Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama at a Joint Press Availability

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama at a Joint Press Availability

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  (Via interpreter) Dearest U.S. State Secretary, dear Tony, it’s always a remarkable day of special meaning in the history of Albania’s international relations, the day when a U.S. state secretary visits our country.  Well, in our books you are the sixth state secretary visiting, but this time we have a special appreciation of this visit, as we are very much aware of the troubled times happening not only in the European world but also in other areas of strategic importance for the global balances.  Consequently, actually this is something that adds especially to the burden of your agenda.  The very fact that you found time and saw it necessary to stop in Tirana is, to us, a very important sign of our friendship but also of your appreciation of this friendship, of this partnership, and of course, the appreciation of this region.

Well, I cannot help but share with the public the regret that between a dinner with us in Albania and a dinner in Munich, where you have to depart quite immediately, you chose the not-so-tasteful German food.  Well, we did our best.  Our dinner was ready.

We are highly honored by the visit of the state secretary today, and I could say without any diplomatic or any protocol embellishment that I am very pleased with our open, deep conversation and the level of interaction and understanding between us.  I feel very pleased that your visit coincides with Albania’s – at conclusion of its mission in the UN secretary – in the UN Security Council.  And in addition to extending my thanks to the state secretary, the gratitude for the invaluable support we had from the United States and its mission at the United Nations, their support of our presence in the council and the support to our success in the course of the two years where we were not permanent members of the UN Security Council. 

I also extended my gratitude for the very touching message that the United States ambassador in the United Nations shared for the high appraisal she actually made for the work of the Albanian team, for the very positive notes and words she shared with the public on the way in which Albania managed to represent itself, but even more than that, the way in which Albania managed to represent this community of countries and states that stand together for some values and principles that are non-negotiable to us.

On the other hand, I wish to thank the state secretary publicly also for another support that maybe is not so much talked about, and it’s not so visible, but it’s a constant, important, and useful support for Albania to progress on its path towards EU accession.  Clearly, this is a process that depends on what we do; it also depends on the assessment and judgment of our allies in the European Union.  But since some years now, we have remarkably felt the constant interest of the U.S. administration, and in particular the continuous interest shown by the State Department, and the fact that in his important meetings with European allies, the state secretary always underscores the need to push further the integration process for Albania and Western Balkans in the EU as a strategic interest of the United States.

On the other hand, we spoke about the region.  We shared the same perspectives and concerns.  As you know, Albania has a policy of an extended friendship hand for all the countries of the region, and we are interested and wanting that the region moves ahead as a whole, because first and foremost is – it is in our strategic interest.  It is in the interest of our people to see its integration with Europe as an integral part of the integration of this region around values and principles that embody our being part of the large community of democratic states and countries.

We have encouraged, we encourage, and will continue to encourage the irreplaceable dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.  The United States have been our and will be the staunch supporters of the process for the final recognition of Kosovo and to meet the international subjectivity of Kosovo.  And it is actually better for all Albanians and also Albanians in Kosovo to be reminded – remember that without the United States there would not be an independent state of Kosovo, and that the interest of the United States in this region, and specifically the interest of the United States for things to run smoothly in Albania and Kosovo, is not a secondhand interest.  It is neither an interest that is separate in any respect from our interest in Albania and Kosovo to build a peaceful and prosperous future for the next generations.

It is unquestionable – so there is no doubt that we actually feel regret any time we witness steps back.  Of course, we are aware of the difficulties of the dialogue.  There is no doubt that we are cognizant of the wounds of a not so past strategy of – a tragedy of those who live in Kosovo.  And we are also aware that in certain points in time, such as the terrorist attack in Banjska, Serbia does not always help the process as it should. 

But first and foremost, Albanians of Kosovo and all of us must be conscious that it is in our interest, it is in the interest of Kosovo, to progress even unilaterally, should the need arise, to meet all those requests put on the table of dialogue that are not restrictive demands.  They are neither demands for Kosovo to give up a single millimeter of its dignity, of its sovereignty, and of its future.  These are requirements or demands that through their delivery ensure the establishment of a context that elevates the Republic of Kosovo as a republic that deserves all the support, all the support and also the trust of our strategic partners, without whom the future becomes even more remote and the present becomes even more complicated.

