Antony J. Blinken

Joint Presser with Argentina Foreign Minister Diana Mondino

delivered 23 February, Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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MODERATOR: [Via interpreter] Good morning. In the press room of Argentine government house, after the meeting with the president of Argentina, Javier Milei, the Foreign Minister of Argentina Diana Mondino, and the Secretary of State of the United States Antony Blinken will offer a press conference.

We are joined by federal authorities and members of the visiting delegation. To start off the conference, the minister of foreign affairs, international trade, and worship of Argentina will first take the floor.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: [Via interpreter] Thank you very much to all of you for being here. Iím breaking the protocol, because I should actually be thanking Mr. Blinken and the ambassador of the United States and the delegation much more for all of the effort and time putting into not just visiting Argentina but also to trying to understand the enormous changes weíre undertaking in Argentina.

This is a bilateral relationship which we hope will continue to bear fruit. And especially we would like to see Argentina and the United States showcase their shared values -- basically democracy and freedom.

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: Well, thank you very, very much, and I first am very, very pleased to be back in Argentina today. I have to say, every time Iíve been here, I have to reflect on the fact that for me at least, this -- Buenos Aires has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and itís striking every single time.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: Because youíve never been to Cordoba.

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: Next time. Iíll go -- weíll do that. But we just had a very, very productive first meeting with President Milei, with the foreign minister -- in fact, with many members of the cabinet. And I very much appreciate the presidentís time, but also the depth of the conversation, the detail. And I think it reflects the strong desire on the part of both the United States and -- I wonít speak for Argentina, but I think the foreign minister just did -- the part of Argentina to deepen and strengthen the ties between our countries even more.

At the top of our agenda is finding ways to grow even more the trade and investment between our countries. The United States is already the leading provider of foreign direct investment in Argentina, but we see tremendous opportunity to do more. And the people of Argentina can count on us as you work to stabilize your economy, to protect and lift up every segment of your society, to improve the business climate, to remove barriers to high-standard job-creating investment. You can count on us to be a partner in those efforts. We see extraordinary investment opportunity here in Argentina, and we want American companies to remain Argentinaís partner of choice.

We talked about some concrete steps to expand our partnership in a number of key sectors. One of the most important to our shared future -- in fact, one of the most important to the entire planet -- is clean energy. Argentina is poised to play a critical role in building supply chains for critical minerals that will drive the economy of the 21st century, particularly things like lithium.

Our own companies are already making substantial investments here in Argentina to mine and to process these critical minerals, mostly in Argentinaís northwest. Our own International Development Finance Corporation and something we launched called the Mineral Securities Partnership, they are looking at identifying new investment opportunities, new projects. These collaborations will produce good jobs. Theyíll strengthen our competitiveness, and theyíll help the transition to a more resilient climate future.

We look forward to looking at further concrete opportunities through something weíre now about to embark upon, which is a high-level energy security dialogue.

Beyond the economic partnership between our countries, we value Argentinaís leadership on regional and global security issues. Now, tomorrow will mark two years since the Russian re-invasion of Ukraine. Today, the United States Government, in coordination with many allies and partners, is taking additional new measures to respond to Russiaís full-scale war and intensifying repression at home by sanctioning and imposing export control restrictions on more than 500 individuals and entities. That is the largest number of designations that weíve yet taken in a single Russia-related action.

Argentina has been an important member of the global coalition to stand up for the principles at the heart of the United Nations Charter that are being threatened by Russiaís aggression; a key part of the coalition as well to ensure that Russiaís actions in Ukraine remain a strategic failure and a key partner in helping Ukraine stand on its own two feet -- militarily, economically, democratically.

Argentina is supporting Ukraine at the United Nations, at the UN Human Rights Council, and elsewhere on the world stage. Itís helping urge support within this hemisphere for Ukraine; and will continue to do so through an upcoming Ukraine-Latin America summit. And itís providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance -- food, medicine, clothing, support for refugees.

President Milei and I also discussed our recent visits to the Middle East and the conflict between Israel and Hamas. I appreciate President Mileiís strong condemnation of October 7th and his support for Israelís right to ensure that such an attack never happens again. I had an -- a chance to update briefly our partners on our efforts to secure the release of hostages in Gaza and to get an extended humanitarian ceasefire; at the same time, to increase assistance to Palestinians who so desperately need it, to reduce civilian casualties, and prevent the conflict from spreading, as we work at the same time toward a longer-term just and lasting peace that can end this cycle of violence once and for all.

While weíre very thankful that two Argentinians were rescued by Israeli forces this month, we know that more still remain captive. Weíre determined to get them, to get every hostage home safely and as soon as possible.

We discussed some challenges in our own hemisphere, including in Venezuela and in Haiti. Improving Haitiís security is in our collective interest, and I deeply appreciate that Minister Mondino was with us yesterday in an important meeting on the margins of the G20 to mobilize resources and planning for the UN-authorized multinational security support mission. As chair of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, Argentina plays a critical role upholding this hemisphereís democratic values, speaking out clearly against the erosion of the rule of law and human rights, including in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Venezuela.

We talked today about the importance of leading by example, and working together to realize the full promise of our democracies. And that starts in many ways with acknowledging our own shortcomings, not sweeping them under the rug, and thatís one of the strengths that our countries -- the United States and Argentina -- bring to this challenge. Argentina has a strong and long history of addressing labor rights, the rights of women and girls, human rights more broadly. Those areas continue to be important areas of cooperation for the United States and Argentina. I had the opportunity to learn more and to see Argentinaís very vibrant democratic tradition today at the Plaza de Mayo and the Cabildo. When we hold our next high-level human rights dialogue in the coming months, weíll focus on advancing equity, inclusion, and justice in our own communities, and weíll be looking at signing an MOU to support those efforts.

