Secretary Antony J. Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly at a Joint Press Availability

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly at a Joint Press Availability

USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24 originally published at USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everybody.  James, my friend, we’ve been around the world together on many occasions already – everywhere from New York to Münster to Bucharest, just in recent months.  But it’s a special pleasure to have you here at the State Department for the first time in your current role, and we’re adding another chapter to a very long history of this Special Relationship at a time when it could not be more important and could not be more vibrant.

In each of these engagements, our shared work to confront the threats posed by President Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine was at the top of the agenda, as it was today.  Both President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak have committed to standing with Ukraine for as long as it takes.  And our teams are in lockstep as we coordinate our efforts both with one another and also with our many allies and partners.

We remain committed to sustaining our security assistance to Ukraine as it defends its people against Russia’s brutal attacks, like the one we saw just this weekend on an apartment building in Dnipro on Saturday – far from the front lines.  The senseless attack was launched from a missile designed to sink ships and killed dozens of people, wounded scores more.  The youngest was just three years old.

We applaud the prime minister’s commitment over the weekend to send Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems to Ukraine, elements that will continue to reinforce and add to what the United States has provided, including in our most recent drawdown.

We remain united in strengthening our humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people, especially as President Putin continues to weaponize winter by attacking Ukraine’s electricity grid.  Through the G7, we’re working with the United Kingdom and other partners to help Ukraine repair, restore, and defend that grid.

And we joined in applying economic pressure through coordinated sanctions and export controls on Moscow, holding President Putin and his enablers accountable, imposing costs designed to deprive Russia of the resources it needs to keep fueling its war machine.

We’re undertaking these efforts and more to put Ukraine in the strongest possible position when a negotiating table emerges so that there can be a just and durable peace.  That is our common objective.

At the same time the Russian military attacks Ukraine’s energy supplies, Putin is using energy to try to punish countries that support Ukraine.  We’re working together in several ways to ensure that these efforts fail as well.  We’re increasing the supply of liquified natural gas from the United States and the United Kingdom.  We’ve improved information sharing on ways to strengthen the market for energy smart appliances.  We’re investing and developing and deploying new clean energy technologies all across Europe.

In the face of these challenges, it’s striking that many citizens of the United Kingdom and across the continent are rationing their energy use, taking quicker showers, lowering their heat.  They understand the stakes of this war and they, too, stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

The foreign secretary and I also had an opportunity to discuss Iran.  We stand with the British Government in condemning Iran’s execution of Iranian-British dual national Alireza Akbari, which was politically motivated and unjust.  It fits a pattern of abuse by the regime: detentions, torture, forced confessions, unjust executions.

We’ll continue to work with the United Kingdom and our other allies and partners to hold Iran’s leadership accountable for these and other abuses.  We’ll keep standing with the brave Iranians who are standing up for their own basic rights led by young women – all of this in the face of extraordinary repression.

We discussed matters as well related to the People’s Republic of China.  We welcome the United Kingdom’s commitment to deepening its engagement in the Indo-Pacific.  We look forward to continuing our close consultation on a host of issues in the region, including maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

We also support the United Kingdom’s increased focus on national security risks to the sensitive technology sectors.  In recent days, the United Kingdom has denied export licenses to research laboratories funded by foreign defense companies and blocked the transfer of sensitive intellectual property.

Our conversation also touched on Northern Ireland.  I affirm President Biden’s unequivocal support for the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, which over the past 25 years has been integral to preserving peace, stability, and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland.  The United States believes that there must be a negotiated settlement to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol that’s acceptable to all sides.  And we’re heartened that in recent days the United Kingdom and the European Union have made substantive progress towards the negotiated solution.

Last month, we appointed Joe Kennedy as our new Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs.  A career public servant, Joe will draw on his extensive experience to support economic growth in Northern Ireland and to deepen our nation’s people‑to‑people ties with all communities.

This September will mark an important occasion in our own Special Relationship – the 75th anniversary of the UK-U.S. Fulbright Program.  It’s supported over those years more than 27,000 students, scholars, professionals – spanning disciplines from art and science, to history, to mathematics – as they travel between our countries and learn from and grow with one another.

That bond between our people is the beating heart of this relationship.  It’s carried us through challenging times.  It’s created opportunities and innovation to the benefit of both of our people, and, I might add, for the world.  I know that it will keep us connected closer than ever this year and in the years to come.

