U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in Saudi Arabia today, where he will meet with senior officials from the Saudi and Republic of Yemen Governments. Special Envoy Lenderking will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib, which is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and triggering instability elsewhere in the country. The Special Envoy will address the urgent need for efforts by the Republic of Yemen Government and Saudi Arabia to stabilize Yemen’s economy and to facilitate the timely import of fuel to northern Yemen, and the need for the Houthis to end their manipulation of fuel imports and prices inside of Yemen. Finally, Special Envoy Lenderking will meet with representatives from the international community and the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen to discuss the importance of an inclusive peace process and a rapid appointment of a new UN Envoy. Now is the time to stop the fighting and enable Yemenis to shape a more peaceful, prosperous future for their country.
“The United States and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are having a profound impact on the lives of our citizens. The partnership between the United States and India is vital, it’s strong, and it’s increasingly productive.”
– Secretary Antony J. Blinken, May 28, 2021
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to New Delhi, India, July 27-28 to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening our partnership and underscore cooperation on our shared priorities. Secretary Blinken
Deepening the U.S.-India Partnership
- The United States and India have a strong strategic partnership founded on shared values and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading global power and vital partner in efforts to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity and economic inclusion.
- The United States and India cooperate on a wide range of diplomatic, economic and security issues, including defense, non-proliferation, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, shared democratic values, counterterrorism, climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, peacekeeping, the environment, education, science and technology, agriculture, space, and oceans.
- In 2008, the United States and India signed an agreement, making India a full partner in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Program. An increase in exchanges under the agreement has allowed for the development of new and innovative programs, and India now has the largest Fulbright Scholar (faculty) program in the world. In FY 2019, this funding provided opportunities for 61 U.S. Scholars, 66 Indian Scholars, 80 U.S. students, including 29 English Teaching Assistants, and 55 Indian students, including 13 Foreign Language Teaching Assistants.
- The United States and India are working to expand cooperation in international organizations. The United States welcomed India joining the UN Security Council in January 2021 for a two-year term.
- In October 2020, India hosted the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and the United States looks forward to the next 2+2 later this year.
The Indo-Pacific Front and Center
- India is a leading global power and a key U.S. partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. At the inaugural Quad Leaders’ Summit in March, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi joined their Japanese and Australian counterparts in pledging to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, combat the climate crisis, and address shared challenges, including in cyber-space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security.
Deterring Our Adversaries and Defending Our Interests
- U.S.-India defense cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defense enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA. As of 2020, the United States has authorized over $20 billion in defense sales to India.
- Through the U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the United States and India work together on co-production and co-development of defense equipment.
- The United States and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan.
Combating the Covid-19 Pandemic
- The United States stands with the people of India as they continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States has contributed more than $200 million for India’s COVID-19 relief and response efforts since the pandemic began, including more than $50 million in and training for more than 218,000 frontline health workers on infection prevention and control, benefitting more than 43 million Indians.
- Earlier this year, the United States and India initiated renewal of a memorandum of understanding to collaborate through an International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and other emerging threats.
- The United States and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to COVID-19, on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains.
- U.S. pharmaceutical companies have coordinated with Indian companies since the beginning of the pandemic. This cooperation includes voluntary licensing and technology transfer agreements to increase global manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, therapies, and conducting clinical trials.
Tackling the Climate Crisis
- U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry traveled to India in April of this year and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They discussed the importance of two of the world’s largest economies leading together to address the climate crisis.
- At the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched the U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership to strengthen cooperation on strong actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to help each country achieve its respective climate and clean energy goals.
- Under the new Agenda 2030 Partnership, the United States and India look forward to launching the new Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue, led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and relaunching the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership, led by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, later this year.
- The United States looks forward to further cooperation with India on tackling the climate crisis and raising global ambition ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, in November.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met today in Muscat with Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalifa Al Harthy to discuss advancing peace and security in the region and our shared commitment to bolstering the U.S.- Oman bilateral relationship, including advancing new opportunities for trade and investment. The Deputy Secretary also thanked the Deputy Foreign Minister for Oman’s role in mediating peace in the region and underscored the importance of an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire to help bring the war in Yemen to an end.
