Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Khadija Ihsane of Medi 1 TV
QUESTION: Ladies and gentlemen, we are taking advantage of his whirlwind tour of the Middle East and North Africa to receive him for an exclusive interview with Medi 1. We discussed various topics with the US Secretary of State, such as the objectives and challenges of his visit. in Morocco, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear deal and of course the war in Ukraine.
Hello Anthony Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Salvation.
QUESTION: Thank you for meeting us here in Rabat, six years after the interview you agreed to grant to Medi 1 TV in June 2016. You have just returned from an unprecedented summit held in the Negev desert in Israel , just over a year after the Abraham Accords. How have relations evolved after this summit, Mr. Blinken?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: First of all, it’s a pretty remarkable image. A photo that we would not have been able to see four, five years ago. Not even two years ago. We couldn’t have seen the leaders of Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the United States and Israel together in one photo. And I think that reflects the desire to find the possibility of creating opportunities together for people in each country, because by creating commercial links, links between students, between citizens, we will be able to focus together on issues that have a impact on daily life, such as investment, infrastructure.
We work together on climate, global health and security issues as well. It’s very powerful. Of course, we don’t put aside the future of the Palestinian people and the need to also create a country for the Palestinians and try to invest in their future as well in the meantime. So I think that’s very powerful, but it also demonstrates, just as His Majesty the King said, a vision and the courage to no longer accept the barriers of the past, and in fact to overcome them and find a way to bring us together. It’s very powerful.
Finally, what we are going to do together. We talked about this yesterday in the Negev, we will focus on concrete projects and on how to act together to meet the needs and desires of the people in each of our countries.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, can we say that today and after this Negev summit, relations between the United States and the Gulf countries are at their highest?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have partnerships that have existed for many years, and these partnerships are essential and important to us, not only in terms of security issues, but also for the future of our countries. I think it was also an important time not only to strengthen those partnerships, but also to reinforce the idea that the United States is invested in those partnerships. This is the message I wanted to convey to my colleagues.
QUESTION: Very well. Morocco is the third and penultimate leg of your tour, Mr. Secretary of State. It is undeniable that Morocco today represents a strategic ally for the United States in the region, both on security issues, as you so rightly mentioned, and on issues relating to the preservation of peace as well. . In your opinion, what role is Morocco called upon to play in the future, both regionally and in Africa?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Morocco is above all an essential partnership for us, and it has existed for a long time. This is of the utmost importance to us because we obviously act on various issues bilaterally. We act together at the regional level where Morocco’s voice and diplomacy have a very significant impact, whether in challenges such as the Sahel, in Libya, but also in Africa, in West Africa for example, and what we can achieve together.
It also has an impact globally as we work through this partnership on issues such as the COVID pandemic. Morocco has had a lot of success in the vaccination campaign for example, and we are looking at what we can learn, what we can achieve together around the world and in Africa. Same thing for the climate, where Morocco has very advanced projects to manage what is really an existential file for everyone. So what I see is a partnership that operates not just in the region, but increasingly globally.
QUESTION: You mentioned the Sahel. Stability in the Saharan sub-region depends on the question of the Moroccan Sahara. I would like to quote a brief excerpt from the State Department statement on the purpose of your visit to Morocco. I quote: “We reaffirm the importance of respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and national unity of all Member States of the United Nations. Knowing that Morocco’s sovereignty has been recognized by the United States, what are the potential future states in this area today or rather tomorrow?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We discussed this issue today, as we discuss it every time we meet. We consider Morocco’s autonomy plan to be a credible, serious and realistic plan, and I believe that it can meet the needs and aspirations of the people of Western Sahara. The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Staffan de Mistura, is carrying out very important work and we support him. We discussed this issue today with my colleague and friend Nasser Bourita. This is something that we will follow in the weeks to come.
QUESTION: So in the near future.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We are working on it.
QUESTION: Very well. A new ambassador has just been appointed.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: His Excellency Puneet Talwar. What would be the roadmap in his new assignments in Morocco, Mr. Blinken?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Puneet Talwar is the newly appointed ambassador and he needs to be approved by the Senate, but hopefully that will happen soon. He’s a friend, a longtime friend, and we’ve worked together for 20 years. He is very close to President Biden and worked on his team when they were in the Senate. So they worked together, and I know that he will be an exceptional ambassador for the United States and that he will be exceptional for the ties between our two countries. I trust him completely and President Biden trusts him completely.
QUESTION: And based on your experience with Morocco, is there any advice you can give him?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What luck. How fortunate to come here to this remarkable country. How fortunate to be here at a time when our work together is so important. How fortunate to be here at a time when I see all kinds of possibilities to strengthen what we do together and even to broaden our horizons, in the Negev yesterday and across the world tomorrow.
QUESTION: The next and final stop on your tour is our eastern neighbour, Algeria. Given the current situation in Europe and the resulting energy issues, will Algerian gas, and in particular the gas pipeline, be part of the negotiations and discussions you will have with the Algerian authorities?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Two things. First, you mention the current situation in Europe, and this is very important because, first of all, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is creating enormous suffering in Ukraine. Half of the children in Ukraine are now displaced and have had to flee their homes. So what happens is important at this level, but it’s also important for two other reasons.
First, there are very important principles at stake, principles that support security and peace in the world, not only in Europe, but here as well. When these principles are attacked as they are by Russia, it is a problem for everyone. The principle that a country cannot change the borders of another country by violence, that a country cannot decide for another its policy and its future, it is a problem. But thirdly, we are seeing an impact around the world. We now have food flow problems because of this Russian aggression in Ukraine, because exports of agricultural products are now at stake.
QUESTION: Especially the wheat on which many African countries depend, including Morocco.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Exactly, especially wheat. Ukrainian farmers are forced to fight for their country or flee. The harvest is not over and exports are blocked in the ports of southern Ukraine. This creates a problem all over the world. Energy prices are another issue.
QUESTION: They explode.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: They explode.
QUESTION: Do you think it might be time to look for other alternatives to Russian gas for example, and perhaps through the reopening of this Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Europe is very focused on the idea that we now really need to diversify away from Russian gas and oil, because Russia is unfortunately now using them as a political tool. This is above all the problem, and it is obviously to act in a way that is totally unacceptable to everyone. So I think when you talk to European countries, you know they’re very focused on the need to diversify.
QUESTION: And the Americans would perhaps plead for this diversification, which would perhaps come from these countries.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: A diversification that comes from everywhere in a way, including us. But not just diversification. The shift must also be made in the perspective of this fight for the climate. This is also very important. We have to make sure that as part of this diversification, we try to move the climate issue forward in order to prevent the world from getting warmer.