And with that, James, over to you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CLEVERLY:  Tony, thank you very much.  I’m delighted to pay my first official visit to Washington as foreign secretary.  As you’ve said, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to meet and work together over the last few months since my appointment in multilateral fora, where we reinforce often our respective positions.  And I am incredibly grateful to Secretary Blinken for this opportunity to discuss a wide range of foreign policy issues and to reaffirm the unbreakable friendship and enduring alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Now, as it happens, we are meeting on the 80th anniversary of the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, where Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt – and their respective military chiefs, General Alanbrooke and General Marshall – planned the liberation of Europe and planned the victory over aggression.

And as Secretary Blinken said, the main subject of our talks today was Ukraine’s current struggle against aggression in our time.  From the onset of this crisis, Britain and America have worked hand in glove to help our Ukrainian friends defend their homeland against Putin’s aggression.  Ukraine’s heroic armed forces have liberated thousands of square miles, and I have no doubt they can win in their battle for freedom.  As you will have seen, Britain has decided to accelerate our support, including the supply to Ukraine of main battle tanks, heavy artillery, and other military systems.

Secretary Blinken and I are hugely encouraged not just by the unity between our two countries, but the transatlantic unity between the United States and Europe and the support from nations on every continent.  Almost a year after Russia’s attack against Ukraine, which broke the fundamental principles of international law – and we see them committing acts of barbarism wherever they advance – what we see is dozens of countries supplying Ukraine with weapons and enforcing sanctions against Russia.  And I pay particular tribute to the United States of America, the largest military and economic donor to our friends in Ukraine, reinforcing this country’s longstanding to – longstanding commitment to protecting freedom and opposing tyranny wherever it rears its ugly head.

And whilst three-quarters of the entire membership of the United Nations voted to condemn this invasion, we should remember that never in living memory has Russia been more isolated and the Atlantic Alliance more united.  If Putin believed that the world would succumb to Ukraine fatigue and lose the will to resist his ambitions, then that was, once again, another colossal misjudgment on his part.

As Tony said, we also discussed the situation in Iran, where the regime has committed a cowardly and shameful act by executing a British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari.  I’m very grateful to the United States of America for publicly condemning the execution and for Secretary Blinken expressing his condolences in our meeting a few moments ago.  And also, our two countries stand with the brave and dignified people of Iran as they demand their rights to live free of terror and oppression.  And the UK has sanctioned involved with the execution of Mr. Akbari and those involved in the oppression of their own people, including the Iranian prosecutor general.

For years, Iran’s leadership have inflicted bloodshed on their regional neighbors by arming and supporting military extremists and militias.  Now Iran has gone further and supplied Russian with the drones that were used to kill civilians in Ukraine.  And the UK will join with the U.S. and other allies to hold the Iranian regime to account for the violations of the rights of their own people and by making themselves accomplices to Putin’s assault on Ukraine.

Another threat to the international peace and security comes from Iran’s nuclear program, which has never been more advanced.  And the U.S. and the UK are determined that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.

We also discussed China’s growing assertiveness on the world stage, which poses a systematic challenge to many of our values and interests, and we recognize the need to manage competition with China, including through diplomacy and engagement.  And we spoke of the need to enhance, with our allies and friends, our respective economic security, and we also need to take a long view, strengthen our resilience, and reduce strategic dependencies.

But nor can we ignore China or the need to engage with it, given China’s significance on every issue in world affairs, ranging from economic stability to climate change.

Britain and America share a steadfast commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.  And the AUKUS partnership – a decade-long project to provide a nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine capability to Australia – is only possible because of the unique bond of trust between us.

We also spoke about Northern Ireland and our negotiations with the EU and our efforts to resolve the issues of the Northern Ireland Protocol.  And we recognize the interest that the President of the United States has on this – on this issue, and his desire, which is shared of course by us, to see the institutions of the Northern Ireland back up and running.

