view of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order.

Now, let me also take a moment to thank Australia for its continued support of the Marine Rotational Force Darwin, which is completing its annual deployment, despite the difficulties of COVID-19.  I’m proud of the breadth and the depth of our alliance, and it’s only getting stronger.

Yesterday, Minister Dutton and I signed a statement of intent that will expand our efforts to co-develop advanced defense capabilities, and today we endorse major force posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia.  We agreed to take immediate steps to improve interoperability through deeper integration.  And we have reaffirmed our commitment to expanding multilateral efforts, especially with Japan through the trilateral defense ministers meeting, and also with India.

And so Minister Payne, Minister Dutton, thank you again for being here today and for a very productive couple of days, and I look forward to working closely with you as we deepen this alliance.  And, of course, I look forward to joining Secretary Blinken on a trip to Australia at the earliest possible opportunity.  Thank you very much.

DEFENCE MINISTER DUTTON:  Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  Thank you very much for being here.  Firstly, my very sincere thanks to Secretary Blinken and to Secretary Austin for hosting what has been an incredibly successful and, indeed, historic AUSMIN.  At a time when it has been difficult, of course, to meet in person, this meeting has offered us a great opportunity to build on our storied partnership, the most important relationship Australia has, bar none.  And I’m grateful for the warm hospitality and welcome that we have received here in Washington.

To be here, in this year, at this time, is indeed a great honor.  This year is the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty, and it’s also now 20 years, as we well know, since the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks which changed this country, her allies, and the world.  Prime Minister John Howard at the time invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time in the wake of those dreadful attacks.  Then, as now, Australia stands with the United States.

Seventy years on, our alliance is stronger and more important than ever.  It stands as a pillar of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific and it’s a testament to our shared values and our commitment to a secure, prosperous, and resilient Indo-Pacific.  Yesterday’s announcements that we have established an enhanced trilateral security relationship with the United Kingdom and the U.S., AUKUS, is further evidence of the strengths of these bonds and our commitment to protect shared values and promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Our discussion here today has reinforced our shared commitment to ensuring an alliance that is match fit to meet the strategic challenges ahead.  It’s through this lens that I’m proud to announce that Australia and the United States will be significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability, and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.  This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia.  We will also establish combined logistics, sustainment, and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities, including logistics and sustainment capabilities for our submarines and surface combatants in Australia.  These key activities will be complemented by conducting more bilateral exercises and greater combined exercise engagement with partners in the region.

What makes Australia and the U.S. so effective as alliance partners is the depth of our cooperation.  We further advanced our cooperation today in science, technology, strategic capabilities, and defense industrial base integration, which are the key pillars of our alliance.  This included signing a classified statement of intent on strategic capabilities, cooperation, and implementation.  It will be a key way that we can strengthen capability outcomes, deepen our alliance, and increase cooperation to meet emerging strategic challenges and support regional stability.

We also discussed plans to accelerate establishment of Australia’s guided weapons and explosive ordinance enterprise, and we agreed to cooperate on its development.  We’re also looking towards the domains that will shape our future environment – activities that will expand Australia’s space knowledge and capabilities – and I’m pleased to announce that the Australian Department of Defence and the United States National Reconnaissance Office have also committed to a broad range of cooperative satellite activities.

Australia and the United States have common values and a history of mateship and collaboration in times of war and in times of peace.  It’s therefore no surprise that we have formed such a close and enduring bond over that time.  As we stand here, acknowledging several important anniversaries for the alliance, as well as historic new opportunities between our two countries and our partners, I’m positive that we have laid the foundation for another 70 years of cooperation and collaboration.

Thank you.

MR PRICE:  We’ll now move to questions, and we’ll start with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Ned.  Thank you and – thank you very much.  With your indulgence, I have the honor of representing all of my colleagues, so I’m going to represent them today with things that are their mind as well.

Secretary Blinken, you opened today talking about the strong alliance with France.  But after professing at NATO that America is back to all of the Europeans, what do you say to an ally, France, that feels that this agreement today stabs them in the back by going and providing nuclear submarines to the Australians?