So even today, after we discussed and talked, I want to repeat our appeal, my appeal, for the authorities in Pristina not to take any steps without consulting and being coordinated with our strategic allies because it is first and foremost in their interest, and of course it is in the interest of our alliance.  Actions that are not consulted and uncoordinated could perhaps gain some votes for the moment, turning the foreign policy into a tool and function of the domestic policy.  But there is no long-term gain.

On the other hand, we discussed about the dimensions of our bilateral cooperation, with the latter not only being a constant strategic operation in the area of security, but it is also a cooperation that is increasingly gaining an economic dimension.  While it is unquestionable the need and importance of U.S. investments in Albania as a testament not only of this relationship but also of the awareness of the large potential Albania has in critical sectors for the world today and for our region, for example, like the energy sector.  The U.S. administration is highly engaged in working to tackle the climate challenge, and it is highly committed to supporting all the programs and projects of green energy.  And we believe that in this respect, U.S. companies are a desired partner, and we hope that this process that has already kicked off will progress further.

Equally so, we believe that Albania is a country – and the Secretary actually is a witness of this himself – this is a country that the U.S. tourists actually can visit because it’s worth it.  As differently from the United States or other countries, in a very small country without going hours of distance, one can find everything, all the natural beauties, ranging from the beaches to the mountains full of snow.

By way of concluding, last by not least, I wish to publicly thank the state secretary for what we’ve been discussing again and again in all our meeting.  And something that we repeated in our meeting as well that is the irreplaceable support to transform Albania from a country that had never justice and where the impunity culture was the norm, that made the citizens of the country, from the establish of the Albanian state, that it would never be possible in this country for the law to be actually equal for everyone, and so that no one could be above the law. 

They made it possible for us to see today that even in Albania, just like in every country that is ambitious for their own children, it is possible that people in office, also people who are also part of the current executive power, could actually be called accountable before the law for breaching the law.  This is something whose weight and importance Albania will be able to fully perceive many years later.

But there is something we know even now: that when we started the reform in justice and we received the support of our allies, all the polls and questionnaires of the public on the reform saw an overwhelming support, irrespective of the political affiliations and irrespective of the typical and tradition polarization of politics; either left- or right-wing supporters or those who are not affiliated with any parties, support this reform in justice. 

It is no secret, Mr. Secretary, that here we have a problem.  We can’t find a consensus even on time.  If you ask anyone on what the time is, we have a left wing time, a right wing time, and we have also a central time.  However, when it came to the question whether those who supported the reform in justice believed that they would be able to see in their lifetime important people going before the justice, the majority answered with a no. 

Well, here we are today.  We are living in a time where the myth of impunity and the myth of the powerful above the law has been debunked.  Of course, there is a lot of work that remains to be done.  We talked about the challenges.  We talked about the advancement of the reform.  We talked about how imperative it is to counter the phenomenon of corruption as a phenomenon that must be looked at from the perspective of the integration process with all its aspects as well. 

But if there is a reason, an important reason today to be more convinced than ever of the value of this partnership, of the value of this friendship, this reason is the commitment of our strategic partners to offering support and assistance to change a chapter of the history of Albania that seemed to be unchangeable throughout a lifetime and for all the generations.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you very much.  Tony, the floor is yours. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Prime Minister, Edi, thank you so much for welcoming us here today, and not just welcoming us – the warmth, the hospitality, the substance, directness, frankness of our conversations – something I always deeply appreciate.  I’m going to start with two expressions that we have.  One is the expression “rain check.”  So if you miss out on someone’s hospitality, if you miss out on a kind invitation to dinner, you ask for a rain check.  So I’m asking for a rain check, if you’ll have me back.  Second is another expression we have and that is the notion of a “fair weather friend.”  That’s a friend who’s with you when the sun is shining but not when the rain is coming down.  Albania is not only a fair weather friend, it’s also a foul weather friend – together, even when the going is tough, even when we’re facing challenges.  And that’s something I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate and value.  And it’s a tribute to this country and the friendship we have, and it’s a tribute to the prime minister, who is an extraordinary partner for the United States. 

