tv Secretary of State on Qatar as U.S. Protecting Power in Afghanistan CSPAN November 13, 2021 5:40am-6:24am EST
secretary of state blinken signed an agreement earlier in the day with qatar to represent u.s. diplomatic interest in afghanistan making qatar the u.s. protecting interest in afghanistan. he met with reporters for 40 minutes. sec. blinken: it is my pleasure to welcome my friend here to washington. we are opening the fourth u.s.
qatar strategic dialogue and great appreciation to all the colleagues that have put the work into this. when you look at the diversity of issues that we will cover, it reflects a powerful reality which is the growing strength of the relationship between the united states and qatar spanning shared security and economic interests, regional challenges, and growing people to people ties among other things. the events in afghanistan over the past several months have reinforced that partnership. including the most sensitive and urgent issues. i had the opportunity to thank him in person for qatar's generosity, support, and cooperation when i traveled there in september and witnessed first-hand the effort to
evacuate. of the more than 124,000 people evacuated from afghanistan in august, roughly half transited through qatar. that work continues. since that time, qatar has facilitated and funded an additional 15 flights and counting out of afghanistan enabling hundreds of u.s. citizens, thousands of others to leave the country. the government and qatar airways continue to support charter flights out of afghanistan to u.s. special immigrant visa holders and others. on that note, i can confirm that as of the river tent, all you -- as of november 10, all americans who have requested assistance to leave afghanistan and those we have identified as repaired to depart and those that have the necessary travel documents have been offered an opportunity to
do so. that includes more than 380 american citizens and 280 legal residents whose departure we have already facilitated. meanwhile, qatar's support has allowed the international community to flow into afghanistan including several flights from the old health organization carrying lifesaving medical help. today, we are signing two new agreements. the first establishes qatar as the united states protecting power in afghanistan. qatar will establish an intersection within its embassy in afghanistan to provide consular services. the second agreement formalizes our partnership with qatar to facilitate the travel of afghans with special travel visas.
and serve as a transit point for eligible afghans as they complete their application process. let me again say how grateful we are for your leadership, your support on afghanistan, but also to note that our partnership is much broader than that. that is refracted in the good conversation we just had come at the regular conversations that we have on many issues of common concern in the region and beyond. qatar is a crucial partner in promoting regional stability not only hosting u.s. troops to thrive -- provide security but providing assistance to people in dire situations. over the last decade, qatar has donated more than 1000 -- $1.3 billion in aid and support to the people of yemen.
we are also working together on challenging issues like labor rights. we stand ready to support qatar and the implementation of its labor reforms including ensuring all workers are covered by the new minimum wage law and are able to change employers and leave the country without certificates and permits. we prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries and it is fair to say that our relationship has never been stronger. we believe it will only grow deeper and more diverse to the benefit of our people and so many others. with that, over to you. >> thank you, mr. secretary. the, everybody. -- good morning, everybody. thank you for the warm welcome and i wish to thank the
delegations for their work in preparing this dialogue. the fourth strategic dialogue presents another milestone in our historically strong partnership. the flourishing ties between our two countries enabled by the mutual commitments of our two governments demonstrated not only by a wide scope of our cooperation, but also by the deep friendship between our nations. we are partners in defense, security, investments, education, and energy. we are global leaders in the fight against terrorism. this is possible because our friendship spans decades across institutions. this year, our friendship became even closer. when qatar worked closely with the united states and are international partners to evacuate more than 60,000 individuals from afghanistan including american citizens, female students from across the
country, afghan employees and their families and journalists around the world. qatar was ordered -- honored to be its position to step up and rescue so many people and we will continue to be an instrument of peace and stability in the region. there is still much to be done in afghanistan and qatar remains committed to continue the necessary work alongside the united states and partners around the world. we are dedicated to contributing to the stability of afghanistan and the safety and well-being of the afghan people. the strategic dialogue today will discuss issues of mutual interest and reaffirm our dedication including strengthening our partnership. another pillar of our relationship -- these
investments translate into jobs across the u.s. and our economic partnership exceeded -- dollars of trade. qatar serves an important role in helping countries meet their energy needs while leaving important carbon reduction measures. our investments reflect our commitment to care for the environment. as of 2021, more than half of qatar investments empower generation projects are zero emissions. mr. secretary, i am grateful for our discussion today and for all your efforts, i look forward to expanding this externally
partnership. today, our two nations are collected by -- connected by deep bonds and i believe our greatest opportunities are still ahead of us. the year 2022 will be a special one. it marks the 50th anniversary of our alliances between the united states and qatar and november of next year, qatar will host the fifa world cup which will be the first carbon neutral fifa world cup. this year, we also celebrate the year of culture which contained a number of events celebrating our long friendly relationship. i look forward to welcoming you and your team in doha and i personally invite you to watch world cup match together. this is a good excuse for you to come to doha and i wish the u.s. team the best of luck.
