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President Azali: — very important and also at that time very particular. The collaboration is more than needed.

The US and Comoros have always had very good bilateral relationship. I remember there was an embassy in the Comoros but for [a] particular reason, that embassy has been transferred in Madagascar. But our hope — I just talked about that with the Deputy Secretary of State, that we would have a US embassy in Moroni to talk directly and to be able to improve that relationship and move forward regarding the challenges that we are all facing.

So the visit that Mr. Richard is doing in the Indian Ocean region, Mauritius, Comoros and tomorrow in the Seychelles, it’s very important. It’s very important for the region because we live in a very strategic region in the Indian Ocean. There are a lot of potentials and opportunities regarding international cooperation, but unfortunately we know that — unfortunately piracy is a terrorism in our region. We all know what is going on in Mozambique and that’s why we need to tackle those challenges and that’s why this visit in this region is very important.

So thank you to President Biden for this visit and also to ensure long-lasting collaboration and relationship.

We also have a bilateral relation[ship] that we need to deepen, to strengthen. Thank you for your remarks as far as the reinforcement of the bilateral relationship. So I think, and now I’m addressing to the government, we need to have an operational administration and capitalize any investment around the cooperation of the two countries.

I was invited as the G7, as the President of the African Union, but I also had the opportunity to talk about Comoros. I talked with President Biden. We’ve been talking about multilateral relationship[s]. He said that AU would be [a] permanent member of the G20, so the next summit in India this year, Africa will be considered as [a] permanent member of G20. So we’ve been talking about that.

But we also talk about security challenges. About multilateralism and a vision that we African countries would have all the potentials that we have now. Now everybody agreed that Africa has its place in the world so that we can be [a] member of the Security Council.

So as part of the African Union we have seen acceleration of the free exchange zone. It’s a very big ambition so that Africa can be autonomous in all domains either food or health. We need to take all measures after COVID-19 to be able to fight those kind of pandemics.

So it’s a very big ambition for Africa and I will accelerate it. I’ve been mentioning that to President Biden, how the US can help the CAF but also with our honorable guest related to bilateral relationships. I even asked that if it was possible to have mission of private sector here in Comoros to discuss with the private sector, the Comorian private sector, so that it ensures economic development in Comoros. We want support to reach [inaudible], I think the private sector is the heart of development of the country and there is a funding that will come and in the civic education we are going to include the private sector regarding the coming elections. Election is democracy and we are used to the electoral process. We want it to be fair and free to give to a few of the countries from the international view.

So we think that we are going on a very good way.

Unfortunately what we see in East Africa is a little bit bad, but I think that we’ll be able to fight against it through all the years, and maybe after 2024 we will be able to really tackle those challenges.

In 2006 I was defeated. I think Comoros is in a good way because I won again the election so now I’m calling my brothers from the oppositions to get together, to ensure free and fair elections so that we can convince the partners to support us.

And because election is the best way to have democracy.

So we are asking our partners to support the country and either the civil society, the opposition, the ruling party, so that we can move forward to get transparent and free elections.

When we talk about civil society we have the media. We need professional media, so talking about the amount of money for civic education, we are going to include the media team for us to be able to have professional media team so that the media has freedom as well and be able to do their job so that we can say that the media is free professionals. We already have professional media, but some really need to deepen training to be able to reach that objective.

Regarding security, because I know that everyone knows that we can’t do anything if there is no security. And about security we talk about war terrorism. So I think that after many workshops we’ll be able to fight against any challenges regarding security.

So we need to prevent — if we what is going on in Russia and Ukraine. They are big countries, but if it happens to Comoros, we don’t have enough power to fight against [them], but we need to prevent. So we need to keep training and work with partners to be able to prevent in the framework of security, either about internal challenges or the borders. We talk about maritime security. It’s not easy. But we have partnership with the United States and France. We will be able to protect our borders with all resources so that we can capitalize our resources for the interests of the country.

We will try to use those resources to fight against piracy, illegal fishing. So we need cooperation and partnership. We need support regarding what is happening in Africa – Sudan – and with Saudi Arabia, we will try to find solution in the African Union. We are really onto it and we hope that we can convince that the two parties will agree to sit down and discuss so that Sudan can find its freedom again. We can’t afford having problems in African Union countries. I think everyone is aware that many things are needed and I thank the United States for its support in Sudan.

Regarding support in energy and food security, thank you so much. Climate, we are an insular country so we are really exposed in many climate challenges, especially in renewable

energy. We have potential. We need to get the maximum either in solar, geothermic, so thank you so much for your help and support. And with other partners we can move forward.

This partnership with the United States in renewable energy but also what we did with fisheries already, we need to capitalize that because up to now we couldn’t capitalize resources, maritime resources. So the main goal is to be able to capitalize those resources for the development of the country.

And most importantly, we need to include young people so that they are models of development for the country. We need to train our youth and they need to be trained for those coming projects.

We also talked about training at the university. We will celebrate the 21st anniversary of that university, so we need partnerships to be able, to move forward. Nowadays Comorians, young Comorians, we really need adequate training. Going abroad, for example, because we need skills from abroad. We need to help each other. And also to end up. Thank you for that support. Thanks for your visit. Thank you Madame. Ambassador, because I know that you work very hard in this bilateral relationships. So hopefully we will have a US embassy here in Comoros so that we can talk more about how we can improve the bilateral relationship.

I mentioned to President Biden that we are with the United States in everything we need to do multilaterally and all challenges that have been mentioned. We are ready to contribute, to move forward.

Again, thank you very much.

Moderator: [As-Salaam-Alaikum].

We are really honored to our country today His Excellency Richard Verma, Deputy Secretary. After Mauritius he is here in the Comoros and after here he will be in the Seychelles.

After this meeting with His Excellency, the President of the Republic we are going to have the declaration first from Myanmar, and then remarks from the President of the Republic. We will then take four questions. Two questions for the D-MR and two questions for the President of the Republic. Then we will take a picture afterwards, and then we will get refreshments. Thank you very much.

Mr. Secretary of State, the floor is yours.

Deputy Secretary Verma: Good morning everybody. Thank you so much, President. Thank you for your warm hospitality.

It’s incredible to visit Comoros for the first time. I only wish I could stay longer to see more of your beautiful country.

My visit follows the African Leaders Summit which President Biden hosted in December. At that summit the President committed to 2023 as a year of deep US engagement and travel across Africa. We’ve already seen this with Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Blinken and others, and we’ll see more before the year is done. I’m proud to visit Comoros and to be the most senior U.S. diplomat to ever visit this beautiful country.

My visit also comes in a year when Comoros is the Chair of the African Union for the first time. I want to congratulate the President and the people of Comoros for this historic opportunity to demonstrate leadership among African nations to solve African problems. And to contribute to our shared effort to address the global challenges we all face, from climate change to food insecurity to global health.

I want to commend the President for his leadership that he’s demonstrated so far as the African Union Chair. Thank you, Mr. President. And in particular for supporting international action to end the fighting in Sudan and ensure humanitarian access.

I have traveled all the way to Moroni to deliver a simple message on behalf of President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken and the American people to the Comoros people, we value and intend to deepen our relationship with Comoros.

In the past two years our bilateral relationship has made tremendous progress. We will further expand our relationship in five key areas: development assistance, democracy and governance, security cooperation, economic and commercial ties, and people to people ties.

Let me start first with development assistance.

Today I am pleased to announce that we plan to provide $5 million for Comoros in development assistance to support food security, energy, and workforce development. This funding will make a real difference in the lives of ordinary citizens.

Second, we will partner on efforts to promote democracy, good governance and human rights. That is why in preparation for your 2024 elections we plan to provide $600,000 to support civic education. This will help the people of Comoros understand their rights and obligations to bolster democracy.

Third, we are committed to expanding our security partnership. The United States understands the importance of maritime security in Comoros and we intend to provide drones and associated training, subject to our congressional notification, to help Comoros secure its maritime domain.