I’m here on my first visit as Secretary to Albania because this partnership between our two countries is stronger than it’s ever been.  And the relationship for us is vital to addressing so many issues that matter to our people.  This is a two-way street, and we are doing things with each other and for each other that are to the benefit of people here in Albania and in the United States and beyond, I would argue. 

As a key NATO Ally, a powerful voice on the UN Security Council – and you heard the prime minister allude to this – we had a really extraordinary partnership during the two years that Albania was a non‑permanent member of the council, and that was reflected in the message the prime minister referenced from our ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.  We did, I think, very, very important and strong work together, particularly holding the pen together on the question of Ukraine and the Russian aggression, something we deeply value; now a new member of the Human Rights Council, and also playing a growing role in other critical international institutions, including UNESCO.  This is consequential not just for Albania, not just for the region, not just for Europe; it’s actually consequential for the world, and we deeply, deeply appreciate it. 

We had the opportunity today to discuss a lot of issues and challenges that we’re facing together, and we focused first on what we’re doing to promote our shared security.  As you know, Albania has been from day one a strong supporter of Ukraine – really the first to step up, to raise its hand.  It was one of the first countries to send military aid to Ukraine in the wake of the Russian aggression – guns, ammunition, mine resistant vehicles – and it’s currently one of the top ten per capita in terms of its support for Ukraine and security assistance.

The prime minister said this at the Security Council last September, and I’m going to – Edi, if I can, I’m going to quote you:  “The struggle of Ukraine is also the struggle of everyone who aspires to live in a world where nations are free and equal, where territorial integrity is indisputable, and [where the] right to live in peace is unquestionable.”  It’s hard to think of a more elegant way to put what’s at stake in Ukraine.  Over its 15 years now in NATO, Albania has made significant contributions to our alliance.  Albanian troops are helping to keep the peace in Kosovo to deter Russian aggression on NATO’s eastern flank. 

Next month, Albania will inaugurate a NATO airbase in Kucove.  Our 31 Allies, soon to be 32 Allies, bring different histories, different experiences, different geographies, different capabilities.  But each of us has the same ironclad commitment to our mutual defense, and each of us makes important contributions and sacrifices.  In the last three years alone, virtually every Ally has increased defense spending as a percentage of its GDP.  Together, our collective strength is much more than the sum of our parts.  It’s an enduring investment in shared security, shared prosperity, and in the principles that join us together.  We’re grateful that Albania is doing its part, prepared to continue to do its part.  We’re fully committed to upholding our obligations as well. 

Our countries are also growing our bilateral security partnership.  Albanians and Americans have fought side by side from Afghanistan to Iraq.  Albanian pilots fly American-made Blackhawks.  U.S. Special Forces are training their Albanian counterparts and helping to keep watching the Balkans.  In the wake of the recent Iranian cyber attacks targeting Albanian critical infrastructure, the United States has supported Albania cyber defenses, helping to train experts, to upgrade equipment, to improve technology so that they’re more resilient to future attacks. 

I thank the Prime Minister as well for something that is near and dear to my heart, and near and dear to the hearts of so many Americans, and that is the extraordinary generosity that the Albanian people have shown in welcoming thousands of Afghan evacuees.  Albania was the very first country to do so.  I had a chance a little bit earlier today to meet with some of the most recent evacuees from Afghanistan who will be going on to the United States.  They’re getting their Special Immigrant Visas, and then they’ll come to be part of the next chapter in the story of the United States.