For Secretary Austin, after two days of grueling testimony on the Hill, Secretary Blinken was asked, grilled, about questions that really involved Pentagon decisions and decisions by other agencies such as the closing of Bagram, the intelligence assessments, the failure to train up the Afghan army as had been expected.  Should the Pentagon also be held accountable for some of the failures in Afghanistan?

And for both of you, after those NATO meetings in June, you heard very strong objections, Secretary Blinken, to a total withdrawal.  You came back, and according to the Woodward-Costa book, you revised some of your proposals and suggested a slower withdrawal, leaving a footprint, a smaller footprint.  Secretary Austin, according to the book, you suggested a slower withdrawal, a gated proposal, perhaps to provide room for negotiations with the Taliban.  So according to the book, you also had a deep analysis of a worst-case scenario where al-Qaida would, indeed, reform and be able to eventually pose a threat to the homeland.  So what does that say about the assessments and about the decisions that were eventually made to withdraw, as you did unilaterally without proper consultations, or at least in contradiction to what you heard at NATO in Brussels?

And to Secretary Austin, with your indulgence, this is our first opportunity to ask you to respond to those Republicans on the Hill, including, of course, the former president, demanding the firing of the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Milley.

Thank you all very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Andrea.  I’m happy to start and then hand it over to Lloyd.

With regard to France, first of all, Andrea, as I noted, as the President said, last night in announcing this initiative we strongly, strongly welcome European countries playing an important role in the Indo-Pacific.  We look forward to continued close cooperation with NATO, with the EU and others in this endeavor.  One of the hallmarks of the conversations that Lloyd and I both had over these many months in Europe at NATO, as well as with the EU, has been their own increased focus and attention on the Indo-Pacific and the work that we can do together in that regard.

And as I said, France in particular is a vital partner on this, on so many other things stretching back a long, long time, but also stretching forward into the future, as we’ve discussed in depth in my many conversations with my French counterpart, President Biden with President Macron, including at the NATO summit, at the G7, and other places.  And we want to find every opportunity now to deepen transatlantic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.

We’ve been in touch with French counterparts in the last 24-48 hours to discuss AUKUS, including before the announcement.  I’ll leave it to our Australian partners to describe why they sought this new technology.  But as the President said, and I want to emphasize again, we cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond, around the world.  We’re going to continue to do so.  We place fundamental value on that relationship, on their partnership, and we will carry it forward in the days ahead.

With regard to Afghanistan, a couple of things.  First, as the Secretary of Defense noted as well, we both went very early, well before the President’s decision on Afghanistan, to NATO to spend time with our NATO Allies and other partners, to listen intently to them about their views on the way forward in Afghanistan, views that not only did we listen to very carefully but we shared directly with President Biden, and they very much factored into our thinking and into the decisions he made on Afghanistan.

Different Allies had a variety of perspectives on the way forward.  Some talked about a conditions-based withdrawal.  That certainly came up in the conversations that we had.  But each of them, to an ally, to a partner, recognized that had we chosen to stay beyond May 1st or not to make clear by then that we were withdrawing pursuant to the agreement negotiated by the previous administration, an agreement that led to the Taliban not attacking our forces or allied or partner forces from the time of the agreement until the planned withdrawal on May 1st and that led to it not attacking the major cities in Afghanistan, they knew and expressed, to a partner, that should we stay beyond May 1st or not make clear that we were in the process of leaving, that the attacks not just on us but on Allies and partners would resume, that the offensive against Afghanistan’s cities which we’ve seen in recent months would commence, and that we would be faced with the decision of what to do about that, and that decision would have involved sending substantially more forces into Afghanistan under fire, taking casualties for some indefinite length of time, and again, with little prospect of doing more than perhaps restoring the stalemate that had been in place before.

So when the President made his decision, we went back to NATO and at that session, NATO immediately and unanimously endorsed the decision.  We went in together, we agreed that we would leave together, and that’s exactly what we proceeded to do.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Andrea, with respect to testimony, as you probably know, I am scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the 28th of this month, and then the House Armed Services Committee on the 29th of this month.  And so I will appear, as Tony did, before my respective committee and have an opportunity to address some of the issues that you raised.

