Israel’s National Day

15 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I offer best wishes and congratulations to all Israelis as you mark the 73rd anniversary of Israel’s independence.

As long-standing partners with shared democratic values, our countries stand united, whether in meeting the health and economic challenges of a virulent outbreak, driving entrepreneurship and innovation in our economies, forging stronger regional bonds, confronting shared security threats, or working towards a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous future for the people of the Middle East.  The United States remains unwavering in its commitment to Israel’s security and will work to maintain the strength of the enduring U.S.-Israel partnership, a relationship the United States deeply values.

Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

Lao New Year 2021

14 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the United States of America, I extend greetings to the people of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the occasion of the Lao New Year.

This year we celebrate the fifth anniversary of our Comprehensive Bilateral Partnership, which is based on mutual respect, common interests, and a shared desire to build a stronger foundation for the future of our nations. The United States greatly appreciates the Lao PDR’s crucial work as ASEAN country coordinator in advancing our shared global and Indo-Pacific priorities. As we look forward, we are committed to working with you to strengthen people-to-people ties and promote our cooperative efforts on COVID-19 recovery, climate change, regional security, and expanded trade and investment.

We wish the people of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic a happy and healthy New Year.

Khmer New Year 2021

14 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the United States of America, I wish the Cambodian people a joyous Khmer New Year.

Khmer New Year is a special time to celebrate the great richness and vibrance of Cambodian culture. As communities around the world continue to navigate unprecedented challenges, we look forward to finding ways to advance our shared goals in the year to come.

May all Cambodians enjoy a prosperous and healthy Year of the Ox.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Before Their Meeting

14 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Brussels, Belgium

NATO Headquarters

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  So, Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, welcome back to NATO.  It’s really great to see you here again.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  You participated in the NATO foreign ministerial meeting just last week, and the fact that you are back again this month together with Secretary Austin, I think that demonstrates the strong U.S. commitment to NATO, to our transatlantic bond – and NATO is the only place where North America and Europe meets every day to address pressing security challenges.  And today we will discuss our future presence in Afghanistan.  We welcome this opportunity to closely coordinate and consult with all allies as we agree on our future presence in Afghanistan.  So I look forward to the discussion with you and also with the foreign ministers and defense ministers later on today.

We will also discuss and address Russia’s aggressive actions in and around Ukraine.  We are all concerned about the massive military buildup, and Russia must end this military buildup, stop provocations, and de-escalate.

I’m also looking forward to discussing the preparations for upcoming NATO summit and the forward-looking agenda of NATO 2030.  So there are many issues to be discussed.  Once again, very much welcome to you, Tony.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jens, Secretary General, thank you.  It’s very good to be back at NATO.  We were here just a few weeks ago for a very good and important session with all of our colleagues, and it’s a pleasure to be back here today.

This is an important moment for our alliance.  Almost 20 years ago, after the United States was attacked on 9/11, together we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us.  And together we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve, and now it is time to bring our forces home.  President Biden will speak to this in a few hours in the United States, and I’m here to work closely with our allies, with the Secretary General, on the principle that we’ve established from the start: in together, adapt together, and out together.  We will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe, deliberate, and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan, but even as we do that, our commitment to Afghanistan, to its future, will remain and we’ll talk about that today as well.

As Jens said, we’ll also discuss the concerns shared across the alliance and among allies about Russia’s actions in and near Ukraine, particularly the significant massing of forces, the largest since 2014, and we’ll talk about the future of our alliance.  This, too, is a very important year for NATO.  The work of the Secretary General, his leadership in setting out a vision for NATO 2030, and a strong agenda to make sure that NATO remains strong, effective, and united going forward, is vitally important and we very much look forward to working on that.

So a lot to discuss, a lot to talk about.  It’s very good to be back here and I thank you, Jens, for having us here today.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Thank you.

