MR PATEL: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon and thanks so much for joining this press briefing, previewing Secretary Blinken’s travels to Munster, Germany for the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting. This call is on the record; and joining us today we have Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Nerissa Cook of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, as well as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Howard Solomon for our Bureau of Eurasian Affairs as well. We will have some time for question and answers at the end, but with that, first I will hand it over to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Nerissa Cook.
MS COOK: Thank you very much, Vedant. I’m very pleased to be with all of you today and with my colleague, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Howard Solomon from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. As Vedant has mentioned, I’m Nerissa Cook. I’m acting principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Tomorrow, Secretary Blinken is traveling to Munster, Germany to participate in a G7 Foreign Ministers meeting at the invitation of Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the G7 this year. I first want to note our thanks to Germany for hosting the G7 and the first ever U.S.-German Futures Forum. On this call, I will preview very briefly some of the things to be discussed at the G7 and note some of the key elements of the schedule.
The G7 Foreign Ministers meetings are important opportunities to demonstrate leadership on shared goals and values, and address international security challenges. The Secretary is, once again, looking forward to the opportunity to engage with counterparts on a range of important issues. The Secretary will have meetings focused on Russia’s war against Ukraine, (inaudible) on the world, strategic challenges and engagements in Africa, partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, Iran, and Central Asia.
I’ll move now to the Secretary’s schedule, as it stands. He is slated to arrive in Munster on Wednesday, November 2nd. On Thursday, November 3rd, he will join German Foreign Minister Baerbock at the U.S.‑German Futures Forum in Munster for a moderated discussion entitled “The Future of Democracy in a Digital World.” The 2022 Futures Forum will bring together American and German experts and next-generation leaders from civil society, academia, the private sector, and government for two days to address the interplay of democracy and technology.
The Secretary will then participate (inaudible) foreign ministers, focusing on Russia’s war against Ukraine. The day will conclude with a reception for G7 foreign ministers, and a working dinner framed by a discussion of the G7’s shared interest in a free and open Indo-Pacific.
On Friday, November 4, the Secretary will attend morning meetings focused on the ongoing protests in Iran and the violent response by the regime. Other topics of discussion will include regional stability, infrastructure, energy, and climate issues in Central Asia. A working lunch with senior African officials from Ghana, Kenya, and the African Union will focus on regional topics, including the Sahel, northern Ethiopia, and the Great Lakes. This will be followed by a family photo.
The Secretary will then participate in an afternoon meeting on strategic challenges for the G7 and Africa. Attendees will discuss the global consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine, particularly on food and energy security. The foreign ministers will conclude this G7 meeting with the public release of the chair’s statement on the topics discussed in Munster, as well as a joint statement with African representatives on the challenges discussed.
And that concludes a brief summary of the schedule of events for the G7 meetings, and with that I will turn it back over to you, Vedant.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. We will now try and take some Q&A. Our speakers do have a hard out, so we’ll keep an eye out on time. But, Operator, would you please repeat instructions for asking questions?
OPERATOR: Once again, if you would like to ask a question, press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.
MR PATEL: Why don’t we first go to the line of Ed Wong with the New York Times.
QUESTION: Hi, Vedant. And hello, everyone. Thanks. My question is: Can you give us a little bit of background on the energy-related discussions that will take place? I know the G7 finance ministers had said that they plan on implementing an oil price cap, at the same time that the embargo – the partial embargo takes place in early December in Europe. Can you discuss where things stand right now and whether that will be a subject of conversation at this meeting?
MR SOLOMON: Yeah, this is Howard jumping in. So, definitely there has been a lot of close coordination with the EU and with our bilateral European partners on the response to Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine. As we’ve seen, there have been a number of rollouts of sanctions by the U.S. There have been eight packages that were introduced by the European Union. And among the different measures there has been, of course, the idea of a price cap. And so, I fully expect that – this is something that was recently adopted in the recent European Council, I believe, in terms of measures that the European Union is putting into place, so I’m sure our other G7 partners, not only the Europeans, are going to be anxious to continue that discussion.
MR PATEL: Let’s next go to the line of Michaela Kuefner with DW News.
QUESTION: Yes, hello. I have a question as German Chancellor Scholz will be heading to China, as Secretary of State Blinken will be holding talks with other G7 foreign ministers about strategic interests – also in the Asia Pacific region. What expectation will he convey of Germany, particularly against the backdrop of Germany now allowing China to have a stake in the Hamburg harbor? And also there being discussions over a chip factory being sold into – to a company that is Chinese-owned? Does that match the expectations of a strategic partner? Will that be raised by Secretary Blinken, and does it match the expectations the U.S. has of Germany?