These are people who have endured incredible hardship, who’ve shown remarkable courage.  And what I heard from them today was not just gratitude for being welcomed here, Mr. Prime Minister, in Albania, but the way they were welcomed by the Albanian people: with extraordinary warmth and support.  And it’s hard to – it’s hard to describe how much that means to people like our Afghan colleagues and friends who are in the midst of the most uprooting experience possible.  We’re committed to resettling them in America, offering them a similarly warm welcome, but I have to say we’re really inspired by the way that you’ve done it.

The prime minister and I also discussed how to keep making Albania’s democratic institutions more accountable to Albania’s citizens.  Justice reform has not been easy, perfect, or quick, but it is showing real results, and you heard the prime minister describe them.  Today I met with key judges and prosecutors who are helping to lead the reform effort.  Corrupt officials are being held accountable.  Members of organized crime are going to prison and losing their assets.  So this is a very powerful process, but it’s a process, and it continues to move forward.  We’ll continue to strongly support Albania in these efforts, which are critical steps toward Albania joining the European Union and what the people in Albania deserve. 

Our democracies are also threatened, both of us, by disinformation.  And that fuels division and it erodes trust.  We just signed with the foreign minister memorandums of understanding, and the one that we signed a moment ago will enable the United States and Albania to develop a shared approach to countering dangerous distortions and lies and build a resilient information ecosystem.  There is an information competition, even an information war, that goes on day in, day out.  And it’s critical that democracies have the tools that they need to act effectively in dealing with it. 

We also discussed ways to further strengthen our economic relations, again, as the prime minister said.  American investment in Albania has tripled since 2019, and it will only grow more as the business climate continues to improve.  Our companies are exploring hydropower, wind, solar projects in Albania. These have great potential to diversify Albanian energy resources and sources to help our shared planet and to create inclusive economic growth for everyone. 

Finally, we committed to deepening ties between our people.  Edi and I just came from a really terrific gathering at the Pyramid just a few doors away from here, where I met some of the young people who are participating in our exchange programs – their alumni and current participants.  These programs are making the bonds between us stronger every single day.  So the other memorandum of understanding that we signed for the Fulbright Program will double the number of Albanians who can study on scholarships in the United States, bringing our people even more closely together.  One of my predecessors who I see on the wall here to my left, Secretary James Baker, famously told the Albanian people, and I quote, “You are with us and we are with you.”  That was true three decades ago.  It remains true today.  It will remain true tomorrow.  Thank you, Prime Minister. 


MODERATOR:  Prime Minister and Secretary of State, there are some questions from the journalists for you.  First question is from Muhamed Veliu from Top Channel Television. 

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) I – a joint question.  Dear Mr. Secretary, you just mentioned that Kucove Base is going to be inaugurated one month later, whereas Prime Minister Edi Rama has offered Albania’s readiness and continues meetings in NATO and here to have a maritime base for NATO in Durres Port.  Did you discuss about this matter in your bilateral meetings today?  And is there any progress, if any?  Thank you. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  Well, in fact, I had an opportunity to meet with a number of different people and different groups besides the prime minister, foreign minister, members of the cabinet, as I mentioned.  I also met with some of the leading judges and prosecutors who are leading the judicial reform effort.  I had a chance to meet with some, as I mentioned, remarkable young people who are engaged in our exchange programs.  And when I come back for my rain check for dinner, I’ll look forward to meeting an even broader cross section of Albanian society and all of the different actors.  But we, I think, got a lot into this day – something I take great satisfaction in.

With regard to the air base, first, I think it’s important to underscore a couple of things.  One, it’s now 15 years since Albania has been a NATO Ally.  And the fact that we’ll be inaugurating – you’ll be inaugurating the air base in Kucove in just a few weeks is a wonderful way to highlight and underscore the commitment that Albania has made to NATO and that NATO, of course, has to Albania.  This is a very strong example of the defense partnership that we enjoy. 

When it comes to the question of a maritime base, yes, this is something that we discussed and that I very much look forward to pursuing through NATO and through the processes that NATO has to determine what future assets would be valuable to the Alliance.  And we discussed this, and I know that NATO will work on it. 