secretary blinken, i have a couple of questions. you have already warned about the unusual russian troop buildup in the ukrainian border. how imminent does the united states see a potential invasion of ukraine by russia? what will washington do? on belarus, it is said the crisis is escalating toward a potential military clash. why do you think sanctioning lukashenko is going to work this time? the u.s. and china together in glasgow, but how will the u.s. balance out cooperation with the obligation to call out human rights abuses? you have called with more engagement with the taliban.
how unified are you with the united states in your approach? in that context, do you think the u.n. -- from taliban regime? sec. blinken: i am happy to start. on russia, as i said the other day, we are very concerned about some of the irregular movements in forces that we see on ukraine's borders. i can't speak to russia's intentions. but we do know that we have seen in the past russia mass forces on ukraine's borders. claim some kind of provocation by ukraine, then invade basically following through on something they were planning all along. that's what they did in 2014. this raises real concerns about an effort to repeat what was
done that. that would be a serious mistake. we have been in close munication with european allies and partners on this. we had the ukrainians here this week and talk about this. i can't tell you what is in the mind of president putin, what his intentions are, just aced on the past, we have real concerns about what we are seeing in the present. it would be a serious mistake for russia to engage in a repeat of what it did in 2014. there is a process agreed but ukraine and russia that continues to offer the possibility of resolving and
ending the occupation and parts of the ukraine. we would hope as well that the parties would recommit to that and take the necessary steps to make that real. what is of real concern are the movements that we are seeing especially given what russia has done in the past. with regard to ella roos, -- belarus, we are also very concerned about the efforts by belarus to use migration as a political weapon. i am not going to get ahead of any possible sanctions, but we are looking at various tools that we have and of course this is broader than the effort to use migration as a political weapon. it goes to the conduct of the
lukashenko regime and designing -- denying the citizens democracy to which they are entitled. again, we are in close consultation with european allies and partners on this as well. finally with regard to china, i will let the president speak for the administration. we have noted repeatedly over the past 10 months that the relationship with china is among the most consequential and complex we have. it has different elements. some cooperative, some competitive, and others adversarial. we will manage all three at the same time. i think you will see in the
engagement the president has had with xi jinping and in the days to come the work we are doing for that. there are issues like climate that in a sense our incumbent on any country in the international community to meet its responsibilities irrespective of differences we have another areas simply because it is in the interest of each of these countries including china and in the interest of humanity and we have seen some progress coming out of cop26 when it comes to china meeting its responsibilities on climate change. a lot more to be done, but this is profoundly in the interest of china's citizens. irrespective of any other differences including strongly felt principles that we will continue to stand for, i think we can expect to see countries
meet their responsibilities including china. >> regarding your question about afghanistan and engaging with the taliban, our number one priority in qatar is to make sure that the humanitarian assistance reaching the afghan people especially we are seeing the people suffering, they have a dire need for help especially when the winter is coming. there will be a lot of challenges in the humanitarian situation. it is better for us to help the afghan people over there now before things get worse. the first priority to be addressed with the taliban is to provide safe access for humanitarian assistance and issuing that was to provide people not falling into the wrong hands. the second thing, we believe
that abandoning afghanistan would be a big mistake because isolation has never been an answer or a solution for any issue and engagement is the only way forward. that's why we believe that engaging with the taliban since they are in power, it is important for us that our humanitarian assistance is moving smoothly and encouraging them all the time to stand up to their commitments and their pledges for the international community. we are in continuous consultation with the u.s.. we have an agreement on a wide range of issues when it comes to afghanistan and the way to address the situation. we agree on the needs of the afghan people to issue their
safety and protect them from any violence or any act by the people who are in power now. and also ensuring that the humanitarian situation is addressed. regarding lifting the taliban from the sanction list, that was not the decision of qatar, it was a security council resolution. we believe that the members of the security council are in continuous review for this. they would be enlisted only by their own decision. qatar has no role in this. we are encouraging the international community to keep engaging with afghanistan not abandoning them. >> next question from al
jazeera. reporter: i have two questions. regarding afghanistan, you said there is a lot of arias that need -- areas that have urgent need for the people. which certain area qatar feels that she complained role -- she can play a role especially in the eyes of the international community for a behavioral change to be accepted internationally. my second question is, is qatar looking for a mediator role? for sec., regarding lebanon and the reforms needed from russia, does the united states see any progress happening?
