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Secretary Blinken’s Remarks to the Press

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good evening, everyone.  We’re here in Bahrain as part of what has been an intensive diplomatic push across the region.  Bahrain, of course, is a critical partner for the United States, home to the Fifth Fleet, and I want to thank His Majesty King Hamad for receiving us today and for the very good conversation. 

We were focused on making sure that the conflict ongoing now in Gaza doesn’t spread to other places.  That’s been our focus since October 7th, and it remains our focus today.  That makes it particularly important that we respond when we see something like the aggression coming from the Houthis that continues to be repeated, directed at shipping in the Red Sea.  There have been hundreds of attacks now since November on shipping in the Red Sea affecting more than 40 countries tied to ships with 40 different countries.  And we had the biggest attack – UAVs, missiles – just yesterday.  These attacks have been aided and abetted by Iran with technology, equipment, intelligence, information; and they are having a real-life impact on people. 

We talk about concepts like freedom of navigation and the importance of upholding it, and I know that can sound a little bit abstract, but it means something very real in the lives of people.  What’s happened because of these Houthi attacks against commercial shipping is that thousands of ships have had to divert, take longer routes, pay more for insurance, and that gets translated into higher prices for people for everything from fuel, to medicine, to food.  It’s disrupting supply chains and so it’s having a real impact on people around the world in their daily lives.

We know all about the hostages in Gaza; well, the Houthis have taken more than 25 hostages from the ships that they’ve seized since this fall.  So all of this has required us – this challenge, this threat to the interests of countries around the world, has required us to respond.  We put together Operation Prosperity Guardian with more than 20 countries, including Bahrain, to do everything we can to preserve freedom of navigation, freedom of shipping in the Red Sea. 

And in fact, the United States and the United Kingdom – two participants in Operation Prosperity Guardian – responded effectively to the attacks just yesterday.  We also had some 20 countries come together to make clear that if these attacks continue as they did yesterday, there will be consequences.  Again, this represents a clear threat to the interests of countries around the world, and it’s important that the international community come together and respond to that. 

We also talked here in Bahrain, of course, about the conflict in Gaza.  And we discussed the efforts that are underway to try to make sure that civilians are better protected, that we get humanitarian assistance to people who need it, and at the same time make sure that Israel can succeed in ensuring to the best of its ability that October 7th never happen again. 

But we also focused on the day after this conflict in Gaza and the important work that needs to be done to help Gaza get back on its feet as well as efforts that countries around the region are clearly prepared to make based on the trip this week to bring countries together, to integrate the region, and to do so in a way that provides for the security of Israel and also provides a pathway for Palestinians to a state of their own. 

Earlier today I had an opportunity to meet with President Abbas in Ramallah, and we talked about those efforts.  We talked as well about the importance of reforming the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian governance so that it can effectively take responsibility for Gaza that – so that Gaza and the West Bank can be reunited under a Palestinian leadership.  It’s very clear to me from President Abbas that he’s prepared to move forward and engage in all of these efforts. 

Indeed, as we speak, I think, President Abbas is with President Sisi of Egypt, with King Abdullah of Jordan, talking about these very issues.  And I can say that after this week in the region, it’s clear that countries around the region are seized with the need, first of all, to prevent the conflict from spreading, but also to design a better path forward for the region as a whole and particularly for Israelis and Palestinians alike. 

All of this work is going to continue in the days and weeks ahead.  There’s a real sense of urgency.  I’m feeling that from countries around the region, and we, the United States, will continue to be very actively engaged in trying to move things forward. 

With that, happy to take some questions. 

QUESTION:  Yes, Mr. Secretary.  You talk about responding; you talk about consequences.  Given that the Houthis have claimed credit for this attack – they said it was targeted towards an American warship – have we reached the point where talk of consequences have to turn into action?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, I’m not going to telegraph or preview anything that might happen.  All I can tell you is, again, we’ve made clear, we’ve been clear with more than 20 other countries that if this continues as it did yesterday, there will be consequences.  And I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION:  And you also talked about the Iranians being behind this, that they’ve been supporting the Houthis.  Do the consequences extend to the Iranians as well? 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, all I can tell you is that, as we’ve made clear and many other countries made clear, there’ll be consequences for the Houthis’ actions.  We’ve also repeatedly tried to make clear to Iran, as other countries have as well, that the support that they’re providing to the Houthis, including for these actions, needs to stop.  It’s not in their interest to see the conflict escalated, and we’re not the only ones who sent that message to Iran. 

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, it’s quite the trip again.  I wanted to come back with your – to your meeting with the President Abbas.  You said that he engaged himself to Palestinian reform.  Could you – did he really commit to reforming the Palestinian Authority?  Could you give us some specifics on that?  And more generally speaking, given – you called for today tangible steps on both sides, and specifically Israel also, looking forward to the creation of a Palestinian state.  Given that Israel is opposed to the very idea of a Palestinian state, how is that going to play out? 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So Leon, in terms of reform to the Palestinian Authority, look, I don’t want to speak for President Abbas, but I think what I take away from this meeting is that he is committed to that and is very much prepared to move forward.  And he’s going to – I know having conversations with other leaders in the region, and it’s I think very important for the Palestinian people that they have governance that can be effective, that can help deliver results for them.  And I believe that President Abbas is committed to doing that. 

When it comes to the broader path forward, as I said, even in this incredibly dark time, what’s so powerful in all our conversations throughout the – throughout this trip is that countries do see a way forward, a way forward through greater integration that actually provides real security for Israel and guarantees for that security, and a pathway to a Palestinian state.  Now, to get there, leaders have to make hard decisions, hard choices.  We can’t do that for them. 

But I think the more we can show what the future could look like and how it would clearly benefit people throughout the region, but notably Israelis and Palestinians, I think as that picture becomes sharper and as it’s clearer, that countries throughout the region are prepared to themselves make commitments, give guarantees, give assurances in ways that they weren’t in the past.  Then I think that the choice becomes sharper, and hard decisions may be a little bit easier to make. 

But a lot of hard work remains.  No one believes any of this will be easy, no one believes any of this can happen overnight.  But there is a clear and better vision for what the future could bring.  There are countries that are committed to try to help deliver it.  The United States is one of them. 

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-remarks-to-the-press/

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