Secretary Antony J. Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at a Joint Press Availability

FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the federal foreign office.  A very warm welcome to Berlin, dear Tony, or rather, welcome back.  After all, weren’t you in Europe only last week?  And during that visit, President Biden and your delegation underlined impressively that America is back, back on the international and multilateral scene, and we’re extremely pleased about this.

The world has not stopped turning over the last few years.  What we need these days is, above all, transatlantic collaboration and solidarity and a division of labor, and we need that more than ever before.  I am delighted that your first bilateral visit, working visit to Europe has brought you to Berlin today and tomorrow.

Today, we are hosting the second Libya conference.  We want to ensure that Libya can once again enjoy sustainable peace and a stable situation, and we want to prepare the ground for that and make sure that we get international support.  We are focusing on three points: holding (inaudible) elections, withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, and unifying the security forces of the country.  And we will also use the opportunity to also focus on the economic development in Europe and providing support, to the extent possible, to us.

Of course, we also talked about a number of other issues today.  The sixth round of negotiations on restoring the Iran nuclear deal ended last Sunday.  Again, the talks in Vienna were very intensive.  We are making progress, but there’s still a few hard nuts to crack, as we all know only too well, and we also know that the environment of the negotiations continues to be very complex now that elections have taken place in Iran.

We also talked about Ukraine and the talks in the N4 format with the objective of putting an end to the conflict in the east of the country.  What is obvious is that no one can be satisfied about the present state of affairs, the status quo.  We insist that the Minsk agreements need to be implemented, and we need to inject new dynamic into the process.  And right now, we are preparing the substance for another meeting of the foreign ministers of the N4, and it is extremely good and extremely helpful to have the United States supporting us in this.

Of course, we also talked about the outcome of the bilateral talks between President Biden and President Putin.  We stand ready to support the strategic dialogue on arms control and armament agreed by both sides as best as we can, and we believe that this has been an extraordinary success achieved through these talks, and we are very grateful to President Biden for having taken the initiative.

The mere fact of affirming the so-called Reagan-Gorbachev formula that goes “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” has been an extremely important signal by these two presidents.

Now as we talk about all these subjects, we’re quite aware of the fact that even if we are linking arms across the Atlantic with likeminded countries, this does not mean that conflicts or missiles are going to vanish overnight.  But if we all act in concert, I believe we can produce a much greater impact.  The day before yesterday, such an impact was quite visible because on the very same day, the United States, Canada, and the European Union and Great Britain agreed on sanctions – determined sanctions against the regime in Belarus.  And that is an indication of the fact that if we stand together in assuming responsibility, we stand a chance of making our values future-proof and make them – make and ensure them being respected.

Tomorrow, we will also be acting in the spirit of our shared future.  We will meet at the Holocaust Memorial and use that opportunity to discuss our cooperation and to enhance our cooperation to advance something that has been in both our interests, and that is the fight against anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, and it occurs still far too often.  In the afternoon, we will have the opportunity to talk to young adults about the future of transatlantic relations.  I very much look forward to these exchanges, and I’m grateful for the fact that Tony Blinken has come here today.  Thank you very much indeed.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Heiko, thank you for a very productive meeting, but thank you, even more importantly, for your friendship and close collaboration these past few months.  It’s been terrifically important to me, important to the United States.  We’re grateful for your partnership, we’re grateful for the partnership with Germany across the board, and it’s a particular pleasure for me to be back in Berlin for the first time as Secretary of State, although many, many visits in different capacities before then.  I very much look forward to having a chance to see the chancellor later this afternoon following the very good meeting that we had and to be here, as Heiko said, so soon after the G7 meeting, the NATO meeting, the U.S.-EU Leaders Summit.

As President Biden said last week at the European Council, at a time when we have such vast changes taking place around the world – many good, some not so good – the best way for countries to deal with these changes is by working together.  And I think Heiko and I both strongly agree that there is probably not a single challenge that is having an impact on the lives of our citizens – whether it’s climate change, whether it’s this pandemic, whether it is the destructive impact of emerging technologies – that can be addressed by any one country acting alone.  We have an imperative, maybe more than ever before, to find ways to cooperate, work together, coordinate, and that’s exactly what the United States and Germany are doing.

That’s how we’ll ultimately end the COVID-19 pandemic, which is becoming, unfortunately, more dangerous in some parts of the world even as it’s increasingly under control in others.  It’s how we’ll tackle the climate crisis and protect our planet, our security, our health, while building a greener global economy.  It’s how we’ll maintain our security in the face of old and new threats.  And ultimately, it’s how we’ll protect our shared values and defend human rights and democracy both at home and around the world.  And in all of this, I think our common challenge, which we very much agree on, is the need to demonstrate together that democracies can deliver effectively for our citizens and indeed deliver for the world.