Fourth, we will seek to grow our economic and commercial ties, particularly in renewable energy and fisheries. As one example, Gigawatt Global signed an MOU in March to invest up to $100 million over five years to develop renewable energy in Comoros. And I am pleased to announce that the US government’s Power Africa Initiative will support Comoros in its efforts to expand clean energy availability through technical support including transaction advisory services.

Stronger ties between people foster stronger ties between nations. So today we are opening a newly renovated American Corner at the University of Comoros. A state-of-the-art venue which will allow the people of Comoros to join conversations, both in person and virtually, about important issues that face your community and our world.

Thank you again, Mr. President. Thank you for welcoming our delegation so warmly. I look forward to working with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Q: Good morning, Mr. Deputy Secretary. I have one question for the Deputy Secretary about good governance and democracy.

[[Inaudible] for public media or creation of independent trust. I also want to know in your program, are you going to [omit] the opposition party as well?

Deputy Secretary Verma: I think the subject of democracy promotion is very important. It’s also part of our shared values between our two countries.

The program that we’ve announced today is about civic education and about elections specifically and how to participate in the elections and why elections are so important for citizen participation. Hopefully this is just the beginning of our work in this field of democracy which includes so many other areas. As you mentioned, the importance of a free press, strong civil society, an active electorate. Those are all key components of our democracy work around the world.

I don’t think we’re meeting with any of the opposition officials today, but it really is more because of my schedule and the fact that we’re here for such a short time. But I look forward to coming back and continuing to work on these programs in much greater detail. I think today, again, it’s a very exciting announcement, not only in democracy but in our other areas, in environment and energy and so much more.

Q: I will ask a question to the Secretary, Deputy Secretary of State.

You mentioned initiative for the population, but will there be possibility for scholarship for students?

Deputy Secretary Verma: Is he talking about scholarships to the United States?

One of the great things about the State Department is that we run a range of fellowship opportunities, study opportunities, partnership opportunities. So as we increase our contacts with the country here I think we can look at the whole range of programming that’s available, not only sponsored by the U.S. government but by private foundations as well.

There’s a whole bureau in the State Department that focuses on these kinds of exchange programs and what this creates is a longstanding partnership where we have lifetime partners and colleagues that we can work with, and a very strong alumni network throughout Africa and the world.

I will tell you personally, my father was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1963 to go from India to the United States. Fifty years later, his son went back as the US Ambassador. So it’s a good story.

Q: A question for the President.

Mr. President, good morning. In your remarks you called your opposition to contribute in a free and fair election. The opposition is asking that the Army would be in, would be here during the election.

And about [inaudible] you mentioned, Deputy Secretary of State.

President Azali: Regarding the second question, I told him that the United States is our friend so we will ask them to be our mediator, but we discussed about it, we didn’t really deepen that subject.

So about election, they understood, the United States understood that we need their support. For 20 years, during those 20 years there has been many changes. But of course we still need, a lot needs to be done. In 20 years we’ve seen a lot of improvement, ruling party and the opposition.

We have, I think we can be very proud of our progress, but I reiterate the call to the opposition to work together to reach democracy. Democracy is that elections should be done in a free and transparent way. And together, and I emphasize together, we can all benefit from it. We can all contribute to move forward.

So when we talk about security, be assured we will talk about with the observers, how like we used to do it. How can we have efficient security? So we don’t see only military people moving around and frightening people. We need to make sure that we don’t have boycotts during elections. We need to make sure that it’s transparent. The military can stay where they are, but if there is something wrong we can always call them. How we can secure those elections?

Now we will ask help from the international community, how they can support us to move forward. But I am confident we already have a opposition here. We already have some discussions. So if you still have other concerns, we can always discuss, but the main objective is to have a free and transparent election so that in 2030 we can convince our partners to accompany us in our progress.

Thank you.

Now we invite Mr. President and the Deputy Secretary and the Ministers to take pictures.

U.S. Department of State

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