Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan

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November 6, 2023

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Matthew Miller:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan today in Ankara. Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Fidan discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict, including the need to prevent the spread of conflict throughout the region. Both agreed on the critical importance of protecting civilians and ensuring humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in Gaza. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Fidan emphasized the importance of the longstanding U.S.-Turkish cooperation as NATO Allies and Euro-Atlantic security priorities including Sweden’s NATO accession.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s Remarks to the Press

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hello, everyone.  We just had a very good, lengthy, productive conversation with Foreign Minister Fidan here in Türkiye, covered a lot of important issues that the United States and Türkiye are working on together, including the efforts to grow and expand NATO.  We’re very pleased that the ratification protocols were signed by President Erdogan and are now before the Turkish parliament.

We talked about the important work that we’re doing in support of Ukraine.  Türkiye has played a critical role over the last couple of years, particularly with Black Sea Grain Initiative and trying to get food out of Ukraine, as well as supporting its electricity grid.  We discussed our work to strengthen our counterterrorism partnership, to work as well at growing our economic relationship through trade and investment.

And, of course, we discussed the crisis in Gaza, including the efforts to significantly expand humanitarian assistance to people in need, efforts to prevent the conflict from spreading through other parts of the region, and what we can do to set the conditions for a durable, sustainable, lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

On the humanitarian piece, I think we’ve made some good progress in recent days in working to expand that.  Ambassador Satterfield remains in the region working that every single day.  We’ve also had very important conversations throughout this trip with countries in the region on the role that everyone can play in making sure that the conflict doesn’t expand, doesn’t spread to other countries.  And of course, we remain very focused on the hostages held by Hamas, including Americans, in making sure we’re doing everything possible to bring them home.

One of the common denominators that I’ve heard throughout this trip is the imperative of American engagement, American leadership.  Every country I talk to is looking for us to play a leading role with our diplomacy to try to make progress on all of these different aspects of the crisis.

From here, we’re heading to Japan for a meeting with the G7.  I’ll have an opportunity to debrief my colleagues on what we’ve learned and what we’ve done during this trip, and to continue that work and carry it forward.  And of course, I’ll be consulting and debriefing President Biden and discussing with him the way forward in the days ahead.

At the same time, we’ll be not only in Japan but also in Korea, and then on to India.  I think that’s evidence of the fact that even as we are intensely focused on the crisis in Gaza, we’re also very much engaged and focused on the important work that we’re doing in the Indo-Pacific and in other parts of the world to advance American interests.

With that, happy to take a couple of questions.

MR MILLER:  Jenny.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you, Mr. Secretary.  You mentioned people are looking to the United States to make progress on all these points, but thus far we’ve seen very little concrete apparent progress on a lot of the issues that you raised here.  Israel continues to reject the humanitarian pauses.  We continue to see these images coming out of Gaza of the civilian toll here.  So given all of this, do you feel that you accomplished the mission you set out on this trip?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  All of this is a work in progress.  Look, we know the deep concern here for the terrible toll that Gaza is taking on Palestinians – on men, women, and children in Gaza, innocent civilians – a concern that we share and that we’re working on every single day.  We’ve engaged the Israelis on steps that they can take to minimize civilian casualties.  We’re working, as I said, very aggressively on getting more humanitarian assistance into Gaza.  And we have very concrete ways of doing that, and I think you’ll see in the days ahead that that assistance can expand in significant ways so that more gets into people who need it and gets to the people who need it, as well as making sure that people can continue to come out of Gaza.

I think we’ve had important conversations – and more than conversations, we’re making sure that the different influence and relationships that countries in the region have, including the countries that I visited or spoke to, that they’re using that to make sure that this conflict and crisis doesn’t spread.  And that’s critical, and I think countries are very much engaged in trying to make sure that that doesn’t happen.  So that’s important.  And sometimes the absence of something bad happening may not be the most obvious evidence of progress, but it is.

And also tremendously important are the conversations we’re having about how we can set the conditions, as I said, for a just and durable and sustainable peace.  And I think we had very important engagements with many of the countries in the region on that so that we’re doing that work.  Even as we’re focused on the day of and getting through this crisis, we’re also focused on the day after and making sure that there’s a better path forward coming out of it.

So I think in each of these areas, we’ve made progress, and I come back to the proposition that what I heard in every single place, in a variety of ways, on all these different issues, is the indispensability of American leadership, of American diplomacy, of America engagement. Countries are looking for us to do things, and we don’t, obviously, agree on everything.  But there are common views on some of the imperatives of the moment that we’re working on together, and in other areas we’re making sure that we’re communicating clearly and understanding where each other’s coming from.

QUESTION:  But if I could quickly follow up, Mr. Secretary, have you seen the Israelis actually take any of these steps that you discussed with them on Friday?  And how long can this call for a pause versus a ceasefire be tenable given the opposition we are seeing in the region?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  As I said, we’re working on all of this almost every single minute.  We’ve got Ambassador Satterfield, who remains parked in the region, working on the details every day, particularly with regard to humanitarian access and significantly increasing what’s getting in.  As I’ve – as I discussed the other day, when it comes to humanitarian pauses, we’re engaged with the Israelis on the particular practicalities of that.  One critical aspect, though, is seeing progress on hostages.  That’s something we’re intensely focused on.  But we also believe that a pause could help advance that proposition as well.

And we’re also very focused not only on Gaza, but what’s happening in the West Bank.  We’ve made very clear our concerns about extremist violence in the West Bank. We’ve heard the Israeli Government make commitments on dealing more effectively with that, and we’re watching very closely to make sure that that happens.

MR MILLER:  Vivian.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you.  You just touched upon, actually, what I wanted to ask you about, which is regarding the hostages.  You just came out of meetings with Türkiye.  Do you believe that Türkiye, Egypt, Qatar – the countries you’re working on to release the hostages – still have enough leverage to be able to work with Hamas to get some of those hostages out?  Or is that completely out of the question at this point unless Israel stops its bombing campaign?  And if I may, just a really quick one, unrelated:  With regard to Türkiye, have they given you any assurances that they are – that they are prepared to support Sweden’s accession into NATO?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So on the hostages, Vivian, you’ll understand I can’t get into the details of that.  I can say that this is an intense focus for us, and we also believe and we’re seeing that other countries can play an important role in helping to get hostages back.  I’m very much convinced that that remains the case and that not only is there still opportunity, there’s a necessity, to see that happen.  And it’s important that other partners, to the extent they have relationships, use those relationships to help, and I still believe that’s possible.

With regard to Sweden, we were very encouraged by the fact that President Erdogan signed the ratification protocols, sent them to parliament.  And I’m convinced that we’ll see forward movement on that.  I think there’s a shared commitment to make sure that we complete the process, that Sweden joins the Alliance.  That’s a commitment that Türkiye has, that we have, and I would expect that we’ll see that come to fruition.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.  Thanks, everyone.


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