U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland visited Tripoli, Libya July 26 where he met with interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba, attended a signing ceremony for a new 5G telecommunications contract between Libyan company Hatif and U.S. company Infinera, and held other meetings with Libyan and international representatives. Ambassador Norland underscored the need for Libya’s leaders to make key preparations to ensure successful nationwide elections in December, including determining a constitutional basis and the election law that will govern them. He emphasized that Libya’s leaders must make the necessary compromises to meet the Libyan peoples’ expectation of free and fair elections, an essential step towards a stable, unified, and democratic Libya. Ambassador Norland also reaffirmed that stability and continued progress on the political and security track will lead to greater economic opportunities, foreign investments, and prosperity for Libyans. Ambassador Norland was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury Eric Meyer.
The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq.
The delegations of the Republic of Iraq, led by Dr. Fuad Hussein, Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the United States of America, led by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, co-chaired the final session of the Strategic Dialogue, initiated on June 11, 2020, in accordance with the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq (SFA). The Iraqi delegation also included representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The two sides reaffirmed the importance of these discussions, which focused on strengthening the long-term strategic partnership defined by the SFA and on key issues of mutual concern: regional stability, public health, climate change, energy efficiency, energy independence, humanitarian aid, human rights, economic cooperation, and cultural and educational exchanges, among other issues. Iraq provided a detailed accounting of its efforts to promote the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons to their home regions, and the United States pledged its continued support in this regard.
The two delegations reaffirmed the principles agreed upon in the SFA. The United States reaffirmed its respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and laws and pledged to continue providing the resources Iraq needs to preserve its territorial integrity. The Government of Iraq reaffirmed its commitment to protect Coalition personnel advising and enabling the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and reasserted its position that all Coalition Forces are in Iraq at its invitation. The two delegations also emphasized that the bases hosting U.S. and other Coalition personnel are Iraqi bases and are operating per existing Iraqi laws; they are not U.S. or Coalition bases, and the presence of international personnel in Iraq is solely in support of the Government of Iraq’s fight against ISIS. The delegations decided, following recent technical talks, that the security relationship will fully transition to a training, advising, assisting, and intelligence-sharing role, and that there will be no U.S. forces with a combat role in Iraq by December 31, 2021. The United States intends to continue its support for the ISF, including the Peshmerga, to build their capacity to deal with future threats.
The two delegations confirmed their commitment to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, through strict adherence to due process of law, national constitutions, and their respective international human rights obligations and commitments. Both sides confirmed that free and fair elections will strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty, democracy, and development. The Iraqi side provided a detailed account of its plans to promote voter participation and ensure the safety of voters, candidates, poll workers, local monitors, civil society groups, and international observers. Both delegations stated their appreciation for the international community’s support, expressed through UN Security Council Resolution 2576 (2021) and concurred that the presence of both a UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) monitoring team and EU observation mission represents a good-faith effort by the international community to support the call of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government for free and fair elections in October. Iraq welcomed long-running U.S. support for UNAMI, and recent U.S. financial contributions to UNAMI’s electoral-assistance, including for its election monitoring team.
Both sides intend to pursue cooperation in working with international organizations and through intergovernmental processes, including the 26th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Glasgow this fall. The United States expressed its support for Iraq’s effort to promote economic reform and enhance regional integration, in particular through energy projects with Jordan and the GCC Interconnection Authority.
The two delegations reaffirmed their determination to preserve and strengthen the strategic relationship, across the full spectrum of bilateral issues, for the sake of their respective national interests and their shared interest in regional stability. The United States and Iraq confirmed that they would resume their discussions through the various coordinating committees enumerated in the SFA.
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Colombian Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez. The Secretary reaffirmed the enduring partnership between our two countries. He emphasized the importance of defending and advancing democracy in the region, particularly in Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba. He reiterated our gratitude to the Government of Colombia for its model outreach to the Venezuelan migrant population. He expressed U.S. support for Colombia’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery, as underscored by our recent donation of 2.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 3.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Colombia. He emphasized our shared commitment to expanding citizen security in the region, meeting our joint counter-narcotics goals, and listening to citizens’ concerns and addressing the root causes of recent protests. He affirmed our support for lasting peace in Colombia and inclusive economic growth as our hemisphere recovers.
The following statement was released by the Governments of Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Guatemala, Greece, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, and the United States of America.
We, the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Guatemala, Greece, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Republic of Korea, and Ukraine, and the United States Secretary of State, condemn the mass arrests and detentions of protestors in Cuba and call on the government to respect the universal rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, including the free flow of information to all Cubans.
