Shortly after assuming office, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reviewed the positions of President Joe Biden’s administration on foreign issues, foremost of which is the Iranian nuclear file, and the humanitarian situation in Yemen in light of the previous administration’s decision to classify the Houthis as a terrorist organization, normalization between Israel and some Arab countries, and the relationship with China.
In a press conference held Wednesday at the State Department headquarters in Washington on his first working day at the department, Blinken said that President Joe Biden was clear when he said that if Iran returned to comply with the Joint Action Plan, we will do the same.
“If Iran decides to return to the nuclear deal, we will form a team of experts to study the matter,” he added.
“Iran is no longer honoring its obligations on several fronts. If it takes this decision to return to its commitments, it will take some time, and there is also a need for time to be able to assess its compliance with its obligations. We are far from that, this is the least that can be said.”
The US Secretary was referring to Tehran’s abandonment of some of its obligations under the 2015 agreement, especially with regard to uranium enrichment, in response to the US withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, and the failure to lift sanctions.
Regarding Yemen, the US Secretary said that the priority for him is the issue of Yemen and the issue of the Houthis in it, and added that the US State Department is looking in an urgent and thorough manner at the decision of former President Donald Trump’s administration to designate the Houthi group as a terrorist organization.
Blinken explained that his ministry is reviewing some of the steps that were taken during the era of the previous administration, stressing the importance of doing everything necessary to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemenis.
He indicated that he wants to make sure that American and foreign aid agencies can deliver aid to Yemen.
Blinken recalled that the Houthis carried out what he called an act of aggression in Sana’a and violated human rights, and that the Saudi-led operation in Yemen led to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, as he put it.
The American Secretary also spoke about normalization between Israel and some Arab countries, stressing his country’s support for this path, and said in this regard, “We support the Abraham agreements and the normalization of Israeli relations with neighbors are important and we hope to build on them.”
Regarding the relationship with China, Blinken said that it is in the US interest to cooperate with Beijing on issues such as combating climate change.
He stated that his verdict that China committed genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang has not changed.
On the other hand, Blinken said that he had asked the US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to continue in his post.
Reassure the world
Earlier Wednesday, the new US Secretary of State sought to reassure the international community, who was shaken by former President Donald Trump and shocked by the crisis that preceded the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Blinken said upon his arrival at the State Department building, and after the Senate approved his appointment by a large majority, that the world needs American leadership to solve problems and face challenges, and that the new administration will assume this leadership.
And he added – in a press conference – that Washington will work within its foreign policy to rally others for good, as he put it.
“The world wants to know if we can heal our wounds as a nation,” he said, adding that he awaits “whether we will lead the world thanks to the strength of our model.”
And Blinken – who spent part of his career in State where he was deputy secretary at the end of President Barack Obama’s term – said he felt he had “returned” to his home, but acknowledged that the world had changed since his departure 4 years ago, referring in particular to the epidemic and to “barriers.” That was erected in Washington after the violent attack by Trump supporters on the Capitol building on January 6.
“It is a new day for America, it is a new day for the world,” the minister said, adding, “We have never seen a period like this. The president is determined to get out of it as soon as possible.”
“The world needs American leadership, and we will guarantee it, because the world will be able to solve its problems and face its challenges when the United States responds,” he said, criticizing the self-distancing and unilateralism of diplomacy during Trump’s term.
In another veiled criticism of his Republican predecessors Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, accused of sometimes contempting diplomats and abandoning them when threatened or attacked, Blinken promised to “defend” and “uplift” State Department employees.