Mon. Mar 4th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen Before Their Meeting

FOREIGN MINISTER COHEN:  Thank you.  Thank you all.  My friend, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, welcome to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel.  I’m very pleased to host a true friend of Israel.  This is a very difficult week for us in Israel and for all of our friends and allies.  Your presence here during this very sad week is most meaningful.  Every visit of an American secretary of state is historic and important.  It is significant, and we strengthen the relationship between our countries.  Our alliance serves as one of the main pillars of our national security, defense, and foreign relations.

This past Shabbat, the residents of Jerusalem suffered two terrible terror attacks.  The first took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day outside of (inaudible) on Friday night.  Seven Israeli civilians were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist.  They were killed just because they are Jews.  The very next day, a 13 year-old Palestinian terrorist filled with blind hatred, which he learned from his parents, his school, and his society, shot and wounded an Israeli father and son who were on the way home from Shabbat prayer services.  Palestinian incitement stemming from terrorist organization and the Palestinian Authority has real and deadly implications, provoking violence and terror against innocent civilians.  This must be stopped.

Secretary Blinken, I would like to thank you personally for your clear message against terrorism and incitement.  The word of support we receive from our friends in the United States strengthen us.  We received many messages of support from leader around the world, including many Arab and Muslim countries who were shocked by these attacks and expressed their sorrow.  It is truly heartwarming to know that Israel has so many friends around the world.

My friend, Antony, the Middle East has changed dramatically as a result of the signing of the Abraham Accords, which was led by the United States.  This agreement increased regional stability and economic prosperity.  It also created a unique opportunity in the form of a regional coalition against the Iranian threat.  My goal is to strengthen the existing Abraham Accords and to expand relations with additional countries.  In order to achieve this goal, we need your leadership, Secretary Blinken, and of the United States, which has been with us every step of the way in expanding peace in the region.

I also want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for the United States strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  Unfortunately, we are in a reality where Iran is rapidly advancing towards its goal of becoming a nuclear state.  The international community must act quickly and effectively against Iran’s nuclear program.  Its destabilizing activities in the Middle East and its finance of terror organization, including the Revolutionary Guard, which is the largest state terror organization in the world.

A few days ago, I spoke with my counterpart in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Kuleba, and inform him that the coming weeks, the Israeli embassy in Kyiv will return to full activity.  I also informed him on my plan to visit Kyiv, to be the first minister from the Middle East to visit Kyiv, in the near future.

I want to thank you, Secretary of State, for the good news that Israel received today regarding the visa waiver.  I also would like to thank President Joe Biden and special thank you to Ambassador Tom Nides of his personal involvement in this matter.  We will take all the necessary measures, including legislation, in order to meet the requirements by the end of this year.

The alliance between the U.S. and Israel is strong and unbreakable as ever.  Even though we may have some differences of opinion on certain issue, we will always, always remain friends and we’ll always be able to discuss our differences in a friendly manner and reach agreements.  Thank you very much, dear Antony, for this important visit.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Foreign Minister Cohen, thank you very much for those warm words, for hosting us today, for the conversations that we’re about to have.  I had a chance to speak with Eli, I think on your second day in office.  We dove right into a conversation on a wide range of regional and global issues, and it’s simply a powerful reflection of our mutual interests – our decades-long security partnership, which transcends any one administration in either Israel and the United States.

The closeness of that relationship grounded in a long history of shared democratic values gives us the foundation for addressing a range of challenges, which I look forward to pursuing today.  We covered a lot of ground as well in the meeting with the prime minister a short while ago.  I look forward to pursuing this in the hour ahead.

But we’ll continue to work together to confront and counter the dangerous and destabilizing influence of Iran.  As President Biden has made clear, the United States is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Iran is a threat not only to Israel and the region, but increasingly to the world, as we’ve seen recently in its provision of drones to Russia to prosecute its war of aggression in Ukraine.

We’ll also talk about the importance of supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend their nation against Russian aggression.  The United States appreciates Israel’s humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.  We welcome the foreign minister’s decision to visit Kyiv.  I think that’s very welcome – the opening of the embassy – and look forward to discussing what more can be done to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in a critical time.

We’ll also discuss the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank, the ongoing cycle of violence that has (inaudible) innocent lives.  It’s incumbent on all parties to take urgent steps to de-escalate tension, establish conditions for the security and stability that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.  As I discussed with both the prime minister and the foreign minister, we’ll do the same with President Abbas.  The United States stands ready to support the parties in this vital effort.

Another priority in our conversation and throughout my trip will be advancing integration and cooperation throughout the region.  I look forward to discussing with the foreign minister how to build on last month’s truly historic meeting in Abu Dhabi with the Negev Forum Working Groups.  Together with our partners from Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, we came together – and more officials from those countries and Israel together in the same place than at any time since the Madrid Conference many decades ago.

The goal for both of us is to expand the circle of peace, and we’re determined to pursue that.

So there is a lot of ground to be covered in what I’m sure will be the first of many meetings in the weeks and months ahead, but let me also just conclude where I started today at the airport, which is to reiterate the deep condolences of the United States – its government and its people – for the seven Israelis who were murdered by a terrorist a few days.  We stand in solidarity with all the people of Israel as they confront terrorism.  We will do so together.  Thank you.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-israeli-foreign-minister-eli-cohen-before-their-meeting/

originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS