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FOREIGN MINISTER WILMES:  Ladies and gentlemen, dames en herenmesdames et messieurs, let me first thank the journalists and the media who are following us from a remote location for their understanding regarding the format of this event.  We all know that the conditions are not optimal, but unfortunately, the pandemic forces us still to be creative, but we hope that it’s going to be ended up soon.

Mr. Secretary, dear Antony, let me reiterate my warm welcome to Belgium, hoping many other visits will follow.  Let me also tell you how much I appreciate the discussion that we just had together for an hour.  And I understand you had a very intensive couple of days with a lot of bilaterals, multilaterals forum.  We also had the opportunity to see each other at the NATO Ministerial meeting the last two days.

Let me start with a few words about the Alliance.  Both our countries are deeply committed to NATO and its core principle and its shared values.  You have engaged positively yesterday with all allies and I welcome this renewed dialogue.  Belgium is therefore eager to continue our excellent cooperation with the United States within NATO, of course, but also in the other international fora.  More than ever, I do believe that multilateralism is the only possible answer to the major challenges ahead of us.  Issues such as climate change or nonproliferation, for example, can only be addressed by joining forces, and we had an exchange on that earlier on as well.

Terrorism is another threat that we are facing.  The Brussels terrorist attack, of which we just commemorate the fifth anniversary, is a painful reminder of the need to defend together our common and fundamental values.  And again and again, I would really want to thank you again for the kind word that you had not only publicly on Twitter, but you did have – had all those kind words when we met in NATO, and we do appreciate that, really.  To this end, I will be pleased to co-host with you the next ministerial meeting of the D-ISIS coalition at the end of the month.

Today was also the occasion to have an exchange on a range of international issues of common interest.  We share the view that defense and democracy and human rights remains at the core of our diplomacy.  Belgium and the United States benefit from a deep and longstanding bilateral relationship rooted in history.  Our economic relations are also particularly impressive.  The U.S. is the first export market for Belgium products outside the European Union, and Belgium also, as such a small country, is also the 12th larger investor in the United States.  This shows the vitality of our business community.

I therefore really, really look forward to the upcoming Belgium trade mission that we plan in October to the East Coast of the United States.  It will be a tremendous opportunity to further strengthen our relations.

Dear Antony, Mr. Secretary, I’m looking forward to meet you soon in Washington, D.C., and to further deepen the friendship of – our two country enjoys.  The floor is yours.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you so much, and good morning, everyone.  And Madam Minister Sophie, thank you for your incredibly warm hospitality, but especially thank you for, I think, a meeting that was very strong evidence of a partnership between our countries bilaterally, multilaterally, that is really going to make a difference in the lives of our citizens.  And I have to say that I found from our conversation today, the conversations we had in the context of NATO, a tremendous solidarity between our countries and our approaches to the issues that really matter the most to our citizens.

As we look at the challenges we face around the world, there’s one very clear imperative, and that is the need for countries to work together to find new ways to cooperate.  Whether it’s climate, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s the challenge of emerging technologies, all of these things that actually have an impact on our people’s lives, not a single one of them can be dealt with effectively by any one country acting alone.  There’s a greater premium than at any time since I’ve been involved in these issues on finding ways to work together – again, on a bilateral basis, but also, critically, on a multilateral basis.  So I think we very much have the same perspective on how to meet the challenges of our time.

I came here very much with one particular focus in mind, and that was to make clear the United States determination to revitalize our alliances and partnerships, to re-engage strongly in them, and to work closely with our allies and partners.  For decades, these relationships, rooted in shared values, have provided the foundation for our collective security and prosperity, and we expect they will continue to provide that foundation for many years to come, provided we make the investments in them.

As I said yesterday, a fundamental part of any partnership and a basic tenet of the Biden-Harris administration is consulting with our friends early and often, and we do our fair share of talking.  It’s vitally important.  We also do our fair share of listening.  And it was tremendously beneficial for me, both at NATO in conversations with colleagues at the European Union, here today with you, to be listening attentively to the perspectives and ideas that our friends bring to the table.

And so Sophie, as you said, we had a very good opportunity now to compare notes and compare approaches on issues that matter to our people, and I think we’re very much in solidarity when it comes to dealing with COVID, when it comes to dealing with climate, when it comes to dealing with what remains of the terrorism challenge.  And indeed, we’ll have an opportunity next week to work together on that.

Needless to say, we are coming together.  We’re meeting at a time when we are facing very profound challenges, which include the devastating impact of this pandemic.  But we’re convinced that it is enduring relationships like the one between our countries and like the ones that exist through the European Union and through NATO – these relationships, these partnerships give us the confidence that we can overcome any of these challenges if we do it together.

So thank you again, Sophie, for today, but thank you also for the work I know we’re going to be doing together in the months ahead.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER WILMES:  A pleasure.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.


U.S. Department of State

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