On the issue of what’s in the book with respect to my activities and Secretary Blinken’s activities, I won’t confirm or deny what’s in the book because I’ve not read the book, but again – and so I won’t comment on what’s in the book.  But what I will say, as Tony has just mentioned, that we followed a rigorous process where commanders and other players in the NSC establishment were able to provide their inputs, and with those inputs the President made his decision.  And in following that decision, as the Secretary of State has said, we went to NATO to engage our NATO Allies.  And then beyond that, once we laid the plan for retrograding our equipment and people, we synchronized that plan with our Allies to make sure that we had everyone and everything accounted for.

And finally, regarding General Milley, again, much of what’s in – all of what’s in that book happened before I became Secretary of Defense, so I can’t comment on that as well, and certainly I won’t comment on what’s in the book.  I have confidence in General Milley.

QUESTION:  And what about the demands from the Republicans?  What would you say to them?

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  I don’t have a comment there, Andrea.

MR PRICE:  We’ll turn to Greg Jennett of ABC News.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity, also on behalf of the colleagues.  My questions – there’s only two – are primarily directed to the secretaries, but no doubt Ministers Payne and Dutton may choose to respond.

Following on from yesterday’s remarkable AUKUS submarine decision, and it goes to the principle of reciprocity – so Australia is going to get America’s most valuable nuclear technology secrets to undertake this nuclear-powered submarine endeavor.  Is it accepted broadly that with that comes now a requirement for Australia to reciprocate with things that it has previously been reluctant to do.  Two possible examples that I’d be thinking of: de facto home porting, once Australia builds up nuclear infrastructure in places like HMAS Stirling on the west coast, for instance; intermediate-range missiles hosted on Australian soil, considered before and rejected before.

And then the second question, just to follow up and sketch out further the enhanced force posture initiatives that have been endorsed today.  Minister Dutton, you’ve given us a very broad outline, all categories of aircraft plus the logistics and the maintenance.  Could you expand any further but with particular reference to the scale here, given the Marines training in the north?  I think the number is about 5,000.  At any given point in time, what might the enhanced U.S. force posture position be in and around Australia?

Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I can simply say that from my perspective there are no follow-on reciprocal requirements of any kind.  This is a partnership.  This is a cooperative agreement with us, with Australia, with the United Kingdom, and any future decisions on issues such as the ones you’ve mentioned are, of course, sovereign decisions for Australia to make.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Yeah, we certainly didn’t go into this with a quid pro quo mindset, and we’ve not outlined any specific reciprocal requirements.  Again, we look to strengthen a partnership that is already very strong, and Australia has been with us through thick and thin in a number of different – through a number of different challenges.  And we look forward to building additional capability here but also in some of the things that you mentioned earlier.

DEFENCE MINISTER DUTTON:  Greg, thank you for your question.  A couple points.

One is that we have – as the prime minister and I, Marise, others have pointed out regularly in our meetings with the media – highlighted the fact that we see incredible uncertainty within the Indo-Pacific.  It’s formed the basis of much of our discussion here with our colleagues – very significant uncertainty, and more so than any time since the Second World War.  And we do believe it’s in Australia’s national security interest to deepen our relationship with the United States, with other partners, including through the Quad.  ASEAN will always have primacy within the Asia Pacific, but there’s a collaboration between likemindeds that want continued peace in our region, and from my perspective Australia leads that pack.  We want to make sure that peace prevails in the Indo-Pacific, and all of which we’re doing as part of this discussion and many others that we’ve had in the preceding days and months before now has all been designed to continue that peace in our region.

So I do have an aspiration to make sure that we can increase the numbers of troops through the rotations.  The air capability will be enhanced, our maritime capability enhanced, and certainly the force posture enhanced.  And if that includes basing and includes the storage of different ordnances, I think that is in Australia’s best interest, in our national interest, at this point in time.  And that’s something that I’ll be continuing, to be sure, and we have in principle agreement around a number of issues related to this now as a result of these discussions.

So I’m very grateful for the support of the United States in this regard.  I’ll just finish on this point, and I should have made it clear in my opening remarks.  We are very, very grateful for the support of the United States in Afghanistan.  For us to take out 4,100 people – and Marise really led this work for us in Australia – the stories of young girls and young women within the 4,100.  A very significant number within that 4,100 would not have found a new life of safety and a new life that they couldn’t have imagined without the support of the United States.