MODERATOR:  Next question is from Olivia Gazis from CBS. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Edi, is there anything you wanted to add?

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  I don’t think that I was also involved, but – (laughter) – but as you know, when he’s not here, what I say is like he’s saying it.  And now that he’s said it, what can I say more?  (Laughter.) 

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary, information has emerged about a serious national security threat from Russia with lawmakers of both parties in the United States pressing for a response from the administration.  How would you characterize, first, the urgency of the threat in question, and secondly, the United States current preparedness to confront it?

And secondly on Gaza, what is the United States level of confidence right now that negotiating parties can achieve an agreement that pauses hostilities before the beginning of Ramadan on March 10th? 

And Mr. Prime Minister, on Ukraine, the Secretary referenced Albania’s significant contributions.  The U.S. Congress has struggled for months now to pass a significant aid package for the Ukrainians, even as Kyiv is entering its third year of war with Russia.  Do you believe that this indicates American support for Ukraine is waning and do you see it undermining broader Western efforts to push back against Moscow? 

And secondly, if I may, Mr. Prime Minister, on NATO, given recent statements by the Republican presidential frontrunner in the United States, do you have confidence that America will uphold its commitments to NATO’s collective defense pact no matter what members’ defense spending levels are and no matter what the outcome is in November?  Thank you. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Olivia.  So on the first question, there’s not much that I can say right now on the underlying issue.  What I can say is this:  This is not an active capability, but it is a potential one that we’re taking very, very seriously.  And I would expect that we’ll have more to say soon – in fact, very soon – so stay tuned for that.  And, of course, we’re also conferring with allies and partners on this issue.  But here’s the most important thing of all:  The President’s focus, President Biden’s focus, is on the security of the United States and its people.  And as we approach this and every other issue, that is first and foremost what’s on his mind.  That’s where his focus is.

On the question of hostages, so as you know, we put forward a proposal to Hamas that the United States, Qatar, and Egypt, working with Israel, had had put together and then, as I said, put forward.  We received a response from Hamas about a week ago, a response that we believe, while it has, as I said at the time, a number of clear nonstarters in it, also offers the possibility of working toward an agreement.  We’re now in the process with our counterparts from Qatar, from Egypt, from Israel in working on that and working very intensely on that with the goal of trying to find an agreement.  And I believe that it is possible.

Now, as I said, there are some very, very hard issues that have to be resolved, but we’re committed to doing everything we can to move forward and to see if we can reach an agreement.  We know what success looks like.  We had it when we secured the first agreement that resulted in the release of 105 hostages, that resulted in a pause in military operations, the substantial expansion of humanitarian assistance going into people who so desperately needed it.  If an agreement can be reached here, it offers the prospect, of course, doing what is at the top of our list, which is getting the hostages home to their families, but also having an extended pause, which offers many other benefits as well. 

So we’re very focused on it, and I believe it’s possible. 

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  You are tricking me into something that I am afraid might be dangerous, because answering to your question, I have to melt in American politics, which is not very advisable when you are a friend with United States.  But I want to take advantage from your presence to invite you, maybe through your TV, to share with the American public a map of Mongolia.  Following Mr. Putin’s interview and his reasoning on the legitimacy of attacking Ukraine that went back to 9th century – but if you dig a bit more, you’ll discover that Russia once upon a time was within the borders of Mongolia.  So I know that Mongolians are a peaceful people, but I don’t think that – looking back to the maps and using history like a reason to attack other people, to take others’ lives, to destroy others’ houses, to break others’ future, is a quite insane exercise. 

And being in that in that situation, Ukraine couldn’t survive so far without the United States, first and foremost, and all the other allies and friends who, by the way, are not eager to enter in war with Russia or with whomever, but have to protect Ukraine for protecting the world they believe in.  Now, if you want me to have a take on the American Congress and Senate, I think I should not go there, because let’s say that the American politics nowadays is not at its best. 