Somalia: The United States Opposes Federal Government Term Extensions

14 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

The United States is deeply disappointed by the Federal Government of Somalia’s decision to approve a legislative bill that extends the mandates of the president and parliament by two years.

We have stressed repeatedly that it is vital for the peace, stability, prosperity, and governance of Somalia that the Federal Government and Federal Member States reach a consensus on a way forward for the electoral process. We have also made clear that the United States does not support mandate extensions without broad support from Somalia’s political stakeholders, nor does the United States support parallel or partial electoral processes. Such actions would be deeply divisive, undermine the federalism process and political reforms that have been at the heart of the country’s progress and partnership with the international community, and divert attention away from countering al-Shabaab. They will also further delay holding the promised elections awaited by the Somali people.

Implementation of this bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia. It will compel the United States to reevaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability.

We call on Somalia’s Federal Government and Federal Member State leaders to return to talks urgently and agree to a way forward to resolve the electoral crisis. We urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint, continue dialogue, and avoid further unilateral actions that will inflame tensions and undermine Somalia’s democratic processes and institutions.

Congratulations to Ecuador’s President-Elect Guillermo Lasso

13 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate Guillermo Lasso on his election as the next President of Ecuador. We also extend our congratulations to the Ecuadorian people for exercising their right to select their leadership, especially during these uniquely challenging times. Our partnership with Ecuador is based on our fundamental values, including our mutual respect for our democratic institutions, the ability to openly express differing viewpoints, the fundamental role of civil society, and the value of a free and unfettered press. Many societies, including our own, have experienced polarization in recent years, but only by working together can we achieve our full potential and overcome our greatest obstacles, such as the public health and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We commend candidate Andrés Arauz for upholding Ecuador’s democratic principles. The United States looks forward to working with President-elect Guillermo Lasso and Vice President-elect Alfredo Borrero following their May 24 inauguration. The people of the United States and Ecuador witness daily the benefits of our close ties and we look forward to broadening and further strengthening that already vibrant relationship.

 

Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Before Their Meeting

13 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Brussels, Belgium

U.S. Chief of Mission Residence

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  I am very, very glad for this chance to meet with Foreign Minister Kuleba.  We’ve – this is our first opportunity to meet in person.  We’ve spoken on the phone on several occasions.  In fact, President Biden has spoken with President Zelenskyy as well.  And I just wanted to reiterate what I’ve said to the foreign minister, and even more importantly, President Biden said to President Zelenskyy, which is the United States stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  And I’m here to reaffirm that with the foreign minister today.

And that’s particularly important at a time when we’re seeing unfortunately Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine.  We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border since 2014, and that is of deep concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States, and indeed to many of our allies and partners.  The foreign minister just came from a session with NATO and I’ll be consulting with our close NATO allies and partners in the days ahead about the situation.

We’ll also have an opportunity to discuss Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, the very important work that Ukraine is doing to strengthen its democratic institutions, to advance the rule of law, to make key economic reforms, all of which are critical to NATO’s – to the Ukraine’s future, and to its integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

In short, we have a lot to talk about.  (Inaudible) I’m grateful to have you here today to see you, and look forward to our conversation.

FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA:  Yeah, thank you, sir.  It’s a big pleasure to have this opportunity to meet you in person after we have met on the phone twice.  We had two very fruitful conversations.  This meeting is extremely timely given what is happening along the Ukrainian border with Russia and the occupied territories of Crimea, of Ukraine.  And I would like to mention that Russian buildup is taking place not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of the democratic world.  For thousand of kilometers, to the north and to the east of our border with Russia, there is no democracy.  So this is the struggle that is taking place between democracies and authoritarianism.  And in this struggle, the support of the United States is absolutely crucial and deeply appreciated.

