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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  It’s a pleasure to be able to receive Foreign Minister Popescu, to return some of the very warm hospitality that the foreign minister, the president, the prime minister showed me and our team when we were in Moldova just a couple of months ago.  And needless to say, this is an especially timely visit given the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine and the challenge that it poses to other countries in the region.

We in the United States strongly support Moldova’s independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and we continue to work very closely together in practical support of all of those things.  I have to say, Nicu, that the humanitarian response that you’ve provided to the Russian aggression in Ukraine is extraordinary, something like 400,000 refugees from Ukraine going to and through Moldova, about 100,000 or so will remain in Moldova.  And the generosity that Moldova is showing – the Moldovan people are showing – is really exceptional.  We have tried to be as helpful as we can be, including at the most recent conference that took place to help support the efforts that you’re undertaking, and we’ll continue to do that.

I’m very pleased much more broadly, though, that we are actually coming together as a result of our strategic dialogue.  We welcome you for that, glad that you had an opportunity to meet with other colleagues and for the dialogue to go forward so that our partnership could even strengthen, especially in these challenging times.  So welcome.  It’s great to have you.

FOREIGN MINISTER POPESCU:  Thank you very much for this – for these kind words.  And this year the United States and Moldova have 30 years of diplomatic relations.  This is happening around with – in these first few months of the year.  And in this period, the United States has been a strong supporter of Moldovan independence, of Moldovan reforms, of Moldovan democracy.

And we are very grateful for this support, and this occasion of my visit to Washington with strategic dialogue that we are relaunching now is focused on key elements that would allow Moldova to continuously strengthen its resilience, its capacity to perform as a democratic state and society.  And today I met your colleagues, and we have been – we’ve structured our dialogue on three – on three pillars, if you want.  One working group was on energy and economic issues; the second working group on rule of law and anti-corruption; and the third group on political and security cooperation.  And all – on all of these three fronts, we think that our relation is excellent.  We have a very good interaction with your colleagues, and we’ve always felt U.S. support for Moldova.

Of course, we are in a very difficult region at a very difficult time.  And everyone in Europe is affected by this war.  Everyone in Europe feels less secure than just two months ago, but that is a new situation that is challenging also us in Moldova.  As you mentioned, we have had a huge wave of refugees.  Almost 4 percent of our population are refugees today.  Half of them are minors under 18 years old, so this represents 10 percent of our population of minors in Moldova.  With that dramatic numbers, we have been handling the situation reasonably well, but of course that affects us all and that will continue to affect our region and our society for a long time.

Of course, we from the first days and hours of the war, we have strongly condemned the Russian aggression of Ukraine – against Ukraine, and we’re looking forward for a peaceful resolution of this war which is completely unjustified and is making whole of Europe less secure.  And just this last thing that matters for us and for our government is to continue our strong focus on reforms, strong focus on delivering of the mandate given by our population, and this mandate presupposes a fight against corruption, economic progress, modernization of our country, because I think it’s important for us but it’s also important for everyone else in the region to show that democracy works in our part of the world and that the reforms pay off and that people can feel the results of these reform efforts.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.

U.S. Department of State

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