There is no other country in the world that could have held Kabul airport, and the U.S. had 4,000 troops there, and the British forces a thousand.  Without their efforts, we wouldn’t have been able to take out those 4,100 people.  And I think, frankly, it’s time for people to pause, reflect on that, and to acknowledge the sacrifice that’s been made over a 20-year period.  But for those 4,000 troops and the Brits to be there along with others, there were no European countries, no Asian countries, no Middle Eastern countries prepared to step up and provide that support.  And as a country, we’re very grateful for what the United States was able to do.

MR PRICE:  Abraham Mahshie of Air Force Magazine.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  My question is directed at Secretary Austin – oh, thank you – Secretary Austin.  And of course, Minister Dutton, you’re invited as well to respond.  Secretary, are you concerned that this move, sharing this technology, raises tensions with China, as it appears it already has?  And can you describe a little bit more detail the air and space cooperation with Australia, specifically things like joint hypersonics development, additional bomber rotations, air patrols and rotations?  And there’s been some allusion to force posture.  Could you give some specifics, numbers, how soon we might see those increases?  Thank you so much.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Yeah, so on the issue of China, let me just emphasize up front that this agreement, this relationship is not aimed at anything or anyone.  It’s – the intent here is to help improve our trilateral cooperation and our capabilities across the board.  And the first step is to focus on helping Australia acquire a nuclear-powered submarine capability, and we’re going to work on that going forward.  And that’s pretty exciting, and it’s exciting because it will provide Australia additional flexibility and capability that I think will be very, very beneficial to all of us going forward.

But we will continue to explore many of the things that you just mentioned in terms of greater and more frequent engagement in – with our air capabilities, more training opportunities for our ground forces, and increasing our logistical footprint in Australia as well.  And again, there are a number of things that are – that we’ve worked together to outline which I won’t go into today, but this is a pretty exciting opportunity for us.

DEFENCE MINISTER DUTTON:  I’ll just add very briefly to that.  This is not the first time that we’ve seen different outbursts from China in terms of Australia’s position.  We are a proud democracy in our region.  We stand with our neighbors in the Indo-Pacific to ensure enduring peace, and this collaboration makes it a safer region.  That’s the reality, and no amount of propaganda can dismiss the facts.  So if we look at the facts here at the moment, Australia has regional superiority with our Collins-class submarines.  They go into a life-of-type extension starting in 2026, and that will take them out to the 2040s, which means that we need an enduring capability with regional superiority beyond that.

The clear advice to us from chief of navy and the chief of the defense force has been that a conventional diesel submarine was not going to provide us with the capability into the 2030s, the second half of the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond, and that we needed a nuclear-powered submarine.  And so we looked at what options were available to us.  The French have a version which was not superior to that operated by the United States and the United Kingdom.  And in the end, the decision that we have made is based on what is in the best interests of our national security and the prevailing security and peace within the Indo-Pacific.  And therefore it became a natural partnership with the UK and the U.S., our two oldest and most enduring partners and partnership – alliance partners.  So that’s why we find ourselves here in this point.

Just in terms of collaboration, both in air and in the other domains, I’ll just point out that there’s already, as we’ve seen recently in Operation Talisman Saber, a great level of exchange, a great trust that’s been established over conflicts and in peacetime as well, with American counterparts.  And that will continue.  So across platforms, and we saw that evidenced in Talisman Saber only a couple of months ago.  And that will form the basis of us continuing to deepen that relationship.  And as I said, that is in our national security interests and in the interests of our region as well.

MR PRICE:  Our final question will go to Megan Palin of News Corp.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  Thank you for allowing me to talk with you today on behalf of my colleagues.

The first question is for Secretary Blinken and/or Minister Dutton.  Given China’s response to the trilateral partnership, what’s the messaging to the region?  And should they still serve as a warning of any sort?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m happy to start, Peter.  Just to reiterate what Secretary Austin said, this is about enhancing our cooperation, our work together, ultimately about enhancing security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.  It is not aimed at any country.  It’s certainly not aimed at holding anyone back.  It is aimed, as in everything we do together on security, to upholding the rules-based international order that both Australia and the United States deeply believe in and will defend.  That’s what this is about.