It is, I think, a good symbol that we are meeting here in Brussels on the margins of the NATO events and the meetings because it once again reinforces a very simple message that Euro-Atlantic countries, they stand by Ukraine in its difficult situation.  And Ukraine stands by the principles and values of the Euro-Atlantic community.  And I’m sure that what has been already said publicly and through diplomatic channels to Russia in response to its aggressive actions will be supported by actions that will make it very clear for Russia that the price of its (inaudible) aggression against Ukraine will be too heavy for it to bear.  And we will be discussing today how we can jointly ensure stability and prevent Russian and further aggression against Ukraine.  Thank you.

Thailand Songkran 2021

12 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I wish the people of the Kingdom of Thailand good health and happiness on the occasion of Songkran, the Thai New Year.

As we have faced unprecedented global challenges over the past year, both our friendship and our commitment to expanding trade and investment, countering transnational crime, and addressing regional challenges in the Indo-Pacific region has continued to grow.  Our increased cooperation on health, particularly in response to COVID-19, is a testament to our collaboration for the well-being of our nations.  For more than 60 years, U.S. agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, and the U.S. Agency for International Development have partnered with their Thai counterparts to safeguard the health of American, Thai, and international communities.  This collaboration has never been more important.

The United States of America is proud to recognize Thailand as one of our strongest and most enduring allies.  Building on our alliance, our nations have achieved notable progress on shared goals including the advancement of regional security, the expansion of trade and investment, and the maintenance of our robust people-to-people ties.  We look forward to deepening our friendship with the Kingdom of Thailand even further.

Please accept our best wishes for the people of the Kingdom of Thailand in the coming year.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio Before Their Meeting

12 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning.

FOREIGN MINISTER DI MAIO:  Good morning.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:   It is my pleasure to be able to welcome Foreign Minister Di Maio here to the State Department, to the United States.  Luigi, you are the first foreign minister that I have the honor and pleasure of receiving, the first foreign visitor that we’ve had in this administration, and I think that couldn’t be more fitting.

We are working in so many ways on so many different levels, the United States and Italy, to strengthen the prospects for our people across many, many different issues.  We have a lot to discuss today.  But it’s particularly fitting because this is the 160th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Italy.

We have a wonderful, powerful history between us already, but the foreign minister and I look very much forward to talking about the partnership we have going forward in ways that will advance the well-being of people in Italy and the United States and around the world.

We’ll be talking about a lot of things on our security agenda, including Ukraine, Afghanistan, Libya.  I know we’ll be talking about many of the common challenges that we face in terms of dealing with the pandemic, climate change, and other issues.  But mostly this is an opportunity to note this historic anniversary, but especially to reaffirm our commitment to working together going forward.  Democracy and human rights is something else that has kept us together for many years.  And going forward, Italy’s voice, Italy’s leadership is critical on these issues as well.  So Luigi, it’s wonderful to have you.  Welcome.

FOREIGN MINISTER DI MAIO:  Thank you, Tony.  Thank you for your presence and thank you for the invitation here.  It’s an honor for me to be here.  It’s an honor for me to be here as the first country after the new administration was born, new administration Biden.

And thank you very much for your fully commitment about our common challenges we have in view of the G20, of the G7, the COP26, common challenges we face together.  At the same time, we have on the bilateral side a lot of opportunities to strengthen our relations.

But first of all, thank you very much because I am here, and it’s an honor to celebrate our 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between us and of our friendship, often between our countries, but if I may, between us.

It’s another opportunity to strengthen our collaboration and to send clear messages to all the world about our common values, about the importance of democracy, and about common challenges as the climate change and environment in general that we have to create in our countries, in our economic alliance, and about the alliance between European Union and the United States.

So thank you very much to you, to your government, to your administration.  And thank you very much for your friendship, from all European Union and all Italian citizens.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:   Thank you, my friend.  Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER DI MAIO:  Thank you.

Passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

10 Apr

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the American people, I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the royal family and the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

His Royal Highness embodied an uncompromising sense of duty to country, from his time in service during World War II to his decades serving the British people alongside Queen Elizabeth II.  He was a true friend to the United States.  We honor his memory and will remember his dedication to duty and friendship for years to come.