SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, welcome, colleagues.  So greatly appreciate that we’re meeting here today, and especially appreciate our friend (inaudible) together.

So we’re joined here today by many esteemed colleagues and counterparts from across West Africa and some of our closest diplomatic and security cooperation partners to have, I think, an important, timely, serious conversation about the threat of terrorism and insecurity in the Sahel and Littoral West Africa.

The United States greatly values the strong partnership as well as the continued leadership and sacrifices in support of African and regional security.  We deeply appreciate the leadership that countries are showing, including reinforcing democratic norms, good governance practices, resolving conflict, combating terrorism, facilitating humanitarian access, hosting refugees, and facilitating economic opportunity and trade.

What we hope we can accomplish today is to continue to build on this close partnership as we discuss security cooperation and other shared practices and priorities on governance, on climate, on health, on education, and food security.

So again, really greatly appreciate (inaudible) come together, look forward to a good and timely conversation.

U.S. Department of State

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