MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Good afternoon.  Thank you for joining us for this call today to preview the Secretary’s upcoming travel to Trinidad and Tobago and to Guyana.  Our briefer today is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti Barbara Feinstein.  Today’s call is on the record and is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

And now I’ll turn this over to Deputy Assistant Secretary Feinstein for some opening remarks.  Please go ahead.

MS FEINSTEIN:  Thank you very much, and thank you all for joining us today for this preview of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s travel to Trinidad and Tobago and to Guyana.  During this trip, Secretary Blinken will meet with some of our closest partners in the Caribbean to discuss a range of priorities, from food and energy security and climate resilience and finance to regional security and migration management.  The Secretary will also attend the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, heads of government meeting and the 50th anniversary of CARICOM celebration in Port of Spain.

The Secretary’s trip builds on the Vice President’s visit to the Bahamas on June 8th, just two weeks ago, where she engaged leaders from CARICOM and the Dominican Republic and made fresh commitments on issues of mutual concern.  These engagements testify to the unprecedented prioritization of the Caribbean region under this administration.  President Biden met with leaders of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic in June 2022 at the Summit of the Americas.  Vice President Harris has met with them in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and in Nassau.  Special Presidential Advisor Dodd, Special Envoy Kerry, USUN Ambassador Thomas‑Greenfield, and Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols have met with Caribbean leaders in the region more than a dozen times.

Caribbean nations are vital partners, friends, and neighbors.  We share an unshakeable commitment to democracy and the rule of law.  They are critical allies and thought leaders on a broad range of issues, including security, migration, climate change, finance, food security, and energy.  Through our diaspora, we share bonds of culture and history, which is particularly important to mention on this, the last day of Caribbean American Heritage Month.

In short, the Secretary’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana further deepens our diplomatic engagement with 14 steadfast democracies.

On July 5th, in Port of Spain, Secretary Blinken will meet with Trinbagonian Prime Minister Keith Rowley.  There, the Secretary will focus on our shared priorities of supporting strong democratic institutions in the region, committing to efforts to enhance energy security and climate resilience, including through the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis, or PACC 2030, and reaffirming the hemisphere’s regional and holistic approach to address irregular migration.  Secretary Blinken will also discuss efforts to tackle the climate crisis and improve citizen security in Trinidad and Tobago.

Secretary Blinken will also meet with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to discuss the political, security, and humanitarian crises in Haiti.  The Secretary will urge Prime Minister Henry to work urgently with Haitian stakeholders to enlarge the political consensus and fashion a political path forward that returns Haiti to democratic order.  Secretary Blinken will also engage Caribbean leaders on the multi-dimensional crisis in Haiti and reaffirm the United States’ strong support to the Haitian National Police and our support of the Haitian Government’s call for the deployment of a multinational force and/or peacekeeping operation.

Additionally, Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, the incoming chair of CARICOM, to discuss our strong partnership on regional migration, security, and renewable energy.

On July 6th, the Secretary will meet with President Irfaan Ali in Georgetown, Guyana.  Secretary Blinken and President Ali will discuss priority bilateral issues, including food and energy security and decarbonization, climate resilience, regional migration, and building local capacity.

Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are among our closest partners in the Caribbean.  We look forward to engaging with their leaders and partners across the region to discuss a share – a range of shared priorities and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of CARICOM.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you, DAS Feinstein, for those opening comments.  Rich, if you could please repeat the instructions for asking a question.

OPERATOR:  Certainly.  Once again, if you’d like to place yourself into the queue to ask a question, please press 1, then 0 on your telephone keypad.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thanks very much.  Let’s first go to the line of Shaun Tandon with AFP.

QUESTION:  Hey, there.  Thanks for doing this call.  Could I follow up on your – on your remarks on Haiti.  To what extent do you think these talks will talk about stabilization or some sort of international force for Haiti?  Are we looking for a greater role by CARICOM in that and do you see any progress on that soon?  Thank you.

MS FEINSTEIN:  Thank you for the question.  Well, of course, we see CARICOM as a key partner in addressing the challenges in Haiti.  In the aftermath of the Vice President’s visit to Nassau, we saw an important meeting that CARICOM held in Kingston, Jamaica, that brought together stakeholders, including Prime Minister Henry, representatives of the private sector, civil society, the key political parties and faith groups to talk about the issues that Haitians are facing, the challenges including security, governance, essential reforms to get back to a democratic order.  And some progress certainly was made in that meeting, and we see that as a critical step forward for Haiti.

With regards to a multinational force, it remains the United States position that that is critical that we ought to respond as a global community to the Haitian people’s call for enhanced security assistance given the untenable situation on the ground.  Of course, several Caribbean leaders have spoken up in support of such an effort, and we look forward to a broader conversation with the Secretary and the leaders, including Prime Ministry Henry, to talk about what can be done, including at the UN Security Council, to advance that effort.

MODERATOR:  Great, thanks very much.  Next let’s go to the line of Daphne Psaledakis from Reuters.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you so much for doing this.  Trinidad and Tobago has requested the U.S. Government amend the terms of a license authorizing the joint development of a promising offshore gas field with Venezuela.  Do you expect that this will come up at the Secretary’s meetings, and what changes were requested, and is this something the U.S. is open to?  Thank you.

MS FEINSTEIN:  Thank you for that question.  So as the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has stated publicly, we did issue – OFAC issued a specific license to the government to allow development of the Dragon offshore natural gas field located in Venezuelan maritime territory.  We took that step to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s ability to access additional natural gas resources and utilize existing onshore infrastructure to meet domestic demand, and to increase regional and global exports of LNG, ammonia, urea, and other gas-derived products, particularly in light of our commitment to assist the Caribbean region writ large with access to additional energy supplies.

And to that end, as a regional leader in LNG production, Trinidad and Tobago has committed to providing solutions to the region as it seeks to boost its production capacity.  So we are certainly open to further conversations with Trinidad and Tobago on this issue to see what can be done to improve energy security in the region.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you for that.  Let’s next go to the line of Iain Marlow from Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Hey there, thanks for doing this.  I just wondered how much Venezuela sort of more broadly will come up in these conversations, whether there’ll be any conversations between the Secretary, maybe yourself, and other aides about just the ongoing situation there and efforts with the opposition.  Is that sort of planned, or is there any sort of separate sessions related to Venezuela?

MS FEINSTEIN:  I can confirm that there are no separate sessions specifically scheduled to deal with Venezuela.  I would say broadly, as noted at the top of the call, the Secretary does want to talk about shared priorities in the region, including democracy and stability, and certainly Venezuela could come up in that context in terms of our push for free and fair elections there and a peaceful restoration of the democratic process in Venezuela.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you very much.  Operator, could you please repeat the instructions for asking a question?

OPERATOR:  Certainly.  If you’d like to place yourself in the queue, you may press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Well, thank you, DAS Feinstein.  That’s all the time that we have for questions today.  Thank you all very much for joining us.  As I said at the top, this call was on the record and embargoed until the end of the call, which will be momentarily.  Thank you very much.

U.S. Department of State

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