DEFENCE MINISTER DUTTON:  I think the other point to add to that is that Australia takes its sovereignty seriously, and we have a desire in our region to work with Indonesia, with India, with Vietnam, South Korea, countries with whom we have very close relations, and they understand the values that we adhere to and that we’ve been consistently adhered to for a long period of time.  We believe in the rules-based order, as Secretary Blinken points out, and, I mean, our motivation, our posture has been consistent and unambiguous.  We believe that millions of people within our region are living a better life today because we’ve enjoyed peace largely since the Second World War, and we want that to continue.

And so there is a deterrence element to our acquisition and to the maintenance of our defense program, and we’ve been, again, consistent in the way in which we’ve been honest with our neighbors, and that will continue.

QUESTION:  China has said that it threatens stability in the region.  Is – do you consider that a threat?

And just finally, Minister Payne, you mentioned before that Australia was still seeking dialogue with China following the announcement.  Has there been any progress on that?  And what is the key message that you want to get across?

DEFENCE MINISTER DUTTON:  Well, no, I don’t see it as a threat.

Marise.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  We’ve been very consistent in reiterating our desire to have constructive engagement with China, and we have consistently reiterated that we place great importance on the relationship.  But as we engage with China, we’ll always consider our own national interest, as any sovereign nation would, as the minister for defense has stated here today.  We are open to dialogue.  The prime minister said yesterday at his media conference in Australia there is an open invitation for President Xi to discuss these and any other matters.  That has always been there.  The same goes for me with my counterpart, with Minister Dutton with his, Minister Tehan, for example, with his.  Dialogue actually is helpful.  Dialogue is constructive.  Dialogue enables the airing of any differences, the ventilating of any concerns.  And so we would continue to encourage that.  I regret that it is consistently not taken up.  It seems to me that mature actors would consider that in a constructive way.

QUESTION:  Thank you all.

MR PRICE:  That concludes the press conference.  Thank you very much.

Designation of Al-Qa’ida Supporters

16 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

 The United States remains committed to combatting al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups around the world, including by countering their financing. Today, the United States imposed sanctions against five al-Qa’ida supporters operating in Turkey who provided financial and logistical support to the group. These designations are being taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, as amended.

The United States will continue to work closely with our partners and allies, including Turkey, in identifying, exposing, and disrupting al-Qa’ida’s financial support networks. We will keep a vigilant eye on these networks to deter them from abusing the international financial system to generate revenues for terrorist operations.

The United States will never forget the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks and al-Qa’ida’s other plots around the world. We will continue to target those who seek to inflict harm on the United States, our citizens, and our interests.

For more information on today’s action, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.

State Department Collaboration with Welcome.US

16 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Over the past several weeks, the State Department has seen an enormous outpouring of commitments from the private sector and other non-governmental actors to support the arrival of Afghans in the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome.  To mobilize and channel this wellspring of support, on September 3, I issued a call to action on behalf of the Department to companies and other organizations that wish to help Afghans starting new lives in the United States.

The State Department is partnering with Welcome.US, a non-profit, non-partisan initiative of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), to galvanize additional private sector support and resources for arriving Afghans and harness the goodwill of the American people, building on our country’s cherished tradition of private philanthropy contributing to the public good.

Welcome.US launched Tuesday, September 14 with more than 250 NGOs, businesses, and leaders of diverse faiths, politics, and backgrounds as part of its fast-growing coalition, with President and Mrs. Obama, President and Mrs. Bush, and President and Secretary Clinton as honorary co-chairs.  This initiative aims to catalyze support from Americans from all walks of life to support newly arriving Afghans, engaging a range of private sector actors including companies, non-profit organizations, resettlement agencies, Afghan-American organizations and leaders, faith-based communities, refugees, community sponsorship groups, veterans, universities, governors and mayors, and many others.

The generosity displayed by the American people in welcoming newly arrived Afghans as part of Operation Allies Welcome has been nothing short of remarkable and is a clear demonstration of our values as a nation of immigrants that welcomes refugees and vulnerable populations from across the world.  The State Department applauds the launch of Welcome.US and looks forward to our ongoing collaboration and discussions with leaders across sectors to mobilize support to meet the needs of these arriving Afghans as they write a new chapter of the American experience.  On all of these efforts, we will continue our close coordination with White House Coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome Jack Markell and our interagency partners, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information on this initiative, please visit welcome.us.