On July 11, tens of thousands of Cuban citizens participated in peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest deteriorating living conditions and to demand change. They exercised universal freedoms of expression and assembly, rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
We call on the Cuban government to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the Cuban people without fear of arrest and detention. We urge the Cuban government to release those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful protest. We call for press freedom and for the full restoration of Internet access, which allows economies and societies to thrive. We urge the Cuban government to heed the voices and demands of the Cuban people.
The international community will not waver in its support of the Cuban people and all those who stand up for the basic freedoms all people deserve.
MR PRICE: Thank you, and thanks, everyone, for joining this afternoon as we offer this on-the-record preview of the Secretary’s upcoming travel to New Delhi, India and Kuwait City, Kuwait. The trip will take place from July 26th to the 29th, so next week. Our briefers this afternoon are Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Peninsula Affairs Daniel Benaim. This briefing, as I mentioned, is on the Secretary’s travel, so we’d ask that you please limit your questions to that topic.
As a reminder, the call is on the record, but the contents are embargoed until the conclusion of the call. And with that, I will hand it over to Acting Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson. Please, go ahead.
MR THOMPSON: Thanks, Ned, and thanks to everyone who’s joining us today. It’s a real pleasure to be here to discuss the Secretary’s upcoming trip to New Delhi, and, of course, with Dan talking then about Kuwait. We are planning to depart Monday evening. We will arrive in New Delhi late on Tuesday, followed by a full slate of engagements on Wednesday. In the Secretary’s meetings with Prime Minister Modhi and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, we expect the discussions to focus on ways to further deepen our bilateral partnership, which is very broad in scope, as well as increased convergence on regional and global issues.
Our bilateral discussions with our Indian partners will focus on expanding our security, defense, cyber, and counterterrorism cooperation. We collaborate across the government on these issues, including through regular U.S.-India working group meetings, and we look forward to further strengthening our ties with India to ensure a safer and more secure world. To that end, the Secretary and Defense Secretary Austin look forward to hosting their Indian counterparts for the annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year.
On regional issues, we intend to discuss our efforts to support a just and durable peace in Afghanistan. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors and countries in the region have an interest in a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan, which can only be accomplished through a negotiated political settlement that brings an end to 40 years of conflict. India, of course, is a critical partner in the region, and we welcome India’s shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan.
We also expect to discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific region with our Indian partners. One of the first multilateral events that President Biden hosted this year was a Quad summit with his counterparts from India, Japan, and Australia. The Quad leaders agreed on a shared vision for the region, one that’s free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values and respect for human rights, and where sovereignty is safeguarded. We’re working with India and other friends and partners in the region to advance this shared vision of the Indo-Pacific. Importantly, we’ll also discuss our health collaboration to combat COVID-19, including the Quad vaccine partnership that was first announced during President Biden’s Quad summit.
That brings me to the global issues that we anticipate raising with our Indian partners during this trip. The pandemic is still with us and very much on our minds. India and the United States have both suffered tremendously during this pandemic, and we’re fortunate that the U.S.-India partnership has carried us through some of the most difficult days. We have provided COVID-19 assistance to each other, including a whole-of-government effort from the United States. Since March 2020, the U.S. has allocated more than $226 million in COVID-19 relief to India, including more than $100 million to support India’s response to the recent surge. In addition, more than $400 million has been contributed by American citizens and U.S. companies to assist the people of India in their time of need.
The United States and India are also working urgently toward our shared goal of overcoming the pandemic. We’re confident that through our combined efforts, including through the Quad vaccine partnership and the G7-plus vaccine commitment, we will be able to share vaccines – safe and effective vaccines – to the Indo-Pacific region and the world. We will continue to seek ways in which we can work together to save lives around the world, and bring an end to the global pandemic.
I also want to highlight one more pressing global challenge which we’re working to address with our Indian partners, and that is climate change. The United States and India both recognize the unique role we have to play in reducing the world’s emissions, as well as our complementary strengths when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. We’re pleased to have launched the U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership in April this year. The partnership will reinforce our collective efforts to achieve both the goals of the Paris Agreement and our own ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy, as an excellent example of how the United States and India can bring our strengths to bear on some of the world’s most challenging issues.
We hope to continue those conversations in New Delhi, and look forward to a productive visit that advances U.S.-India collaboration on the full range of regional and global issues. And with that, I’ll stop and turn it over to Dan.
