Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Remarks to the Press Before Their Meeting

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Stockholm, Sweden

Scandinavian XPO

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV:  (Via interpreter) So Mr. Secretary of State, (inaudible).  I believe that (inaudible) this meeting is held on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council.  The OSCE, the organization, is designed to strengthen security cooperation on the basis of consensus of all participating states.  And today, we all – both Tony and me – have confirmed our commitment to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, and are the fundamental documents of our organization.

But it’s evident that we interpret these principles differently.  I have no doubts that the only way out of today’s crisis, which is indeed quite tense, is actually to seek the balance of interests, and I hope this is what we are going to do today.  Our meeting is quite short, but still our delegation wants to make a step on a way to implement the principled agreements reached by President Biden and President Putin in Geneva this year in June, which are – which imply that despite all the differences, which are quite deep and the leaders recognize that, both Russia and the United States should stick to a responsible approach, bearing in mind how important our two states are for the global stability and security, including in the Euro-Atlantic region.

We have a number of processes that have been launched after the Geneva summit.  I’m referring to the Strategic Stability Dialogue which meets quite regularly, and a third round is slated for the – early 2022.  We have maintained consultations and communication channels on cyber security is open.  There are internal problems.  I’m referring to the problems that both Russian and American diplomats have been facing.  So we had to create the commensurate conditions for American diplomats in Russia.  But I believe this is one of the problems that can be solved very quickly, thus sending a message that we are ready to cooperate, agree upon something, as our presidents have agreed upon.

And I would like to highlight that we are interested in making steps to regulate, to settle the Ukrainian crisis, and American colleagues have said on numerous occasions that they are ready to help by establishing a dialogue channel that existed before.  And we are ready for that and I would be interested in Tony’s explanations about the remarks he has delivered by stating what provisions of the Minsk agreement Russia has to fulfill.  I’m looking forward to hear the explanations so that I would understand what approaches the United States will stick to while considering the Ukrainian issue.

The fact that everyone is talking about the escalation of tensions in Europe on the border between Russia and Ukraine – well, you know very well how we treat this.  We, as President Putin stated, do not want any conflicts, but if our NATO partners have stated that no one has a right to dictate to a country that would like to join NATO whether it can do or not, we can say that every country is able to define its own interests to guarantee their security.  And we can refer to the principle of indivisible security envisaged in the EU and NATO documents, which is that no one can guarantee its own security at the expense of the security of others.  And NATO’s extension to (inaudible) will infringe upon our security, obviously.  This is what we are going to do, but I will stay here.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Sergey, thank you.  It’s always good to see you, and I think it’s also very important that we have opportunities to speak very directly and frankly, especially at this critical moment.  President Biden shared with President Putin when they met in Geneva some months ago the strong preference of the United States for a stable, predictable relationship between our countries.  It’s in the best interests of both of us – of our people, and actually, the entire world.

But, as we’ve made very clear in recent weeks, we have deep concerns about Russia’s plans for renewed aggression against Ukraine.  That would move us in exactly the opposite direction, and it’s simply not in anyone’s interest.  That’s not just our concern.  It’s a concern that is shared by many in Europe, and I think Sergey has heard that expressed over the last 24 hours here in Stockholm.  We have a strong, ironclad commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The best way to avert a crisis is through diplomacy, and that’s what I look forward to discussing with Sergey, including, by both parties, full implementation of the Minsk agreements, with Russia pulling back its forces.  The United States is willing to facilitate that, but – and again, in the spirit of being clear and candid, which is the best thing to do – if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences.

At the same time as we’re discussing this, we have shared interests that we are working on together, including a shared interest in Iran not acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Our colleagues are working together in Vienna as the talks proceed.  We’ll have an opportunity to talk about that too.  And as well, in the Caucasus, we welcome the resumption of a direct dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  There is a lot of work to do to try to build a lasting and just end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  I hope that we can work on that together as well.

And let me just say finally, in conclusion, before we get down to work, as we always do, as I always do, I will raise the cases of Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, two Americans who have been unjustly detained for far too long in Russia.  Their release is an absolute priority for the United States, one that President Biden raises on every occasion.