what did you reach with your talks with the lebanese government? regarding the reforms and lebanon, the u.s. had been pushing the new government to implement the reforms. do you hear any update or progress from them? >> as we mentioned, we have seen an urgent humanitarian need and afghanistan for the afghan people. basically, we believe that these needs translate into food supplies, medicine, the healthcare services needs to remain running and the schools need to remain operational. we are very much focused on those areas. trying to deliver the aid for those people over there. as i mentioned, winter is going
to be very challenging in delivering those humanitarian aid, that's why we are encouraging international organizations to step up this time and try to deliver it as soon as possible. from our side, we are trying our best to facilitate for them and to contribute to address those needs. regarding -- we are very much concerned about the escalation over there and stability of north of africa is important for our stability and we hope that things are going to be de-escalated and resolved soon as possible. we normally play a mediator role, we have asked -- been asked by the two parties of the conflict with their consent but
as far as this conflict is concerned, no one has reached out to qatar, we are happy to help and support any international efforts in de-escalating the situation there. i believe there are a number of countries within the international community including the united states are working on this -- these efforts >> i appreciate the balance of two questions for him and one for me, that is appropriate thank you. [laughter] >> so, first on lebanon, we say two things. first, there is a dire need that the lebanese people have that it's to be addressed as you know.
arrangements to get into the country, its absence has had detrimental effects on the ability to do the most basic things that citizens are looking for including keeping the hospitals up and running, transportation and many other things. we are working on that. the prime minister has a good plan for moving lebanon forward, trying to move the economy forward. in the first instance, pursuing work with the international financial institutions and the support they can offer. we are looking to ensure support for the lebanese armed forces who are a source of debility in the country and in all of these areas, i think it would be important for the various friends and supporters of lebanon to demonstrate that support to boelter -- bolster
lebanon and give it an opportunity to move forward on the program the prime ministers putting in place to address the economic challenges and ultimately have greater stability and a stronger economic foundation going forward. that is what we are in conversations about with many friends and partners, something we talked about a few moments ago. thank you. >> our last question. >> thank you. this week, the prime minister, a key u.s. ally, that it damascus with the dictator. he is one of the few allies that have normalized relations with syria, but shouldn't the administration be doing more to discourage allies from building relationships with this regime, and if you did discourage them, what does that say about the relationship that the ally was not listening? it also emerged
this week that for the first time, dozens of family members of american troops are stuck in afghanistan. why was this not known beforehand, how many are abundant and how much concern is it that there are family members of u.s. troops stuck in afghanistan when the taliban is looking for anyone who is working with or related to u.s. interest? and on ethiopia, the government has arrested some u.s. nationals as part of the crackdown and they are threatening to punish ethiopian staff for lawbreaking. are you concerned about these arrests and is a civil war in ethiopia inevitable? and you, what do you make of the prime minister's visit to syria? and why is qatar transiting through doha by requiring them to have passports, at a time when a humanitarian crisis is looming? and your relationship with a long gush iran, are the
anniversary? where do they stand? >> excellent demonstration of the multipart question. thank you. so on syria, i can tell you that some of these visits and engagements are sending signals and i would urge our partners to remember the crimes that the regime has committed and continues to commit. we do not support normalization and we would emphasize to our friends and partners to consider the signals they are sending. we, when it comes to afghanistan, we had been taking out afghan families and u.s.