MR BENAIM: Thanks, Dean. The Kuwait leg of this trip really is an affirmation of the enduring ties between the United States and long-standing partner Kuwait. We expect Secretary Blinken to meet with senior Kuwaiti leadership and consult on a wide range of issues befitting two close partners. This visit comes as we mark – in a year where we mark two important milestones in the bilateral relationship: the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Steel – Desert Shield and the liberation of Kuwait from the occupation of Saddam Hussein, as well as the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic ties, ties that we hope to build on with this trip. As the Secretary has noted before, earlier this year commemorating the anniversary, we think our partnership has only grown stronger and deeper over the last 30 years.
Kuwaiti mediation and statesmanship were vital to the healing the Gulf rift that helped pull U.S. partners in this region back together, so we’re grateful for that and look forward to discussing a variety of different regional issues. On a variety of different issues, we’ve seen that Kuwait works to end conflicts, bridge gaps, de-escalate tensions, and provide humanitarian aid, and we welcome the chance to talk – consult closely on Iran, on Yemen, and on other regional issues of concern.
We’re also close military partners. Kuwait hosts U.S. forces, who are committed to help Kuwait and the other countries of this region defend their territory.
We have strong people-to-people ties, an advantage that we want to sustain and build on, including more than 9,000 Kuwaitis who studied at U.S. universities and English language institutes in 2019 – the third-largest number of students from the Middle East/North Africa.
We admire Kuwait’s democratic institutions and continue to work bilaterally and multilaterally to advance respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights globally.
Today, we are finding new and important areas to cooperate, particularly when cooperation is needed on the world stage. Our partnership on COVAX and work to increase COVID-19 vaccine distribution worldwide is adding to the response to stem the growth of this international health crisis.
So we’re looking forward to this visit, building on our partnership. and looking for ways to advance our work together.
MR PRICE: Great. Thank you both. Operator, if you want to remind callers how to indicate they have a question, we’ll then turn to questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. To join the question queue, please press 1 followed by 0 on your telephone keypad. And as a reminder, please wait to begin your question until you are announced.
MR PRICE: We will first go to the line of Shaun Tandon.
OPERATOR: Thank you. That line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, there. Thanks for doing the call. Dean, can I follow up with you on your comments on Afghanistan? What, if anything, are you looking for from India post withdrawal from Afghanistan? India has withdrawn personnel recently from Kandahar, at least temporarily. Do you think the security situation allows for that continued economic presence? And, also, to what extent is the current relationship between India and Pakistan going to figure in his talks there, the Secretary’s talks? Thanks.
MR THOMPSON: Thanks, Shaun. Great questions. Let me start with the Afghanistan piece and then move over kind of in the order you presented them, I think. Without getting into too much in terms of specifics that we might ask for or talk about, we expect that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward. And so, we will certainly be looking at talking with our Indian partners about how we can work together to realize that goal, to find ways to bring the parties together, and continue to pursue a negotiated settlement to end the longstanding war.
With regard to India’s position in the country, I would have to refer you back to them. But I would say that we definitely – we certainly intend to continue our relationship with the Afghan Government, to look for ways to reinforce the long-term goals we have, which includes Afghanistan’s economic development and long-term prosperity, of course. But of course, all of that is dependent on getting to a political settlement.
With regard to India-Pakistan, I would just note that we strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are ones for them to work out between themselves. We are pleased to see that the ceasefire that went into place earlier this year is – has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward. Thanks.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to the line of Tracy Wilkinson.
OPERATOR: Thank you. That line is open.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) travels to – oh, sorry, I didn’t wait. I’m sorry. Can I go?
MR PRICE: Go ahead, Tracy.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) I apologize. Okay. As the Secretary travels to India, he’ll be meeting with a government that had an especially cozy relationship with the previous administration. So, I’m wondering how he can quell any jitters that the State Department might have about the changing nature of the U.S.-India relationship, and whether India will remain a top priority. And related to that, the Modi government sort of got a free pass on a lot of the anti-Muslim legislation and actions that they took. I’m wondering how important human rights – you didn’t mention human rights in your rundown – how important human rights will figure in the agenda. I know you’ll say it’s always part of the agenda, but I’m interested in sort of more concretely and specifically what the conversations on that might be, on human rights. Thanks.
MR THOMPSON: Thanks, Tracey. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that we see the relationship continuing at a very high level, and India will of course remain an incredibly important partner. We’re going to continue pursuing our global comprehensive strategic partnership, and I think by virtue of the President making the Quad and our partnership with India very high priorities right at the outset of this administration, it sets the tone for what we think we can achieve and accomplish with them, and with our other partners as well. So. I would expect to continue the dialogues that we’ve had on all those fronts.
