Nov 13, 2023

Blinken Addresses the Media at India-US 2+2 Transcript

Blinken Addresses the Media at India-US 2+2 Transcript
RevBlogTranscripts2+2Blinken Addresses the Media at India-US 2+2 Transcript

Antony Blinken Addresses the Media at India-US 2+2. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Two plus two session with Secretary of Defense of Austin and our Indian counterparts. This builds on the important visit that Prime Minister Modi made to the United States, followed by President Biden’s visit here for the G20. We continue, India and the United States, to deepen our partnership, deepen our collaboration on everything from emerging technologies to defense to people, to people ties, as well as our shared diplomacy to try to advance an Indo-Pacific region that’s free, that’s open, that’s prosperous, that’s resilient.

We also discussed the crisis in the Middle East. We appreciate the fact that from day one, India strongly condemned the attacks of October 7th. As our joint statement makes clear, India and the United States stand with Israel against terrorism. This marks the last day of what’s now been a nine-day trip of intensive diplomacy throughout the Middle East and now here in the Indo-Pacific. Along the way and at each stop, in different ways, we sought to advance a number of critical objectives, minimizing harm to Palestinian civilians and maximizing the humanitarian assistance that reaches them, working to prevent the spread of the conflict, focusing on getting hostages home, as well as getting American citizens and other foreign nationals out of Gaza, and working to set sustainable, durable conditions for genuinely lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

To that end, I’ve had conversations starting a week ago with the Israeli government about steps that can be taken to advance each of these objectives. And among those steps that we talked about more than a week ago, were humanitarian pauses. These can advance all of the objectives that I just mentioned. We appreciate the fact that yesterday Israel announced four-hour pauses with a three-hour notice in specific areas as well as two humanitarian corridors that will allow people to move more safely and freely to get out of harm’s way, and also to access assistance.

These steps will save lives and will enable more assistance to get to Palestinians in need. At the same time, much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that the humanitarian assistance reaches them. Far too many Palestinians have been killed, far too many have suffered these past weeks, and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them. To that end, we’ll be continuing to discuss with Israel concrete steps that can be taken to advance these objectives. We’ll continue to focus relentlessly on getting our hostages home. We’ll continue to focus on expanding humanitarian assistance that gets into Gaza and reaches people in effective ways, and we’ll continue to focus on the steps that can be taken now to try to start to set the foundation for durable and lasting peace, which as we’ve said repeatedly, and I believe, has to include two states for two peoples. With that, happy to take some questions.

Matt (03:23):

Thanks, Mr. Secretary. I think it was on Monday, but I’m not sure when you finished the Middle East part in Türkiye and you described all of what you just went through as works in progress. Obviously, you see that some progress, some tangible, concrete progress has been made, and some of those with the pauses, but are those enough? And then secondly, what exactly is it that can be done now to set the stage for this durable lasting piece and in the more near term, the ideas that you put forward for the post-conflict structure of Gaza?

Speaker 1 (04:11):

Thanks, Matt. Well, first I think some progress has been made, and I just laid it out, but I was also very clear that much more needs to be done in terms of both protecting civilians and getting humanitarian assistance to them. And we have concrete plans, concrete things that we’re working on that would do just that. And as I’ve said from the start, this is a process, and it’s not always flipping a light switch, but we have seen progress. We just need to see more of it. And we need to maximize every effort to prevent Palestinian deaths and to advance the humanitarian assistance that’s getting to them. In terms of the longer term conditions that we need to see to try to get a real foundation for lasting peace and lasting security, because that’s the objective for Palestinians and Israelis alike. I think there too, we’ve made some progress first in trying to establish some basic principles that can guide us in that effort, including among them no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no use of Gaza as a platform for launching terrorism or other attacks against Israel.

No diminution in the territory of Gaza, and a commitment to Palestinian led governance for Gaza and for the West Bank. And in a unified way, these and some other ideas that we’ve put forward, that others share, I think can start to be the basis for what we need to do. But we’ve long been committed to two states. That was the announced policy of the administration when we came to office. When we came to office, the conditions certainly didn’t look like they were ripe to advance that in the moment. We first needed to try to make sure that there was as much calm as possible and then to try to build from there. And that’s what we’ve been working on very resolutely for the last two and a half years, including pushing back on the expansion of settlements on illegal outposts, on demolitions of homes, on evictions of Palestinians, on the status quo for the holy sites, on violence being perpetrated by extremists in the West Bank. By the way, something else that we’ve been very focused on past this past week or so.

And we were working very much on that. We had important meetings with Aqaba and Sharm El Sheikh to advance that even as we were also working on the normalization agenda with Israel and Saudi Arabia, not as a substitute for a Palestinian state, but actually as a way to advance it. But now we’ve had the events of October 7th, the almost beyond the human imagination horror of October 7th. And I think that only reinforces us in our conviction and our commitment to durable and lasting peace, which again, we see through two states. So we’ve worked to start to establish some basic understandings, basic principles. A lot of work needs to be done on fleshing all of that out. And then eventually a lot of work’s going to need to be done on getting back to the concrete elements of building two states. But as I’ve said from the outset of this past nine days, we have to be focused on both at the same time. And we are.

Speaker 3 (07:54):

Mr. Secretary, what was your message to Minister Jaishankar regarding the crisis in India-Canada relations? What progress did you make in convincing India to restore diplomatic immunity to Canadian diplomats? And if I may, going back to the Middle East, as Israel has moved into a new phase of war, have you seen them take the concrete steps you asked to reduce civilian casualties? What are those concrete steps and what progress has been made towards increasing humanitarian assistance to the 400, 500 trucks a day that were coming into Gaza before the war began?

Speaker 1 (08:25):

Thanks, Abby. So on India-Canada, these are two of our closest friends and partners. And of course we want to see them resolving any differences or disputes that they have as a friend of both. We think it’s very important that India work with Canada on its investigation and that they find a way to resolve this difference in a cooperative way. But that really does go with Canada moving its investigation forward, and India working with Canada on it. And that’s something that I’ve discussed with our Indian counterparts, including today.

In terms of coming back to the Gaza, again, as I said, we have seen progress in addressing some of the very important concerns that we have and that so many share about protecting Palestinian civilians, about getting humanitarian assistance to them. I’ve already outlined them, but I also said that much more needs to be done. So for the humanitarian assistance piece, we do have concrete … More than plans, we do have, I think, a concrete way forward that would allow more trucks to get in on a regular sustained basis, as well as to make sure that there’s an adequate supply of fuel so that, for example, the trucks themselves can be fueled up to distribute the assistance. Hospitals have what they need, desalination plants have what they need.

It is always a process. And moving from an understanding, moving from an agreement to implementation is what we’re working on right now. As you know, Ambassador David Satterfield has been parked in the region, shuttling back and forth between the various parties that are necessary to get this humanitarian assistance expanded in a significant way. That includes, of course, Egypt, as well as Israel, as well as the United Nations and some other countries that may have some ability to help.

So we’re very actively pursuing that, and I believe that, as I said, we not only have some clear understandings about what needs to happen, we’re now in the process of implementing that. I think you’ll see that unfold. And further, with regard to harm to Palestinian civilians, look, I think first what Israel announced yesterday will help. It will help in enabling people to get out of harm’s way. It will help in enabling people to get greater access to humanitarian assistance. There are other steps that we’ve discussed with Israel, that I discussed a week ago. I’m not going to detail them here. I can simply say that there is more that can and should be done to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians. Thanks.

Speaker 4 (11:14):

Thank you.

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