Wrap up on Blinken
Antonia Williams, Centro Studi Americani
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up the last leg of an eight-day long trip to Europe on Tuesday with a one-day gathering with foreign ministers from the Group of 20 major economies in the southern Italian city of Matera.
The meeting was the last of a multi-leg European trip that started days earlier in Berlin, followed by Paris, Rome, the Vatican, Bari, and Matera.
(Here is a recap of what happened this week)
In Berlin, Secretary Blinken met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to discuss how to further strengthen the U.S.-Germany ties and addressed common challenges such as recovering from pandemic, the climate crisis, as well as Russia-China relations.
Blinken also participated in the Second Berlin Conference on Libya to support national elections planned for December 24, the withdrawal of foreign forces.
It is crucial that Libya holds a national election in December as the only way to ensure peace and stability in the North African country, Blinken said.
“We share the goal of a sovereign, stable, unified and secure Libya, free from foreign interference,” he said. “For this to happen national elections need to go forward in December. That means urgent agreement is needed on constitutional and legal issues.”
He also met with Libyan and other foreign leaders on the margins of the conference to discuss mutual concerns, according to a statement from the State Department.
In the second leg of his trip, Blinken arrived in Paris where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The leaders discussed mutual areas of cooperation, shared values, including global security and of course, a course of action and recovery from the pandemic.
Meanwhile in Rome, Secretary Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio co-chaired a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. On the margins of the meeting, the Secretary participated in a Syria Ministerial to discuss the crisis in Syria and underscore the importance of meeting humanitarian needs and aid.
He also had bilateral meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Mario Draghi to underscore the U.S.-Italy partnership’s important role in addressing key global priorities.
On Monday, Pope Francis hosted talks with Blinken in the wake of a decision by American Catholic bishops that could lead them to deny communion to President Joe Biden, media reports said.
While it was not clear if the topic was brought up in the talks at the Vatican, they held 40 minutes of private talks at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace after a separate meeting with the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price, said in a statement that Blinken, Parolin and Gallagher discussed several topics including human rights and religious freedom in China.
Price added that Blinken and the pope discussed China, issues surrounding refugees, climate change, Lebanon, Syria and Ethiopia.
-G20 foreign ministers meet for first time in two years-
For the first time in two years, G20 foreign ministers met face-to-face with the aim to push multilateral remedies for global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ways in which to improve cooperation on a series of issues including global health, climate emergency and international trade.
While the ministers in Matera included the top diplomats of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and India; those of China, Brazil and Australia chose to follow the discussions online by video link. Meanwhile, Russia and South Korea sent deputy ministers.
Speaking at the gathering, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said: “The pandemic has highlighted the need for an international response to emergencies that transcend national boundaries.”
Italy and the United States shared a common goal as Rome has set particular attention to Africa, with an emphasis on sustainable development, while Secretary Blinken reiterated the importance of bringing vaccines to poorer countries that might struggle with obtaining doses.
“To bring the pandemic to an end, we must get more vaccines to more places,” Blinken said, adding that the health crisis had worsened economic inequality worldwide, and the G20 would continue to help low-income countries address “their significant debt vulnerabilities’.
The G20 members account for more than 80 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP), 75 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the population of the planet.
Italy, home to the U.N. food and agriculture agencies, has invited development ministers and wants to bring global food security and nutrition to the forefront of their agendas.
-Blinken talks to La Repubblica-
Speaking with La Repubblica, Blinken said that the United States hopes for a more stable and predictable relations with Russia, however if Moscow continues to “be aggressive”, Washington will respond.
“If Russia is going to continue to take reckless or aggressive actions, we’ll respond — not for purposes of conflict, not to escalate, but because we will defend our interests and values,” he told the Italian daily.
Blinken – who was in Rome for a meeting on international efforts to combat Daesh (ISIS) – referred to the SolarWind cyberattacks and the attempt to poison jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Earlier this month U.S. President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva that certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyberattacks.
China however was “the most complicated” when it came to relations Blinken said, but added the United States respected the different relations countries had with China and that it would not ask any of them to choose between the two countries.
“I think we see adversarial aspects to the relationship, competitive aspects of the relationship, and cooperative ones. There’s no single word that can define it,” he said, adding that, when dealing with China, “we are much more effective if we’re working together.”
Blinken also said that Italy had made important efforts in drafting legislation aimed at protecting its 5G network from “untrusted vendors” and that it should continue to carry out checks should investments from other countries arrive.
The United States has lobbied Italy and other European allies to avoid using equipment made by Huawei in their next- generation networks, saying the Chinese company could pose a security risk. Huawei has rejected the accusations.