But one thing I can say, I had the privilege to be prime minister for Albania in NATO when the former president was there.  And despite the rhetoric, despite the colorful way to confront adversaries, I don’t see that NATO was weakened.  On the contrary, what was decided before continued to be the case.  Every country continued to put more money and to put more effort in increasing the NATO budget.  So now, elections are elections, Trump is Trump.  American politics is American politics.  But I think United States is something more than that.  And what makes United States one of a kind in the – in our community of countries and of people all around the world is that United States cannot and will never, in my view, shy away from what are the principles and the values to be protected, whatever it takes.  And so I’m not afraid of anything, but of stopping or wavering to continue and protect ourselves through protecting the right of Ukrainians to live in their country, to have their own house intact, to have their children grow there, and to have a common future with everyone else, without being threatened to be wiped out from maps based on ninth, thirteenth, fifteenth, whatever century.  Because if this Pandora box opens then I can tell you we have a lot of maps in this region, but we have to see the future, and it’s only the future that will unite us.

So no, I don’t think that NATO will be weakened.  I don’t think the United States will shy away from their role and from their leadership.  I then that when elections will be over, American business is American business.

MODERATOR:  Next question is from Elja Zotka, journalist of Klan Television.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary, you did not touch upon the region and Kosovo in your remarks.  Therefore, I wish to ask specifically a question about Kosovo.  What is your view of the latest developments in Kosovo?  How do you see the steps that have been taken in the dialogue with Serbia?  Also the removal of dinar as the currency – do you see it as concerning, and also the fact that there is no steps being taken to establishing the associations?  Well, Mr. Prime Minister, you already gave an answer, but I don’t know whether you’ve had – you have something to add when it comes to the situation in Kosovo.

A second question for Mr. Secretary, if it is possible.  You mentioned that you had a meeting with the heads of the justice institutions, and justice is a matter close to our heart as a people, because we’ve been missing it so far.  Could you specifically speak about the message you imparted to the heads of our justice institutions on behalf of the U.S. in your although very brief meeting?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  When I started out working at the State Department and at the White House, now I’m afraid to say more than 30 years ago, the issue, the question, the challenge that was front and center – this is during President Clinton’s administration – was the Balkans, first Bosnia and Herzegovina, then Kosovo.  And so many of us have a long and deep history, no one more so than the President of the United States, President Biden.  And I think you know that history well.

And so we’re strongly animated by the notion that we can’t go back to the future.  We can’t have a repeat of what we saw and what too many people experienced in the 1990s, which is why we’re committed to supporting all of the efforts to advance the integration of countries in the Western Balkans, with each other and with Europe. 

With regard to Kosovo and Serbia more specifically, the EU-facilitated dialogue is the right – in fact, I think the only – path forward.  And we’re committed to doing what we can to support both countries as they travel that path.  But I also have to applaud Albania’s role in being a force for regional stability, for regional integration, for regional progress.  That is the path that so clearly brings everyone to a better future.  And we know what the alternative is because we’ve experienced it, we’ve seen it.

So we’re resolute in doing everything we can in support of all the countries in the region taking that path.  We very much support, as I said, the EU-facilitated dialogue.  And we’ll work with Albania and others to try to help countries advance along that path. 


MODERATOR:  Any comment?

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  No, no, no.  Ditto.

MODERATOR:  Next question is from Alexander Marquardt, CNN. 

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary, you just said a moment ago that you think that a deal is possible, a humanitarian pause and a hostage deal.  After the meeting that took place earlier this week in Cairo, do you think that that deal and a pause could be reached before Israel launches its expected offensive into Rafah?  Do you think Prime Minister Netanyahu favors that Rafah offensive over reaching a hostage deal and a humanitarian pause? 

And then separately, two teenage American boys have now been killed in the West Bank in the past few weeks.  An American woman was detained by Israeli forces in the West Bank.  Two young American men were also detained by Israeli forces in Gaza.  Have those detainees gotten U.S. consular access?  Do you even know where those detainees are?  And when it comes to the investigations into the teenagers’ deaths, where do those stand?