Germany and the United States have demonstrated time and again that we believe in cooperation bilaterally, multilaterally.  We’re both committed to multilateralism.  And that’s one reason why I’m visiting France and Italy after my time here in Berlin.  In addition to being three of our closest and most capable partners, Germany, France, and Italy are the only three countries that are members of the EU, NATO, and the G7, and that underscores the importance that all of us attach to working cooperatively in multilateral institutions.

We’ve worked closely together over the past several months in the lead-up to the summits that President Biden took part in, then at the summits themselves, to take on some of the most urgent challenges of our time and to help ensure that these institutions are as effective, adaptive, and innovative as possible.

But that work doesn’t end with the summits.  In a sense, it starts there.  It continues this week and beyond as we follow up on the steps that leaders took at NATO with the 2030 reform agenda and making sure the Alliance has the capability it needs; at the G7, where we committed to supply one billion COVID-19 vaccines to the world, end support for coal-fired power plants, partner with developing countries on infrastructure projects through Build Back Better, and at the U.S.-EU summit, where we pledged greater cooperation, deeper cooperation on trade and technology in particular.

We’re also working closely together to address regional challenges.  We’ll see that this afternoon when we gather with leaders from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, as well as the United Nations, at the Berlin II Conference on Libya.  And I want to thank Germany for its very important leadership on this issue.  As I’ll share at the meeting and as you heard from Heiko, we share the goal of a sovereign, stable, unified, secure Libya free from foreign interference.  It’s what the people of Libya deserve.  It’s critical to regional security as well.

For that to happen, national elections need to go forward in December, and that means urgent agreement is needed on constitutional and legal issues that would undergird those elections.  And the October 23rd ceasefire agreement has to be fully implemented, including by withdrawing all foreign forces from Libya.  We’re grateful, again, to Germany for hosting this meeting and for the longstanding leadership that it’s shown on this topic and so many others.  We’re very proud to be your partner, Heiko, in this endeavor.

And that brings me to a final point that I want to make today.  In addition to the work that we do together through regional and global conferences and institutions, we’re deeply committed to the bilateral relationship between Germany and the United States.  Simply put, Germany is among our closest friends and closest partners in the entire world.

It’s true, of course, on a governmental level, and I know President Biden is very much looking forward to welcoming Chancellor Merkel to Washington next month.

It’s true on an economic level.  As we see and know every single day, Germany is our largest trading partner in Europe.  We’re your largest export market, and hundreds of thousands of Germans work for American companies and vice versa.

It’s true on a person-to-person level.  The people of Germany and the people of the United States are connected in so many ways – family ties that stretch back for generations, young people studying in each other’s universities.  And like Heiko, I’m looking forward tomorrow to meeting with some of the alumni of our transatlantic youth exchange programs and talking to another generation of young Germans and Americans.

Our troops have stood shoulder to shoulder around the world.  We’re grateful to Germany for hosting U.S. troops, which serves our joint security.

And we’re connected, finally, by a shared commitment to democratic values, values that we’ll honor tomorrow when, as the foreign minister said, we will visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe together to reaffirm our commitment to human rights and dignity, to discuss how we can ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten.

I am reminded of something President Biden said recently at the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in the United States.  He talked about how great nations face the lessons of their history no matter how painful they are.  And they do all that they can to repair whatever injustice can be repaired and build a better, fairer future.  Germany is a model to the world for how to do that.

So we’re grateful for the friendship.  We want it to be even stronger.  We don’t always agree.  The foreign minister and I spoke today about one of those areas of disagreement, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which we continue to believe is a threat to Europe’s energy security.  Germany has a different perspective, and that happens from time to time among friends, and we’ll handle our disagreements while pressing ahead on the many areas where we are working very closely together and are very much in agreement.

In this case, that means that Germany and the United States will keep standing together against any dangerous or provocative actions by Russia, whether that’s encroaching on Ukraine’s territory or imprisoning Aleksey Navalny or spreading disinformation in our democracies.  That’s what effective cooperation between countries looks like.  That’s what Germany and the United States are delivering together.

So thank you again, Mr. Foreign Minister, Heiko, for this partnership, for this very good work that we’re doing together, and my thanks to everyone here for the very warm reception we’ve already had.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Unfortunately, we have very limited time left due to following schedules, but the first question goes to Reuters, and please, a short question would be much appreciated.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter)  Andreas Rinke from Reuters.  A question addressed to the foreign – Secretary of State:  As far as Libya is concerned, what do you expect from the Americans?  What should they deliver?

(In English) And Foreign Secretary, question to you, on the same question:  What is the U.S. willing to do?  Boots on the ground in anti-terror fight in the Sahel region, or what else?

FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via interpreter) Well, today – today, it is first and foremost about Libya, and I’m extremely grateful to Tony Blinken for making sure that the United States are very engaged on this dossier, much more active than we have come to expect over the past few years.  Today is about reaffirming that elections take place on the 24th of September, that all foreign fighters are withdrawn, and that that is affirmed at this conference, and that then adds a step-by-step process – that this is then to take place as a step-by-step process.  In Libya too, it is important that the security forces on the ground are being unified – the security forces of the country.

In order to achieve this, it is very important that the international community and those parties that played a part in the conflict play their part and do their bit.  And this is why I am very grateful to Tony Blinken and the American administration in Washington for being here today and for actively helping us develop that process.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I really wouldn’t and couldn’t say anything differently.  We have exactly the same objectives both for this meeting and for moving forward in terms of the steps that need to be taken to make sure that elections go forward in December, that the ceasefire continues to be fully implemented, and that all foreign forces leave Libya.  I think we have an opportunity that we have not had in recent years to really help Libya move forward as a safe, secure, sovereign country, and we’re determined together to seize that opportunity.

I think, again, Germany’s leadership in a very sustained way in bringing the international community together in support of Libya, in support of its progress is vitally, vitally important, and I hope that we’ll continue to move in the right direction today and the days that follow.

MR PRICE:  Our first question goes to the VOA, Cindy Saine.

QUESTION:  Yes, (inaudible).  Secretary Blinken mentioned the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

And for Foreign Minister Maas, what is Germany prepared to do to reassure the United States and Ukraine that Russia will not use the pipeline to pressure Ukraine or to harm them?

And for Secretary Blinken, in your discussions with the foreign minister, what measures are you considering implementing that could automatically trigger if Russia does pressure?

And for both of you, are you worried about threatening statements that Russian President Putin has made that he would exclude Ukraine from energy?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via interpreter)  During our conversation today, Tony was very clear in impressing upon me that as far as Nord Stream 2 is concerned, Washington has expectations of Germany and that expectations are that we make sure that President Putin cannot misuse the pipeline to exert pressure on Ukraine.  We are quite aware of this, and we want to make our contribution in that regard.

In the past, already we started to work in that direction by making sure that there is an alternative gas transit agreement via the Ukraine and that we’ll continue to stand – and that we’ll continue to stand once Nord Stream 2 goes operational.  We are right now in the midst of talks about how we can fulfill these expectations that Washington has of us.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And thank you.  And we appreciate the important conversations that we’re having with Germany on this issue.  Right now, as I said earlier, this is one place where we disagree.  We believe, we continue to believe, that the pipeline is ultimately a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and potentially undermines the security of Ukraine and other countries in the region.

We recently imposed sanctions, more sanctions than have ever been imposed under the law, against a number of Russian entities involved in the pipeline.  And at the same time, we waived certain sanctions with regard to Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO.  And the context is this:  By the time we took office, the pipeline as a matter of its physical construction was more than 90 percent complete.  That was the reality.  That’s something we inherited.

And we’re determined to see if we can make something positive out of a difficult situation that we inherited and to do what we can to make sure that the end result is that Europe’s energy security is not undermined – in fact, it’s strengthened; that Ukraine’s position is not weakened, that it’s actually reinforced.  And that is the nature of the conversations that we’re having with our German partners.

Our goal remains to ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool, as a weapon, against Ukraine or anyone else in Europe, and I appreciate the work that we’re doing with Germany to move in that direction.

MODERATOR:  The next question from Süddeutsche Zeitung, Herr Broessler.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter)  Minister Maas, if I may, I would like to come back to Nord Stream 2.  With respect to the talks you mentioned, is there a timeframe for these talks?  Do both sides have the wish to solve this problem before the federal chancellor, Ms. Merkel, will visit Washington?  And more specifically, the Ukraine has asked Germany to provide guarantees.  Would Germany, for example, be willing to make good or compensate for the loss of transit fees?

(In English)  And Secretary Blinken, from what you said, can we understand that you have given up on the goal to not have Nord Stream Zwei completed or at least go operational?  And in case it is completed, is it your wish to have tools to stop gas transit via Nord Stream Zwei if need be?

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via intrerpreter)  Probably we are able to save the world at large, but people would still ask us about Nord Stream 2.  Well, we’ll have to accept it and live with it.

We are engaging in these talks.  We are aware of the expectations from Washington, and it is of the utmost importance to us to reach results here that can also be supported by Washington.  As I said, we are engaging in these talks with our colleagues from the American administration in Washington, but we are also engaging with the Ukraine.  The Ukrainian foreign minister came to Berlin the week before last, and of course, we talked about this issue.

But as I said, we are engaging in these negotiations also with an eye to Eastern Europe and the – with an eye to the energy situation in more general terms.  There is a whole host of ways and means and approaches which we are discussing right now, but we are not discussing them in public.  And of course, I would wish us to make headway and achieve a result as quickly as possible.