In all these areas, and indeed many others, Britain and America are working in concert in the greatest tradition of our alliance.  And I thank you, Secretary Blinken, once again for the opportunity to discuss these issues here in Washington.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  We’ll now turn to questions.  We’ll start with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, gentlemen.  Mr. Secretary, first I do want to ask you both about Ukraine.  But first let me just ask you, because while you were at the State Department, not at the White House and the Vice President’s Office, you were for two years the managing director of the Penn Biden Center, and just ask if you were aware of any reason why classified documents would have been packed and brought there while you were there, and whether you would be available for an interview if the special counsel requests.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The short answer is no.  Just as you heard from President Biden about a week ago, I was surprised to learn that there were any government records taken to the Penn Biden Center.  I had no knowledge of it at the time.  The White House of course has indicated that the administration is cooperating fully with the review that the Justice Department has undertaken, and I of course would cooperate fully with that review myself.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  On Ukraine, the world has been horrified by what happened in Dnipro over the weekend.  And this brutal attack only reinforces President Zelenskyy’s requests for more weapons, including long-range missiles from the United States, tanks, fighter jets, attack – obviously Apaches, whatever else they need.  The secretary, the foreign secretary, has said that we need to go “further and faster” and give them what it takes to win.  Why has the United States not provided more of these long-range weapons, more of these systems?

And Mr. Foreign Secretary, the U.S. has said that they were concerned about – that they are concerned about Russia’s response by provoking a further escalation.  Is that not a concern for Great Britain, or do you think that that is overstated and that there is a greater need, as you have certainly expressed by your own actions?

Thank you both.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m happy to kick it off.  Andrea, thank you.

First, I think it’s important to say that as this aggression has evolved, so too has our assistance to Ukraine – making sure that it has what it needs to meet the aggression head on.  And as I said before, that started long before the Russian aggression.  When we saw the storm clouds gathering in the months before the aggression, we initiated what we call drawdowns of our own military equipment to Ukraine to make sure that it had on hand what it would need if Russia went through with the aggression.  So Stingers, Javelins – all of those were provided initially around Labor Day a year ago, and then again before Christmas.  So this is months before the Russian aggression.

The result of that was that when Russia went in, when they attacked, the Ukrainians had on hand what they needed to repel the effort to take Kyiv, to take the whole country.  And then of course, the war has evolved.  The aggression has evolved; it moved to the south and the east, and that’s where it’s been.

But if you look at the trajectory from Stingers, to Javelins, to HIMARS, to Bradley Fighting Vehicles, to Patriot missile batteries, we have continuously provided what Ukraine needs.  And we’re doing it in a way to make sure that it’s responsive to what’s actually happening on the battlefield as well as projecting where it might go, making sure as well that the Ukrainians are trained on the systems that were provided, that they have the ability to maintain the systems, because if they’re not trained and the systems can’t be maintained, it’s not going to do you very much good for very long.

So all of these things taken together have been critical to the success that Ukraine has had to date.  It starts with their own courage and resilience, but it’s certainly been strongly supported by our two countries and many other countries, and we continue to adapt along the way.

Now, all of that totals for, on the part of the United States, some $25 billion in security assistance to Ukraine over less than a year.  And I would anticipate that you’ll hear more announcements in the days to come.  There’ll be a meeting again at the end of the week of the so-called Ramstein group that Secretary Austin put together to make sure that we’re coordinating security assistance among many countries.  So stay tuned for more on that.

But the bottom line is we are determined to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to succeed on the battlefield.  As we’ve said, the fastest way to bring this war to a just and durable end, to get to diplomacy, to get to a negotiation, is to give Ukraine a strong hand on the battlefield.  That’s exactly what we’re doing.

The last thing I’ll say just because I have the opportunity to address this.  There had been a narrative that the Russians were trying to push for many weeks and many months that they’re interested in diplomacy in Ukraine and we are not.  That of course is entirely false, but I think you only have to look at Putin’s own words in a recent conversation with President Erdoğan of Türkiye in which he says unless and until Ukraine accepts the new territorial realities, as he put it, there’s nothing to negotiate.  In other words, unless and until Ukraine acknowledges and accepts the fact that territory that Russia has seized by force, it’s not getting back, there’s nothing to negotiate. That of course is in and of itself a nonstarter.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CLEVERLY:  Andrea, look, I said in my opening remarks and I’m going to reinforce it here: we should never lose sight of the fact that United States of America is the single largest donor of military and economic aid to support Ukraine’s self-defense of any country in the world, and the UK is very proud to be number two in that pecking order.

And it’s very easy to get focused on individual equipment types, and of course tanks are the headline of today.  But in our package of military support there were heavy artillery, the AS-90 system and the M-109 system, the 155-caliber guns, as well as 105-caliber guns, as well as 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, millions of rounds of small arms ammunition.  That was part of the package that we put forward.