20th Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter

16 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

This week, the Americas celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC), a groundbreaking affirmation that the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and that the governments of the region have an obligation to promote and defend it.  Called for by our leaders at the Third Summit of the Americas and approved by all members of the Organization of American States on September 11, 2001, the IADC represents a commitment that the Americas should be guided by the principles of democracy; that sovereignty resides in the people; that the rule of law must defend individual liberty; that human rights are to be enjoyed by all; that economic freedom promotes prosperity that can lift millions out of poverty, and that political and economic freedoms are the instruments of lasting peace.

The past twenty years have taught us that democracy is fragile, and the people of the Americas must remain vigilant to protect it.  And so, in December of this year, President Biden will host a Summit for Democracy as an opportunity for governments, civil society, and private sector stakeholders to propel forward these ideals and hold ourselves accountable to the public commitments we have already made.  We will further reaffirm our dedication to the promotion and defense of democracy and human rights throughout the Hemisphere when President Biden hosts the Ninth Summit of the Americas in summer 2022.

As then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stated on the approval of the IADC, those who don’t believe in democracy “cannot destroy our society, nor our belief in the democratic way.”  The hard work of democracy is not just done on election day – but every day.  Today, as we reflect on this important anniversary, let’s renew our commitment to defend democracy, build and strengthen more inclusive and effective institutions, protect the critical role that independent civil society plays, and honor the inherent dignity of each individual.

Mexican National Day

16 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the people and government of the United States of America, I congratulate the Mexican government and its people as you celebrate your “Year of Independence,” including 211 years since “El Grito” and 200 years since the consummation of Mexican independence.

Our shared border, democratic values, trade, and deep cultural ties undoubtedly solidify the relations between our countries.  The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted not only our nations’ resilience, but also the strength of the ties that bind us together.

The United States’ relationship with Mexico is invaluable.  Over the last year, our nations increased trade and investment through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement; worked together to coordinate an orderly, humane and effective regional migration system; and expanded crisis response and coordination as we addressed public health and economic crises worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As our governments, civil society, and private sectors continue to work together, I am confident in our ability to build back better, and advance security and prosperity for the people of the United States and Mexico.  Please accept our congratulations on the anniversary of Mexico’s independence.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne Before Their Meeting

15 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Franklin Room

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  It is a real pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Payne back to the State Department.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Second visit since I’ve been here.  And we have been on the phone, in meetings, on video so many times, and I think it’s just a testament to a number of things, starting with the now 70th anniversary of ANZUS.  But most importantly, if we look at what the United States and Australia are doing together – bilaterally, regionally, globally – this partnership has never been stronger.  It’s never been more important, I think, to the well-being of our people.

And so it’s a particularly important time for us to spend time together.  We’ll be spending a lot of quality time tomorrow.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  We will, indeed.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We have the 2+2 ministerial with our defense secretary colleagues covering the whole range of issues.  But for today, Marise, just welcome.  It’s great to have you back.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  Thank you, Tony.  And a great pleasure to be back in Washington, and particularly to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty, which underpins and is the foundation, really, of the modern alliance, but an alliance which has served both Australia, the United States, and the region so strongly over those decades.

Also to be here for the AUSMIN 2021.  It is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to have that meeting.  I think the challenge for our officials to bring together these gatherings in the context of COVID-19 is not insignificant.  I particularly thank those officials for doing that.

But also, importantly, to send a strong message about the warmth, the depth, the breadth of the Australia-U.S. alliance and the work that we’re doing together to deal with some of the most contemporary challenges.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, great.  It’s great to have you.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And we’ll get down to work.

FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  Thank you, all.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.

Papua New Guinea Independence Day

15 Sep

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the United States of America, I offer my congratulations to the people of Papua New Guinea as you celebrate your Independence Day on September 16. 

For 46 years, the United States and Papua New Guinea have had a robust relationship marked by a shared commitment to economic prosperity for all, good governance, and protection of our cherished natural resources. Despite the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, our partnership has grown stronger. The U.S. donation of more than 300,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea through COVAX is only the latest example of our strong partnership. The United States is committed to advancing our security partnership, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting gender equality. 

On this auspicious anniversary of independence, I wish the people of Papua New Guinea enduring prosperity and vitality.