As I said – as was said, the visit of the federal chancellor in Washington would be a suitable timeline, but of course, we cannot make it contingent only on this particular matter.  In August, legislative decisions are coming in Washington, so we have the ambition to have made headway on these issues and to have reached results that are acceptable to all parties involved.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I share the views that the foreign minister just expressed.  I’m not going to address what might happen hypothetically in the future.  I think what’s important and what we agree on is that in the conversations that we’re having, in the talks that we’re having together, we need to produce very credible, concrete results to, again, ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool directed at Ukraine or anyone else.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go to Humeyra Pamuk of Reuters.

QUESTION:  Hello, thank you.  I would like to ask about Iran first.

Foreign Minister Maas, you just said, like, there are some nuts to be cracked still, and Jake Sullivan also over the weekend said there are still issues.  What is your sense on how close the two sides are on a deal, and until when are you willing to keep negotiating?

And then if I can move on to China quickly.  The United States says America is back, and you two talked a lot about multilateralism, but – and while – and Europe appears to be genuinely pleased to see that America is back.  But you have deep disagreements on a number of important topics, and China is one.

Foreign Minister Maas, isn’t that weighing on the bilateral relationship?

And Secretary Blinken, you’ve said China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang amount to genocide.  Are you urging the German Government to call on German companies to perhaps cease operations in Xinjiang?

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via interpreter) As regards China, of course, this is a topic that we are engaging on.  We always touch upon China.  China is important for us, for the German Government but also for the European Union, and thus it is important that the European Union has a joint strategy regarding China.

I think we have made it clear in the last few weeks that we are capable of acting together.  Because of the human rights violations in Xinjiang, the human rights violations of the rights of the Uyghurs, we have made it clear that we have been able to agree on sanctions, and we have harmonized our actions with the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with the European Union regarding, for example, Belarus.

We want to cooperate closely with the United States apart from the historic friendship existing between both our countries and peoples, also with respect to an eye what we owe to the United States, with an eye to the Second World War and the period that followed.  We are much better and have a greater impact if we act together and coordinate our actions, and thus we have a great interest in making sure that our China strategy is coordinated closely across the Atlantic between Germany and the United States and the European Union and the United States.

And as far as the negotiations in Vienna are concerned, they are not easy.  In the past few weeks, that has become quite obvious.  There are a whole host of technical issues that need solving still.  We are making headway step by step, one round of negotiations after the other, and we expect that now that a new government has been elected there are good opportunities for negotiations to continue and be concluded.

We, for one, are convinced that it is worthwhile to engaging with the other parties even over such a longer period of time and to ensuring that the JCPOA is being revitalized and revived.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And coming back to China, I think what you’re seeing and what you saw particularly in the last week is a growing convergence of views in terms of how to deal with China.  We recognize that all of our countries have complex and consequential relationships with China that can’t be summed up in a bumper sticker.  And whether it’s the United States, whether it’s Europe, we’re seeing, as we’ve said before, adversarial aspects of the relationship, competitive ones, and also cooperative ones.

But the common denominator is we’re all going to be more effective in engaging China in any of those areas when we’re working and acting together.  And increasingly, we’re demonstrating that we can do that.  I think it was evident in the work that was done at the G7, at NATO, at the U.S.-EU Summit.  I’d remind you that with regard to the G7, the last time previous to this G7 meeting that there was a meeting, China didn’t even factor into the equation, into the communique.  And at NATO we’ve agreed to renew and revitalize our strategic concept.  The last time that was done in 2010, again, China was not – was not even mentioned.

But I think what’s very important here to recognize – and this is what brings us together – is we are not about containing China or holding China back.  What we are about is upholding the free and open rules-based international order that we have spent so many decades building, investing in, working on together.  And if that order is challenged in any way by anyone, we will stand up and defend it.  And that’s not directed at China.  It’s about defending the order.

But more – as important, I think what you saw from the United States and Europe across so many different areas was an affirmative vision for what the future can and should be.  For example, the work that we did together at the G7 with Build Back Better for the World, where we will come together as countries pooling some of our development resources to help other countries develop their infrastructure and to do it to the highest standards and the most positive way.  The work that we’re doing together on vaccines – a billion vaccines for the world with no political strings attached.  All of this shows that we can come together and deliver effectively.

Last word.  When it comes to Xinjiang, when it comes to genocide, human rights abuses, I think what’s incumbent upon all of us to do whatever we can to make sure that products that may be the result of forced labor are not coming into our countries, and similarly that we’re not exporting to any country, China or otherwise, technologies or products that can be used to repress people and deny them their human rights.  We’ve done work on that.  That was clear last week as well on forced labor.  And as the foreign minister said, we’ve come together to sanction China for the actions that it’s taken against Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang.

Link: https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-german-foreign-minister-heiko-maas-at-a-joint-press-availability/