But we should also recognize the importance of the Patriot missile system.  This is an incredibly sophisticated and important piece of air defense equipment.  We’ve seen the horrors that Ukraine is having to endure because of air attacks, and so those air defense missile systems, the 50-plus Bradley armored fighting vehicles that were recently announced, these are really significant, meaningful donations to the military effort.

From the UK’s point of view, we certainly value the longstanding commitments that the United States of America has made.  The contributions that we are making in the UK both in terms of equipment and training, we do so standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States of America, as we have done throughout this.  I was at the United Nations Security Council meeting literally sitting next door to Secretary Blinken when we together warned the world of what Putin was about to do.  We knew what his intention was, we provided that warning to the world, and we have both physically and metaphorically been shoulder-to-shoulder in our condemnation of Putin’s actions and our support to Ukraine ever since.  And I think it’s really important the American people recognize what is – what their own government in doing in support of freedom and in opposition to this aggression and oppression.

MR PRICE:  Nick Allen.  Nick Allen of The Telegraph.

QUESTION:  Thanks very much.  A question for each of you, please.

For Secretary Blinken, another question on tanks.  Germany suggested today that it won’t allow tanks to be sent to Ukraine unless the U.S. sends them first.  What’s your response to that?

And for the foreign secretary, did you pledge today that the Northern Ireland Protocol issue will be resolved by the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and did you discuss whether President Biden will visit the UK in April?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So on the question of tanks, and for that matter any weapons system, these are sovereign decisions for each country to make.  I would note that what Germany has done to date has been quite extraordinary, and we’ve just had the recent announcement that they’ll send infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine and a Patriot missile battery.  And that follows a long line of other steps that they’ve taken that I suspect most of us would not have thought, if not possible, certainly probable just a year ago.  But these are fundamentally decisions for each country to make as something that we respect.

We’ve seen incredible solidarity among countries around the world to support Ukraine.  And as I mentioned, Secretary Austin is going to be hosting another meeting of all of the countries that are involved in providing support to Ukraine at the end of this week, and I would expect further announcements to come out of that meeting.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CLEVERLY:  Thank you.  With regard to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the negotiations with the European Commission, I did update Secretary Blinken on that.  Those negotiations – as I have said publicly and Maroš Šefčovič has also said publicly – have been negotiated – have been conducted in good faith, with a genuine desire to get resolution to these important issues.

And of course we always welcome the – visits from senior members of the United States Government, including of course the President himself.  But I want to make it absolutely clear that our desire to get resolution on the issues of the Northern Ireland Protocol are because we want to see the institutions of the Good Friday – Belfast Good Friday Agreement up and running.  We want to see devolved government in Northern Ireland in Stormont back up and running.  We want to see a free flow of trade within the UK internal market whilst respecting the desire of the European Union to protect its single market.

And we do these things because they are the right things to do, not because we are trying to hit a particular date or anniversary.  We want to get these things resolved as soon as possible so that the people of Northern Ireland can enjoy full economic freedom, can enjoy the relief packages that the UK Government has put in place to address some of the issues of, for example, energy prices that have increased as a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  We do these things for those reasons, and of course, as I say, we recognize the President and I think the whole of the U.S. Government’s desire to see this resolution.  It mirrors our desire to get these things resolved, and indeed, I believe very strongly mirrors the European Commission’s desire to get these things resolved.  And we will continue working hard and in that good spirit of cooperation.

I’d make the point that I have tried to keep our negotiations discreet, and I think that discretion has actually helped us get some things over the line, so you will understand that my intention is to continue keeping those – the details of those negotiations discreet.

MR PRICE:  Courtney McBride, Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  You’ve highlighted the evolution of security assistance to Ukraine from the U.S., the UK, and various allies and partners and said that you’re doing things that were not previously thought possible.  I’m curious about what changed, what was the motivating factor that actually spurred that beyond just adapting to the changes in the battlefield environment, and also what obstacles remain both individually and collectively to get Ukraine to the point of that swift and decisive victory for which the foreign secretary has been advocating.