MR SOLOMON: Yeah, this – Howard again jumping in. So, we have a very robust discussion with our German counterparts. And the Secretary, I’m sure, will have an excellent discussion with Foreign Minister Baerbock on a variety of topics, including on the challenges and the opportunities presented by the PRC. We’re well aware of the upcoming trip and, of course, the cases that you’ve laid out. But in general, not only with Germany but with our other partners, there is a growing convergence of views on approaches to the PRC, on the challenges that are presented and the possible opportunities, as well.
I think we’ve recognized that there is, of course, a need to coordinate on issue ranging from ensuring that we have stability in terms of the cross-straits tensions, and looking at concern with some of the statements that came out from the recent 20th party congress on Taiwan. So, I’m sure – not to get ahead of discussions, but there will be discussion on that. Of course, looking at the issue of fair trade practices, at protection of intellectual property, at the human rights concerns in Xinjiang, Tibet, and other areas – and these are all areas where we work closely with Germany and other partners as well.
So, I think in this case we’re looking forward to a very good discussion in the framework of the G7. And as I said, there seems to be a growing unity in terms of positions and approaches. Over.
MR PATEL: All right. That – it looks like – those are all the questions we have for today. Thanks so much everyone for joining. Actually, wait, no – just seeing another one come in. Hold on. Why don’t go to the line of Humeyra Pamuk from Reuters?
QUESTION: Hello. Thanks for doing this. Certainly, we can’t end with two questions. Just wondering on – I was just wondering, on Ukraine, what the overall message will be, as we enter the winter months – and which is going to have an impact on the battlefield. We’ve also seen a few protests across Europe over the soaring energy bills. It’s a known fact that there are disagreements on certain aspects of the war between U.S. and Europe. Are you – how confident are you that you will be able to showcase transatlantic unity or, like, overall, just unity when it comes to Ukraine?
And secondly, I’m specifically curious if the U.S. will ask Germany to do more in terms of security assistance to Ukraine. Thank you.
MR SOLOMON: Yeah, Howard jumping in again. Thanks for that question. I think there has been really, tremendous cooperation by our European partners in terms of the response to the current situation in Ukraine. There are a number of lines of effort, in particular as we head into winter. We continue to talk about ways in which we can support Ukraine, and I’m sure this conversation is going to carry forward within the G7, looking at things from macroeconomic financial support, direct budgetary support, to military assistance, to humanitarian assistance, support for refugees, and helping Ukraine in terms of reconstruction as well. And we just recently had a summit or a meeting hosted by Germany October 25th on this.
So yes, of course, there are challenges presented. And with recent developments, whether it’s with Russia’s unprecedented and heinous attacks on critical infrastructure of Ukraine and targeting civilian infrastructure and civilians, to addressing the issue of food security and unfortunately Russia’s withdrawal from the UN-brokered agreement, I think there’s a lot of common positions and solidarity – I think among populations as well even within Europe, within the United States, in terms of the need to support Ukraine’s heroic efforts to stand up to this invasion by Russia, or re-invasion. Over.
MR PATEL: Thank you. Next let’s go to the line of Warren Strobel with The Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Yeah, thanks for doing this. I was wondering if you can talk a little bit more about the discussions that will take place about Iran and its domestic situation. Is it primarily aimed at just showing support for the aims of the protesters, or do you think the ministers will discuss next specific steps they can do to help, such as help with communications that have been severed and so forth?
MS COOK: This is Nerissa and I’ll take that. I think the – one of the main focus, as I said upfront, will be on the ongoing protests in Iran and the response by the regime. But I would not be surprised if other elements of Iran are discussed, but we do not want to prejudge how that discussion goes.
MR PATEL: Let’s go next to Laurie Mylroie with K24.
QUESTION: My question was just asked, but maybe I could press Nerissa a little bit more. The Iranians are selling vital arms to Russia for its unprovoked and aggressive war in Ukraine. Don’t you expect that that’s going to be an issue particularly as Europe is Ukraine’s neighbor; no entity is more threatened by that war than Europe. Don’t you think Iranian arms sales to Ukraine – to Russia are also going to be an issue?
MS COOK: I think that it’s likely to be the case, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PATEL: Laurie, I have no doubt that a wide range of Iran’s malign activities in the region, especially the proliferation of their UAV networks that we’ve seen being used in Ukraine, will be discussed. But as Nerissa said, we just don’t want to get ahead of the meeting or the process, and as some of these events will have more robust readouts after they take place.
Thanks so much again, everybody, for joining. That’s all the time for questions we have, unfortunately, for today. As I stated, this call is on the record, and we’ll talk to you all again very soon.