SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  I’m very pleased to have Sigrid Kaag here at the State Department to talk about her absolutely vital mandate conferred by the United Nations Security Council to help maximize the humanitarian assistance that’s getting in to people in need in Gaza, and also to think about and plan for the longer-term reconstruction of Gaza when the conflict ends.  I’ve had the opportunity in years past to work very closely with Sigrid, including on the disposition of the chemical weapons from Syria back in 2015 and 2016, but her mission now could not be more vital, and we strongly and fully support it.

We’ll be working very closely with Sigrid, with Israel, with Egypt, with other concerned parties in the first instance to maximize the assistance that’s getting in, but not only getting in to Gaza, getting to people who need it within Gaza, including in the north.  And in that, the United Nations remains an essential and vital partner.

At the same time, we have to work through the terrible allegations that have been raised with regard to some UNRWA personnel.  That’s absolutely essential and we’ll be looking to see that the necessary work is done to deal with that and address that situation.  But here today we have an opportunity to compare notes on the practical steps that need to be taken, again, to make sure that assistance is getting to those who need it.

MS KAAG:  Thank you very much, Tony, and indeed, I’m extremely honored and have the privilege to meet you again, Mr. Secretary, Tony.  We’ve been entrusted with a strong mandate by the Security Council, very much also supported by the United States, to form a common objective – that is, getting humanitarian aid, assistance in to the innocent civilians of Gaza.  They need it, we need to help them sustain, we need to give them prospects.  And it’s quite a tough task, but with that, of course, we need the support not only of the Security Council but also member-states of the region, and I’ve managed to travel, I’ve had good discussions and collaboration with the Jordanian Government, the Egyptian Government, and also the Israeli Government.

It’s not an easy task, but it’s something where we cannot fail. And some of the obstacles or the challenges are practical – the volume, quality of aid; sustainability of aid; getting it to the right people inside Gaza is what we stand for and what we need to deliver on. 

Now, there are a number of issues we also need to keep talking about, and that is de-confliction – safe conditions to deliver aid not only for the humanitarian workers but also for those who receive it.  We also need to talk about aid diversion, and any potential risk that aid gets into the wrong hand needs to be prevented, and if it happens, we need to act very swiftly in a very transparent and credible manner.

There are a number of options that we want to discuss today.  I’ve briefed the council yesterday and I feel very heartened by their strong support.  It’s not an easy road, but as the Secretary said, common objective is to assist people in need through humanitarian assistance and, hopefully not so long before us, through commercial goods, because we need those goods for the early recovery as well as the reconstruction of Gaza at the right time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thanks, everyone.

U.S. Department of State

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