And then finally, on NATO accession for Sweden and Finland, which you’ve both said would be additive for the Alliance, what role are your countries playing in trying to expedite that process?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I don’t think anything has changed.  As I said from day one and before day one, we have sought to make sure to the best of our ability and to the best ability of many other friends and partners who are determined to support Ukraine that we were getting to the Ukrainians what they needed when they needed it to deal with the situation they were facing on the ground.  And as we discussed just a few minutes ago, that – what they’ve been facing has evolved.  That’s what’s changed.

And so we’ve tried to make sure that we’re as responsive as quickly as possible to the evolutions on the battlefield, not only where it is geographically but the kinds of things that the Russians are doing, as well as the kinds of things that the Ukrainians need to do to regain the territory that’s been taken from them by force.  So I think that’s been the evolution.

And again, what you’ve seen in – just in recent weeks, not only from the United States and the United Kingdom but from many other countries, is a continued commitment to make sure that the Ukrainians do have what they need.  And you’ve seen countries in Europe provide everything from fighting vehicles to light tanks, air defenses, ammunition, artillery.  All of that continues to come forward to the Ukrainians.

We’re now in winter.  There continues to be ferocious fighting, particularly along the eastern front.  I anticipate that that will, unfortunately, go on for some time.  But we are determined together, as well as with many others, to make sure, as I said, that the Ukrainians have what they need to recapture, regain what they’ve lost and to deal with the Russian aggression.  So that hasn’t changed.

With regard to Finland and Sweden and NATO, there’s been a process, an ongoing process involving Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden, and I think that process has been very productive in addressing some of the concerns that Türkiye has raised about its own security, and both Finland and Sweden have taken significant steps to address those concerns.  And we anticipate that this process will move forward in the weeks and months ahead.

There’s a strong consensus among NATO countries for bringing Finland and Sweden into the Alliance.  You’ve seen that in the extraordinary rapid signing of the protocols, the ratification now by 28 of 30 NATO members of Finland and Sweden’s accession, and we look to the process that’s ongoing between Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden to move this forward and move it forward expeditiously.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CLEVERLY:  Well, really, all I can do is find myself reinforcing the points that Secretary Blinken has made.  I mean, in your question you said other than the evolution of the battle, what has changed – I mean, it really is as simple as that.  At the start of this conflict, when the Ukrainians were defending themselves against heavy armor attacks in urban locations in and around Kyiv and Irpin and other places, what they needed were those small, portable, hand-held anti-tank missile systems, because in the congested real estate of urban warfare, those were the most effective weapon systems that they could have utilized against tanks.  And the NLAW systems that we provide – manufactured in Northern Ireland, by the way – as well as the Javelins systems that the United States of America provided, and others, were absolutely instrumental in helping the Ukrainians defend themselves in those urban areas.

As the battle then moved to more attacks from the air, the air defense systems that we have subsequently provided became key, and now we see more conflict in open spaces, in open ground in the east and the south, which therefore necessitates more maneuverist equipment – the ability to fight and maneuver simultaneously.  That has very much been the evolution of the response.

As Secretary Blinken has said, the Ramstein process where we sit with our international friends, the members of the NATO Alliance, to discuss what we can provide – what equipment is available, what equipment is ready to go on stream, what equipment the Ukrainians need – is essential.  Then it’s – it’s about providing the right equipment at the right time so they conduct the right kind of fighting.  And of course the work that the UK has done and the U.S. is doing in terms of training Ukrainian troops so that they can be more effective with the equipment and ammunition that we are providing them, that they can utilize our donations most effectively and maintain the equipment most effectively, is also important.  And that process will continue and we will evolve our support just as the battle evolves.

And all I can do is echo the words that Secretary Blinken said about Sweden and Finland.  I have absolutely no doubt they will be incredibly effective allies.  And I would make the point that in both those countries, they had a longstanding posture of not formally affiliating with NATO.  That changed as a direct result of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  His actions were designed to break NATO as a defensive Alliance, and what he did instead was strengthen NATO as a defensive Alliance.  Add that to the charge sheet of strategic-level miscalculations that Putin has been making throughout this endeavor.

MR PRICE:  We’ll take a final question from Robert Moore of ITV.

QUESTION:  Thanks for taking these questions.  I wanted to follow up with a question about Iran following the killing of Mr. Akbari.  I mean, you’ve both said here today and, Foreign Secretary, you said in the House of Commons that you will hold Iran to account.  Can you be specific about what you mean given that these sanctions that you refer to have been in place for some time?  And I wonder more broadly where this leaves our Iran policy.  Do we regard leaders in Tehran as legitimate interlocutors in terms of the nuclear talks?  Are they dead in the water or are they on life support or can they be potentially kept going even following the killing of Mr. Akbari, even following Iran’s provision of so much weaponry to Russia?