service members all along and that will continue. as we identify people who are in afghanistan, including family members of service members, who remained there and wish to leave, we will do everything we can to get them out. again, i would step back for a moment if i could. because this is in so many ways -- i'm not sure the american people fully understood. just americans absence sins, for example. as you know, starting back in march of this year, will before the president made the decision to end the war and will before the government and security forces in afghanistan imploded, so in march, we communicated
with those we identified as americans in afghanistan, encouraging and urging them to leave the country. by the summer, we were also offering to support them if they needed help, for example buying a plane ticket. the airport was functioning and we were pressing the community that we had identified to leave. these were messages between march and late july. when everything imploded, about 6000 people in afghanistan who had a blue passport, who had american citizenship, and as i said before there is a good and understandable region that's reason why despite everything, fleet 6000 people remained. that is because for virtually all of his people, afghanistan was their home. this is where they resided, where their families were, where they have made their lives. and making that decision to
leave and give up everything you know is hard. that is why there were still roughly 6000 remaining despite everything, despite our efforts to encourage anyone who had american citizenship and wanted to leave to take advantage of that. of those 6000, virtually all of them were evacuated during the couple of weeks of the actuation -- evacuation but there were hundreds who were not able to get to the airport or get on a flight. and what i committed to the american people and that president biden committed to the american people was to continue every effort we could to bring out any american citizen who wanted to leave beyond august 31. there was no deadline that mission and that is exactly what we have done. as i said earlier, since the 31st, the end of the evacuation
mission, we have evacuated roughly 380 americans and as i mentioned earlier, as of the 10th of november, all those who have requested assistance from the united states government to depart afghanistan, and who we have identified as prepared to depart and having necessary documents, have been given an opportunity to do so. this is an effort that will continue. it is also a picture that changes on a regular basis, because what happens is this. some people who have identified as americans say they don't want to leave because their families and extended families are in afghanistan and they want to stay there. others change their minds and have told us they do not want to leave and decided they do, that number changes as well. others since august 31 have come
forward to identify themselves as americans. this effort continue as long as people want to leave but as i said, we made a commitment, we are making good on that commitment and that extends to the family numbers of u.s. service members who remain. finally, the opium. -- ethiopia. i am very concerned about the -- four ethiopia to implode, given what we are seeing both integrate -- in tigre and as we have different forces and ethnic groups that are increasingly odds. and we are working very closely to support the efforts of the former president to mediate a
way forward with all of the parties. we are in close contact with him. we have a special envoy, ambassador who is deeply engaged in this. other key players in the region are very much engaged. and i think each of the different groups is looking at this, there are two paths forward. one path forward is out and out conflict which could lead to the implosion of ethiopia and spillover into other countries in the region and that would be disastrous for the ethiopian people. and also for countries in the region. the other path is to halt all of the military actions that are currently underway. to sit down, to negotiate, to make sure their humanitarian
systems can getting to all of the regions where people are in need, tigre but also people in other areas. and ultimately to negotiate a durable political resolution to the differences that have emerged over the last year. that is still not only possible necessary, and i can tell you the united states is working hard to support all of these and trying to move ethiopia in that direction. >> first your question about normalizing with syria, our position has been clear. we see that normalizing that regime is not a step we are thinking of or considering right now and we believe that all the
crimes he has committed against his people, he needs to be held accountable. but also we support the political resolution and transition in a peaceful way with the support of the security council resolution. regarding other countries in the region to reengage and integrate syria, of course they are making their decisions based on their own assessments and concern in this is their right. we cannot -- it would be wishful thinking to have all of the agents united when it comes to syria and we hope countries would be discouraged from taking further steps with the shame in order -- regime in order not to undermine the syrian people and what they are living in right now.
our position will remain as it is. we don't see any serious steps by the regime showing his commitment to repair the damage made for his own country and his own people, and as long as he is not taking any -- changing the position is not a viable option. regarding the issue of afghanistan evacuation and people who are not holding a passport, from our perspective and from all other countries perspective, it is very important that people are evacuated and those people will be checked and vetted from a security point of view. this cannot be cleared unless we have proper documentation for that. it is mainly a security measure
that has been taken, there are exceptions. if we can get the vetting process done in the right way, then -- they will provide the required documents but we don't want to end up the wrong people who are living afghanistan and going to other countries and doing something will be responsible for. regarding our relationship iran, when you talk about the region's relationship with iran, there are different dynamics. iran is our neighbor. it is a country that we need to maintain a good neighborhood relationship with them, and this has never been against our alliance with the u.s. or other
countries. we use this relationship as a good way to engage to munich it, to facilitate if there are any needs from our allies in the u.s. that we can support with iran and we encourage them. we encourage iran and the u.s. to come back as soon as possible and not -- the relationship sometimes, there are agreements and disagreements. it is not only an agreement on everything, we disagree with iran policies in the region, different policies in the region. but that does not mean that we are not engaging with them. we are trying to understand each other, trying to not only -- and trying to bring stability to our