FOREIGN MINISTER OSMANI:  Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, dear friends, colleagues, it is such an honor to have the opportunity to have you and to host you at the end of the day.  Thank you for visiting North Macedonia and thank you for participating at the OSCE Ministerial Council, which is in the run-up of North Macedonia’s chairpersonship of the OSCE this year that happened to take place in extraordinary times.  And the very founding principles and commitments of our organizations have been blatantly shattered by one participating state.

Russian aggression against Ukraine not only caused immense suffering in Ukraine but threatened the very existence of our organization.  And we had to chair the organization under this principle of no business as usual by maintaining 100 percent focus on Ukraine, but – and support to Ukraine not only politically in general but also on the ground in Kyiv, and also by turning the OSCE into a platform for political and legal accountability of the Russian Federation for its atrocities in Ukraine.

I’d like to thank you personally, the United States, and now my friend, Ambassador Carpenter, for the extraordinary support throughout the chairpersonship, and just to inform you that we resolved one of the critical, existential challenges, and this is chairpersonship of 2024.  I’d like to thank Malta for jumping in, but also all participating states for their support.

With regard to our bilateral relations, we hold dear our strategic partnership.  I was privileged personally with you (inaudible) launch strategic dialogue, being – North Macedonia being the first country from the Western Balkans to (inaudible) launched strategic dialogue.  And this was, I think, a recognition for North Macedonia’s success – we are Allies in NATO; we meet each other very often at NATO ministerials, but also, it’s a successful, functional, multiethnic democracy that leads by example, and behind that successful story that there are two pillars underpinning this story, and this is United States support and our (inaudible).  And I can count on your support for continuous assistance, and you can count on us in promoting our joint values.

So welcome and thank you for (inaudible).

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Minister Bujar, it is wonderful to be here – wonderful to be in North Macedonia, wonderful to be with all of our colleagues.  Coming from NATO, that seems appropriate because North Macedonia is such a strong ally and partner for the United States and for all of our other Allies in NATO, and we see that every single day.

And I have to tell you how grateful we are to you for your stewardship of the OSCE in what has been, as you said, a very challenging time.  But you’ve done it remarkably well and managed to advance the mission of the OSCE despite the very, very significant obstacles.  And I know you would have been willing to continue even longer, but I’m glad that Malta will take up the – take up the baton.

We have a strategic partnership that’s really focused on the work that we’re doing together as allies and partners, but also the work that we’re doing together on a bilateral basis.  And as you know, we strongly support your Euro-Atlantic integration, and we strongly support the work that you’re doing to strengthen even more your democratic institutions.  We strongly support the work you’re doing to bring greater energy diversification to the region and beyond that will have, I think, very powerful and profound impacts.  And in all of this, you can count on the United States as a strong partner.

And so, part of the reason that I wanted to make sure that I was here this evening was not only the OSCE, but also for North Macedonia and to demonstrate the partnership that we have and the appreciation that we have for it.  So, thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER OSMANI:  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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