Having said all that, Sergey, thank you.  It’s good to be with you and let’s get down to work.  Thank you.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at OSCE Session 1

2 Dec

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Stockholm, Sweden

Scandinavian XPO

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Ann, thank you so very much.  Thank you for today.  Thank you for the last year for your leadership as the OSCE chairperson.  And thank you as well to the OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid, wonderful to be with you again.  The United States deeply appreciates the work that you’ve done and we also fully support the incoming chair – Zbigniew, congratulations, I think – (laughter) – as Poland takes the helm in 2022.

The OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security and the fundamental wisdom and integrity of the Helsinki Principles are as relevant now as they were when enshrined more than 40 years ago.  Lasting peace and prosperity require respect for both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries and the human rights of all people.  This flows directly from the UN charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which are the foundational documents of the rules-based order, which is not a Western construct but the best guarantor of peace, security, and progress for all of us.

Just as there is a connection between freedom and stability, so is there a connection between domestic repression and cross-border aggression.  We’ve seen how countries that systematically violate human rights at home sow instability in other countries, and how rulers who abuse their power and ignore the rights of their people give license to leaders in other places to do the same.

Right now, despite the steadfast efforts of the OSCE, democratic values, human rights, civil society, independent media, the rule of law are all facing a significant challenge across many of our countries.  Belarus continues to break international law and OSCE commitments.  We again call on Belarusian authorities to cease their violent crackdown, release all political prisoners, heed the demands of the people for free and fair elections under independent observation, and cease the outrageous weaponization of migration.

Russia unfortunately continues to violate the Helsinki Principles and repeatedly obstructs the work of this organization.  It’s responsible for the perils confronted every day by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.  The seizure by force of Crimea has brought relentless abuses against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and others who peacefully oppose this occupation.  And as I said yesterday at the NATO foreign ministers meeting, we are deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for further significant aggression against Ukraine, and so we call on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to de-escalate, reverse the recent troop buildup, return forces to normal peaceful positions, and to implement the Minsk commitments, especially the ceasefire provisions and those allowing OSCE monitors unfettered access.

Diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this crisis, and we stand fully ready to support it.  Sergey was talking about implementing Minsk.  We fully agree.  But let’s also base that on the facts.  There are a series of commitments that both parties made under Minsk with the OSCE involved as well: ceasefire unimplemented by Russia, withdrawal of all heavy weapons unimplemented by Russia, allowing OSCE monitoring unimplemented by Russia, pass special status law implemented by Ukraine, pass amnesty law in progress, all-for-all political prisoner exchange unimplemented by Russia, ensure delivery of humanitarian assistance based on an international mechanism unimplemented by Russia, restoration of socioeconomic ties unimplemented by Russia.  I could go on.  I think you get the point.  It takes two to tango, and if – if our Russian friends are prepared to implement their commitments under Minsk and our Ukrainian friends are as well, we will fully support that, and that is the best way to avert a renewed crisis in Ukraine.

Additionally, we’ve seen a flouting of conventional arms control commitments in Europe.  Russia maintains forces in Georgia and de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Russian troops remain entrenched in Moldova without Moldova’s consent.  And at home, Russia has cracked down on civil society organizations, the latest being key branches of a very respected human rights group, Memorial, as well as independent media.

In the Caucasus, we do welcome the resumption of direct dialogue between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we urge them to make progress on humanitarian issues including detainees, demining, missing persons, with investigations of alleged human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law with the perpetrators held accountable.  And I hope there, we can all work together including with Russia to continue to make progress.

We urge all parties to resolve other outstanding issues like border delimitation and demarcation, the restoration of economic and transport links, and to continue to engage with the Minsk Group co-chairs for a lasting peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

We all share an interest in ensuring Afghanistan is never again used as a base to plan terrorist attacks against our countries and our people.  Enhanced border security cooperation with our Central Asian partners will be vital.  We’ll continue to support the OSCE’s engagement through its field presence in Central Asia and its programs on counterterrorism, democratization and human rights, border control, and management.

And in the coming year, we must work together – we must work together to strengthen the OSCE because its work is vital and has to be advanced.  That means, among other things, modernizing the Vienna Document to help deepen trust, de-escalate tension, and rebuild military transparency among our countries.  And we have to ensure that the OSCE’s premier human rights review, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, is held in 2022 with robust civil society participation.