And with respect to the human rights and democracy question, yes, you’re right; I will tell you that we will raise it, and we will continue that conversation, because we firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts than we don’t. And we believe India is going to be a really important part of continuing those conversations and building strong efforts on those fronts in partnership as we go forward.
The relationship with India is a strong one that has endured through administrations of all colors and stripes in the United States, and will continue to do so. So, we’re looking forward to this opportunity for the Secretary to talk with Prime Minister Modi, with EAM Jaishankar, and continue to pursue the myriad areas of common interest that we have. Thanks.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to Simon Lewis.
OPERATOR: Thank you. That line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Just to follow up on – you mentioned the virtual Quad meeting. I wondered, this sort of part of the meetings this week – next week going to be setting up for the first in-person Quad summit? And do you have any sense of timing on that that you could give us? And one of the things that came out of the initial Quad meetings was this idea to create – to produce a billion vaccines. To what extent has India’s problems with COVID and the resulting ban on exporting vaccines set back the schedule for the Quad providing doses, particularly to Southeast Asia where COVID is a huge problem, at the moment?
MR THOMPSON: Thanks, Simon. Great questions. I expect the Quad and ideas about our engagements with the Quad to definitely factor into our conversations next week. I don’t have anything specific to announce or share at this time about timing or format, maybe, of the next ministerial or summit. But we should have more information on those fronts coming out relatively shortly.
With regard to the question about the vaccine initiative, I think we’re extremely proud of that, that idea, and how the four countries have embraced it. Certainly, the recent challenges, in particular, that India faced created a bit of a delay in getting certain aspects of it started, but I would note that the working groups have been meeting. The plan had always been for that billion doses to roll out in 2022, and so we hope to continue to work towards that goal, as – again, as a Quad, as a group of four utilizing the strengths that each country brings.
So we’re still working toward that goal at that timeframe. Thanks.
MR PRICE: We’ll go to Nadia Bilbassy, please.
OPERATOR: Thank you. That line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. Can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Yes. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, great. On the Secretary’s visit to Kuwait, Kuwait is mentioned as one of the countries that will receive Afghani translators and those who cooperated – cooperated with U.S. forces. Can you just confirm – and this is one of the topics that the Secretary is going to discuss – and just give us some logistics about the people that’s going to be transferred there, and whether they’re going to stay in U.S. bases or Kuwait will host them? Thank you.
MR BENAIM: Nadia, thank you for your question. The department is actively engaged in relocation planning for these brave Afghans and their families. We’re engaged actively in a number of countries on these issues. That’s really all I have at this issue, at this time. I don’t have an update for you further. I know that Ned addressed this from the podium yesterday and others have addressed it as well. And we’ll address it in the days ahead since it’s a pressing issue, but that’s all I have on it at this point. Thanks.
MR PRICE: Well, thanks – let’s actually take one final question. Let’s get Seema Sirohi, please.
OPERATOR: That line is open.
QUESTION: Hello, thank you – thank you for taking my question. I was wondering if you could comment on the big story that has broken in India about the use of spyware on journalists and political leaders, et cetera. Would you comment on that? It seems that this spyware is only sold to governments. And so, the allegations are that the Government of India might be involved in this. Thank you.
MR THOMPSON: Yeah, thanks Seema. Obviously, we – the whole notion of using this type of technology against civil society, or regime critics, or journalists, or anybody like that through extrajudicial means is always concerning. We – I don’t have any particular special insights into the India case. I know this is a broader issue, but I will say that we’ve been, I think, quite vocal about trying to find ways for companies to be able to ensure that their technology is not used in these types of ways. And we will certainly continue to press – to press those issues. Thanks.
MR PRICE: We will take one final question from Sheruq Sadhui.
OPERATOR: Thank you. That line is open.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi, thank you for doing this. So, my question is about the Secretary’s visit to Kuwait. So, I was wondering if there’s going to be any discussion or talks about the – about hosting the next strategic dialogue. Hello?
MR BENAIM: Hi, yes, it’s a good question. I am sure that the topic will come up. Our governments are in constant cooperation and contact about the next dialogue, which we hope will be soon.
MR PRICE: Well, thank you very much everyone. Just a reminder, this call was on the record with Deputy Assistant Secretary Dan Benaim and Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson. And with that, the embargo is lifted, and we’ll talk to you soon. Have a good weekend.
The following is the text of a communiqué issued by the United States of America, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
The Special Representatives and Special Envoys of the United States of America, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, and the United Kingdom met in Rome on 22 July 2021 to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the developments in Afghanistan peace negotiations after the latest round of high-level talks in Doha on July 17-18, 2021.