FOREIGN SECRETARY CLEVERLY:  The execution of Mr. Akbari was a politically motivated act, and we acted swiftly to sanction the people involved with it, including the prosecutor general.  We have already sanctioned members of the so-called morality police and of the members of the Iranian judiciary who have been involved with the crackdown of the legitimate protests of the Iranian people.

I would make the point that there have been around 500 fatalities because of the crackdown from the Iranian regime against their own people; 18,000 people arrested by the Iranian regime.  And the point that I would make is the leadership of Iran is a decision for the Iranian people, but I would just make the simple observation that the Iranian people are telling their government that they are not at all happy with the situation that they are living under and the limitations and privations.  And it is in the hands of the Iranian Government to make those changes.  They call – they call for us, for the U.S., for us, and our friends to lift sanctions.  And the point that we have made is that if they want to see those sanctions removed, they have to fundamentally change their behavior.  Sadly, we’re not seeing any indication that they are ready to do so, and unfortunately that is as true with our efforts to prevent them acquiring a nuclear weapon as it is in the crackdown on the protesters and the persecution of their own people.

It is in the gift of the Iranian leadership to bring about change.  We will continue to act in response to their behaviors, and you’ll have to excuse me, I’m not going to speculate about what further measures we might take.  But I said at the dispatch box just before flying to the U.S. that we do not limit ourselves to the response that I have already announced.

But we will continue to speak to Iran where we’re able to and we hope that at some point soon they will listen properly to what we’re saying, because I don’t believe that a country with a multi-thousand-year history of sophistication and art really wants to have the international reputation of ugliness and brutality that Iran currently has.  They are betraying their heritage.  They are objectifying – sorry, they are oppressing their own people.  And the simple message I would put across is that they should change – not for our benefit, not because of what we say or do, but because their own people are demanding that they do so.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And really, I can only strongly echo what the foreign secretary has said.  We were appalled by the execution of Mr. Akbari, just as we’ve been appalled by everything we’ve been seeing on the streets of Iran over the last months since these protests began – mass arrests, sham trials, the executions, the use of sexual violence as a tool for protest suppression.  We, the United Kingdom – but not just us – countries around the world are watching this, seeing this, and share the revulsion that we have.  And these abuses will not go without consequence.  Together with many other countries, we’ve been moving forward with a variety of unilateral actions, multilateral measures, using UN mechanisms to try to hold Iran to account.  And that’s played out in a number of different places in a number of different ways, and it will continue as long as necessary.

With regard to the JCPOA, the Iranians killed the opportunity to come back to that agreement swiftly many months ago.  There was an opportunity on the table that they rejected, an opportunity that was approved by all who were involved – the Europeans, the United States, Russia and China even at the time.  And so the JCPOA has not been on the agenda as a practical matter for many months now.  It’s not our focus.  We’re focused on what’s happening in Iran.  We’re focused on what Iran is doing in terms of the provision of weapons to Russia to use against innocent people and the entire energy grid in Ukraine.  And of course, we’re focused on its other destabilizing activities throughout the region.

What is also very much in our focus is the President’s commitment, President Biden’s commitment that Iran never acquire a nuclear weapon.  Now, we continue to believe that the most effective way to do that is through diplomacy, and we saw the results and success of diplomacy when it comes to the original JCPOA, which put Iran’s nuclear program in a box.  And it was a terrible mistake to have torn up that agreement and walked away from it, and now we’re dealing with the results.  The results include, as the foreign secretary said, Iran making very significant progress on its nuclear program, and that represents an additional challenge to the other things that Iran has engaged in.  But, as I said, the JCPOA right now is not on the table.

Last thing I’ll say is that when it comes to diplomacy in general, you tend to spend a chunk of your diplomacy engaging with countries with whom you have profound disagreements or worse, including outright adversaries.  That’s the nature of what we do.  And the one thing that’s clear is that engaging in diplomacy, including with those who are engaged in outrageous actions, is sometimes necessary to try to advance our interests, and it never takes the word “no” from our vocabulary.

MR PRICE:  Thank you, gentlemen.  Thank you, everyone.  That concludes the press conference.

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