QUESTION:  And Mr. Secretary, may I ask the prime minister also a question?  Albania recognized Palestine in 1988.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said earlier today that now is not the time to be speaking about gifts for the Palestinian people.  Do you think that a two-state solution is still possible with the current Israeli Government, and how do you and the U.S. think that is achievable?  Thank you both.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Alex.  So look, on the first question, I’m obviously not going to be speaking for the prime minister or telling you what his views may or may not be on these questions.  You’ll have to ask him yourself or have others ask him.  All I can tell you is this.  As I said to Olivia’s question, we believe it must be and must remain a priority to do everything we can to bring the hostages home, to get them back with their loved ones, and that’s where our focus is.  We’ve done a lot of work to try to get back to this point; that is where we think an agreement is possible, even if it – even if difficult. 

And at least from the perspective of the United States, we think it’s imperative that we continue to pursue that urgently.  And as I said, that would bring many other benefits with it, and notably an extended pause to the conflict, an extended expansion of humanitarian assistance, all things that would be very, very welcome – more than welcome – by men, women, and children in Gaza who continue to suffer every single day.  So that’s where our focus is, but in terms of timing, how one thing fits with another, you’ll have to ask the prime minister.


QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, on the detainees —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, I’m sorry.  Yes, on the detainees – or this question – well, two things.  First, with regard to American citizens who reportedly were killed, the first thing I would say is our deepest condolences to the families, to the loved ones, to the friends.  You’ve heard me say this before, the President feels the same say: the safety, the security of American citizens around the world is our number one priority, our number one responsibility.  And we’ve made clear that with regard to the instance you alluded to, there needs to be an investigation.  We need to get the facts and, if appropriate, there needs to be accountability.

With regard to detainees, there is a limit to what I can say because of the privacy laws and the requirements that flow from that.  But I can just say in general, without reference to specific cases, we insist that people be treated fairly, that they be treated with due process, and that they be treated humanely.  And that’s something that, regardless of where an American citizen might be detained, we insist on and will continue to insist on.

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  It’s in my humble view the hardest (inaudible) one can get.  And the answer straightforward to your question: yes, Albania has recognized Palestine long ago.

To give you a little background, Albania was a communist dictatorship, and our dictator was one of the closest friends and allies of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, PLO, and of Yasser Arafat.  And on the other hand, our regime was very viciously against three major devils – United States, Soviet Union, and Israel, so in other words, American imperialism, Soviet social imperialism, and Jewish Zionism.  But this country, on the other hand, is the only country in Europe that had more Jews after the Second World War than before, and it’s the only country where Jews didn’t fly out, but flew in to be protected.  And as it is very well shown in Yad Vashem, it’s a country where the Nazis didn’t succeed to get a single Jew.  This is the background.

Now, of course, the situation is tragic because on one hand, Israel has its legitimate right to defend itself, but on the other hand, the destroyal and the loss of life on the Palestinian side are far too much to accept the escalation, the further escalation.  And the trouble is that this further escalation is not an action that, at the end, by itself will wipe out Hamas or whatever form of Hamas may grow from the bottom of the rubbles.  So for sure the two-state solutions – solution is the only way.  But my humble opinion is that, in this situation, there are many things that have to happen at the same time.  It’s not one thing.  Because if one envisage a two-state solution now, just like one piece, then who will be on the Palestinian side?

So the reform of Palestinian politics, the need for a body that would somehow represent all the Palestinian society and would be a credible interlocutor to all the parties involved, on one hand; on the other hand, a direct involvement of the Arab countries that are the most interested and those, and also at the same time, the most vulnerable, potentially, from the escalation of this conflict, to create an interforce that, together with Türkiye and under some guarantees of United States, would somehow make sure that what may be a Palestinian state will not be seen like a threat again for Israel.

And of course all this without the liberation of hostages sounds very improbable.  And at the end, last but not least, for sure I don’t envy the Secretary of State.

MODERATOR:  And now at the end, we would like to thank you all for being here today.  Thank you.

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