We affirm that:
- Our countries and organizations are committed to a strong partnership with Afghanistan and will be closely monitoring ongoing developments in this new phase of transition with the withdrawal of international forces.
- The people of Afghanistan have suffered for too long from conflict. We are deeply concerned about the high levels of violence, the Taliban’s military offensive, and the number of reported serious human rights abuses and violations alleged in communities most affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country.
- We call on all parties to reduce violence and protect civilians, respecting their obligations under international humanitarian law. We call on the Taliban to end their military offensive, and on both the Islamic Republic and the Taliban to engage meaningfully in the peace process. We reiterate the urgency of reaching a ceasefire to ensure the success of negotiations, and we acknowledge the sacrifices of the Afghan security forces.
- We reaffirm that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, we stand by UNSC resolution 2513 (2020), and we do not support any government in Afghanistan imposed through military force.
- We express our full support to an inclusive Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process with full and meaningful participation of women that leads to a just and durable political settlement. We also highlight five elements of a final settlement that are most critical: (1) inclusive governance; (2) the right to elect political leaders; (3) protections for human rights, including rights of women, youth and minorities; (4) commitments on counter-terrorism, including to ensure that Afghanistan does not again serve as a safe haven for terrorists; and (5) adherence to international law, including international humanitarian law. We emphasize that international support to any future government will depend, at least in part, on adherence to these five elements.
- We intend to maintain our support for Afghan institutions, including defense and security forces, to address the country’s urgent needs. We also reiterate that future assistance to Afghanistan is dependent on good governance and a commitment to the rule of law and human rights, including preservation of the gains made by women and girls over the past two decades, as well as the government taking meaningful steps to tackle corruption and to meeting commitments made at the November 2020 Geneva Conference.
- We took due note of yesterday’s briefings by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban and welcome the talks held in Doha on July 17 and 18 between senior leaders of the two sides. We further welcome the declared commitment of the two sides to accelerate negotiations toward an inclusive political settlement and to meet again in the near future. We believe future meetings should focus on core issues that will be fundamental to reaching an inclusive political settlement.
- We acknowledge that reaching a final political settlement, including on the Constitution, will likely take time. We urge the two sides to agree on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and on foundational principles for the future Afghan State and details of transitional governing arrangements until a final political settlement is reached. We emphasize that any transitional governing arrangements must be inclusive, respect the rights of all Afghans in line with Afghanistan’s international commitments and also uphold counter-terrorism commitments.
- We welcome in particular the commitments made by the Taliban yesterday to inclusive governance, respecting human rights including the rights of women and minorities, to abide by international law, including international humanitarian law, and to upholding counter terrorism commitments. We also welcome their openness to negotiate a mechanism for representative government with the Islamic Republic negotiation team.
- We call on the two parties to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a just and durable political settlement. To promote progress in the negotiations, we support any third-party facilitation or mediation welcomed by the two sides.
- We seize this opportunity to reiterate appreciation to Qatar as host of the negotiations, and we commend it for bringing the parties together and for its overall contribution to the process. We also commend the United Nations for the essential and expanded role it is playing in support of the process.
- We reiterate that the Taliban and the Islamic Republic must deliver on their commitments (1) to prevent the use of Afghan soil by al Qaeda, Da’esh or other terrorist groups from launching attacks against, or threatening the security of, any other country; and (2) not to host members of these groups nor to allow them to recruit, train, fundraise or transit through Afghanistan.
- We urge the Taliban to reduce violence, uphold their commitments to protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure, protect civilians and cooperate on humanitarian assistance, particularly as the Afghan people suffer acutely from the effects of COVID-19 and drought, in addition to violence. We call on the Taliban to allow and facilitate, without preconditions and consistent with international humanitarian law, access for delivery of humanitarian aid, to areas under their control.
- We believe that Afghanistan can contribute to regional and international stability and connectivity. We encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors to intensify their support to the Afghan people and to contribute to a lasting peace settlement and economic development in the interests of all.
- We also call upon all parties to ensure the safety of foreign embassies and other diplomatic missions, multilateral agencies, media representatives, airports and non-governmental organizations and their Afghan and international staff. We particularly appreciate Turkey’s readiness and commitment to assist with airport security as needed.
- We express our appreciation to Italy for organizing these consultations and agreed to set the date and venue of the next meeting through diplomatic channels.