SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good morning, everyone. I can think of no better way, at least for me, to kick off this High-level Week than with all of you, so welcome. Some of you have already been doing things, but for me, this is the first meeting of this High-level Week, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be with friends and colleagues.
To all of you, since we last had a chance to meet back in June in Riyadh, we have continued working to build a more stable, secure, and integrated region, benefiting people in the Gulf but also benefiting people around the world. At the G20 just a couple of weeks ago, President Biden and other leaders, including from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, announced a landmark agreement – rail, shipping, digital, and energy corridor that will stretch across the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East, and Europe.
Through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, we are facilitating greater trade and manufacturing, clean energy deployment, and high-speed rail and internet access – and in the process, strengthening food security, expanding opportunities for people in all concerned countries, and making our supply chains more secure.
These efforts reflect our conviction that a more integrated Gulf and a more integrated Middle East can deliver genuinely transformational results for the region and for the world. That’s why we all have a stake in addressing shared challenges and this powerful shared opportunity. The UAE will be the host of the COP-28 in just a few months’ time – a first for the Gulf. Through groups like the Negev Forum, we’re working to strengthen everything from water security to health security, and having a tangible impact on the lives of our people.
But countries are also working to address the leading threat to regional security: Iran. We’re cooperating to deter Tehran’s aggression and destabilizing activities, including the threat posed by its nuclear program. And we’re working to uphold freedom of navigation, such as through a multinational task force that is protecting ships in the Strait of Hormuz.
The United States and the GCC remain committed to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and we continue to urge both parties to refrain from any unilateral steps that undermine its prospects. We’re also working with countries in the region to broaden and deepen their normalization relations with Israel.
In Yemen, the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Oman, helped forge and maintain a UN-led truce. We’re transitioning to a Yemeni-led process to advance a durable peace while working to address significant shortfalls in critical humanitarian relief where both countries can play a leading role.
Meanwhile, last month UN agencies and Gulf partners successfully offloaded oil from the Safer tanker off the coast of Yemen, preventing the potentially catastrophic spill. And I commend all of those involved in getting that resolved.
Finally, we believe we have to continue to press the Assad regime in Syria to make meaningful and enduring progress toward resolving the Syrian conflict and addressing the acute needs of the Syrian people.
This is only, very briefly, a fraction of our collective efforts to advance peace, security, and opportunity in the region and around the world. That also includes working on the conflict in Sudan and pushing for a just and durable peace in Ukraine, reflecting the principles at the heart of the United Nations Charter, which brings us together this week in New York.
The United States has invested in our relationships with you and with your countries, and we’re invested for the long haul.
So we very much look forward to hearing from you today on how we can continue to build on our lasting partnerships. And I’d now like to invite my colleague from Oman to say a few words.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-BUSAIDI: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your opening remarks, for your welcome, and for your engagement. We really (inaudible) something (inaudible). And we’re really delighted to be here in New York to have this joint GCC-U.S. meeting today. And so on behalf of the (inaudible) for the GCC, I would like to express our appreciation to the United States (inaudible) for hosting this meeting today, and we also hope that this will be another successful annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
In this context, I also want to affirm our commitment to maintaining our good relationship and our friendship with your country, and, of course, with those whom we share this UN system (inaudible).
The GCC welcomes a dialogue with everyone, and aims always to find points of agreement and convergence on which we can build substantive progress.
We look forward to a very encouraging and constructive exchange of views today on so many topics – some of which you have alluded to, Mr. Secretary – and are confident that we can take further steps in the enhancement of our already existing relationship. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, my friend. And could I turn now to the secretary general of the GCC?
SECRETARY GENERAL AL-BUDAIWI: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. (Inaudible), your highnesses and your excellencies, I would like to express my great pleasure to participate at this important gathering under the framework of GCC-U.S. Strategic Partnership to fuel the regional and global development since we met last in Riyadh in June. In addition to global challenges, our region is facing the threat of nuclear proliferation, (inaudible) missiles (inaudible), and threats to maritime security and freedom of navigation, in addition to the political instability and internal conflicts in Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, such as recent development with Iraq. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, with frequent flare-ups threatening (inaudible) peace and security and preventing it from reaching its full potential.
Since we announced in May 2015, the GCC Strategic Partnership has sought the strength of our cooperation in all areas through maintaining regular engagement at all levels. There have been five summits at the heads-of-state levels, numerous ministerial meetings, and specialized working groups to translate this partnership into effective, practical steps. Our partnership has been mutually beneficial and has contributed to efforts to bring peace and prosperity in our region and to the rest of the world.
Your highnesses and excellencies, GCC-U.S. partnership is anchored around solid historical ties, shared interests, and belief that the UN-centered multilateral system is the best foundation for peace and security. The GCC Strategic Partnership with the United States is at the forefront of our priorities, and this meeting underscores that fact. GCC and the United States had five joint summit (inaudible) in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2022. Our meeting at the ministerial level have provided clear guidance on how our partnership should function and evolve.
There have been more than 10 GCC-U.S. working groups and task forces convening areas such – covering areas such as integrated air and missile defense, maritime security, cyber security, logistic military (inaudible), military training exercises, special operation, counterterrorism, trade, investment, and other areas of cooperation. These GCC-level groups are addition to – to bodies established bilaterally between the U.S. and member-states. The integrated air and missile defense and maritime security joint working group met in Riyadh in February 13-14, 2023 to further enhance cooperation in these two important areas of military cooperation.
In June, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command hosted a two-day multilateral maritime security meeting for 90 senior military officers and diplomats from 22 nations, including GCC member-states. The counterterrorism working group and the Iran working group, two of the most active bodies set up under the umbrella of GCC-U.S. partnership, also met in February. In March, the GCC secretariat hosted the fourth GCC-U.S. trade investment dialogue, where specialized discussed – discussion, ways facilitate trade and promote investment.
As agreed, we hope that before the end of this year (inaudible) the following ones, additional meeting of all working groups will take place to further achieve common objectives, including cyber security, military exercises, training, and streamlining (inaudible) of critical defense capability, as well as integrated air and missile defense and maritime security working groups.
In conclusion, Mr. Secretary, I look forward to productive meeting that will move our partnership further to face the growing challenges. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Secretary General, thank you very much.