Next week – and I’ll conclude with this – President Biden will host a Summit for Democracy to bring governments and civil society from around the world together to respond to democratic backsliding and to build a stronger foundation for renewal and reform.  We believe in the power of democracies to make each other stronger and in the potential for countries that are not yet democracies to grow in that direction for the good of their people.

The OSCE with its many programs, its experts, its field missions, a long history of defending human rights as a core element of security, is a key forum for advancing that vision.  And I’m grateful for this opportunity to represent the United States today and to stand with this institution to strengthen peace, prosperity, and democracy across our region and around the world.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State Chief Information Officer Keith Jones to Deliver Keynote Address at FedScoop’s “Security Transition Summit”

2 Dec

Office of the Spokesperson

On Thursday, December 2, 2021, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. Department of State, Keith Jones, will deliver a keynote address at FedScoop’s “Security Transition Summit .”  The summit brings speakers and panelists from the public and private sectors together to focus on the latest, cross-cutting cybersecurity issues.  CIO Jones’ keynote remarks will outline the Department of State’s strategy on cybersecurity, in support of President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity  (EO 14028) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s agenda on Modernization of American Diplomacy.

For further information, please contact Steve Aguzin, Public Affairs Officer for the Bureau of Information Resource Management, at AguzinSM@state.gov.

United States Hosts December 2-8 Lead-Up Events in Advance of Summit for Democracy

2 Dec

Office of the Spokesperson

President Biden pledged to host a Summit for Democracy to reinforce our commitment to placing democracy and human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy.  It reflects President Biden’s deeply held belief that to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, democracies must come together, learn together, stand together, and act together.  The December 9-10 virtual Summit will bring together 110 participants, representing diverse democratic governing experiences around the world, as well as civil society and private sector leaders.

In advance of the virtual Summit, the United States — represented by Departments and agencies across the U.S. Government — will join a wide spectrum of advocates, journalists, private sector, and members of civil society from around the world, as well as lawmakers and local government officials, in hosting official side events about democratic renewal.  The United States is pleased to highlight 19 events that will catalyze action across the Summit pillars: strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.

Unless otherwise indicated, events are open to the public, and access details can be found on the Summit’s website at https://www.state.gov/summit-for-democracy/.

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

2 Dec

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that food commodity prices in the international market rose for the fourth consecutive month in November.  The FAO Food Price Index averaged 134.4 points in the month, the highest level since June 2011 and 1.2 per cent higher than during October.

‘We Now Stand at a Turning Point’ with Unexpected Hope, Head of United Nations Team Investigating ISIL/Da’esh Atrocity Crimes in Iraq Tells Security Council

2 Dec

Significant steps have been taken in the pursuit of justice and securing accountability for victims, including by gathering and analysing evidence of crimes perpetrated by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), and tying those crimes to specific members, the head of the United Nations team tasked with investigating atrocity crimes by that group told the Security Council today.

Deputy Secretary McKeon to Highlight Importance of International Education, Foreign Affairs Careers at Indiana University

2 Dec

Office of the Spokesperson

Following his visit to Camp Atterbury in Indiana on December 1, 2021, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian P. McKeon will meet with students at Indiana University in Bloomington on December 1 and 2 to underscore the U.S. government’s commitment to international education as a foreign policy priority, as recently reiterated by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona in a Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education, and how international education can prepare students for careers in foreign affairs, particularly with the U.S. Department of State.

Deputy Secretary McKeon hosted a careers roundtable with Indiana University students on December 1, highlighting the State Department’s commitment to recruiting diverse and talented candidates for a variety of career tracks in the foreign and civil service.

On December 2, Deputy Secretary McKeon will meet with a small group of local students who are fellows or alumni of State Department exchange programs through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, including the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Critical Language Scholarship Program, and Fulbright Program. This discussion will focus on how international education furthers U.S. foreign policy goals and how State Department exchange alumni can use the international skills and perspectives they gain abroad to pursue careers in foreign affairs, in particular with the U.S. Department of State. Deputy Secretary McKeon’s participation in these events at Indiana University will further the Department’s continued efforts to engage with diverse students on U.S foreign policy priorities and careers with the State Department.

For more information, contact PAPressDuty@state.gov.