The bottom line is that the United States and Argentina are working together on just about every issue of consequence to our people but also to people around the world, from critical minerals in the ground to our collaboration through the Artemis Accords in outer space. We look forward to expanding this partnership in the months and years to come. And with that, again, I thank you for the very warm hospitality and the very good meeting.

MODERATOR: [Via interpreter] Weíll now move on to the questions by the press. For the United States first, John Hudson from The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, the topic of genocide has been debated during this trip. I was wondering if you could give us a better sense of what you think about the topic. One of your first major remarks as Secretary of State was accusing Beijing of genocide. Why do you think Chinaís treatment of the Uyghurs constitutes this crime and Israelís treatment of Palestinians does not?

Also, any reaction to Netanyahuís post-war plan for Gaza? Calls for the establishment of a buffer zone inside Gaza seems to contradict some of the principles that were laid out in Tokyo. And then finally, any response to Israelís latest purported plans for settlement expansion?

Minister Mondino, thank you for welcoming us.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: Yeah. Would you mind putting your microphone closer to your mouth?

QUESTION: Of course. My apologies. My apologies. Thanks for welcoming us to your wonderful capital. Itís exceedingly rare to have an Argentine president who openly admires the United States, but President Milei also commonly attacks ideas that President Biden professes to espouse, like feminism and social justice. Are these two leaders compatible? Thank you.

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: John, thank you very much, and let me make sure I cover everything that you raised. Look, on the genocide question, I think weíve been very clear over many months and now many years about the Uyghurs, about the Rohingya, and others. And weíve laid out in some detail -- in fact, I had the opportunity to lay out some detail when it came to the Rohingya, exactly, why we see the genocide being perpetrated. Similarly, including very recently before the international court, we had an opportunity and others have had an opportunity to make clear why that is simply not the case when it comes to Gaza. And weíve been very clear about the meritless nature of that particular charge. So, Iím not going to rehearse the details here, but I think the record is very clear on that.

Setting that aside, as you know, as weíve spoken extensively about, we are determined to see the conflict in Gaza end as soon as possible -- in a way that ensures that October 7th can never happen again, but also that the suffering that Palestinians have endured doesnít happen again. In the first instance, weíre focused on getting the hostages out, getting an extended humanitarian ceasefire, and building on that even as we look toward the longer term and getting on a genuinely durable path to lasting peace and security for everyone concerned.

With regards to the post-war Gaza plan that you referred to, look, Iíve seen the reports. I havenít actually seen the plan, so I want to reserve judgment until we actually see the details. Having said that, you know that there are certain basic principles that we set out many months ago that we feel are very important when it comes to Gazaís future, including that it cannot be a platform for terrorism. There should be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza. The size of Gazaís territory should not be reduced. So, we want to make sure that any plan that emerges is consistent with those principles. There are other principles, but those are three of the most important ones.

At the same time, we have many countries in the region that are working together on a plan for post-conflict Gaza. I think thatís very important, and Iíve spent some time with some of our Arab partners, including recently on the margins of the G20, talking about that -- just as we did when we were at the Munich Security Conference together. So, itís important that we have, again, a plan, which is absolutely necessary, but one also thatís consistent with basic principles that I think many countries share about what has to be Gazaís future.

Finally, I think you referred to the settlements. Well, look, we just saw another horrific terrorist attack, and this in Maíale Adumim. And my first thought is with the victims of that attack. And we continue, will continue -- excuse me -- to fully support Israelís right to security, to self-defense, and to dealing with terrorism.

On settlements, weíve seen the reports, and I have to say weíre disappointed in the announcement. Itís been longstanding U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace. Theyíre also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion. And in our judgment, this only weakens -- it doesnít strengthen -- Israelís security.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: [Via interpreter] [In progress] a great way of showing what we expect in the relationship, not only with the U.S. We are willing and eager to support democracy and common values, most particularly freedom, in most countries in the world that are already abide by those comments, and hopefully someday every single country in the world will be doing that. So, we do have a lot of things in common with the U.S. and with many other liberal democracies. We hope that it can be sustained, and we can show it to the world.

As regards what you mentioned attacking to women, well that is not true -- definitely not true. When people say something wrong, we believe in equal rights and we believe in equal treatment, and that has never happened. Actually, we have a most comprehensive law and agreement with this. And if you want to see -- even the cabinet in this government, we have a lot of -- a lot of women participating. But it is not an attack on women. It is on the ideas. This is very, very, very different.

And as regards social justice, I have to comment -- I know this is very peculiar to Argentina, because when we talk about social justice, itís a comment that it hasnít been ingrained in Argentina whether to help someone, they take away from somebody else. Whereas to our understanding, social justice should be to give each and every one equal opportunities and the possibilities of keeping whatever they are helping produce, but not taking away from somebody else.

And as regards to whether leaders are compatible or not, well, why not? I mean, everybody supports the same ideas. Itís good. And even if they didnít, we live in a very complicated world; we all need to work to common objectives. Thatís whatís really very important.

MODERATOR: [Via interpreter] For Argentinaís press, Miguel Nicolich from the Radio Rivadavia radio station.

QUESTION: [Via interpreter] Thank you. Mr. Blinken, what does Joe Biden think about other nations going for dollarization of their economies? Given the possibility of the Argentine Government rescheduling its foreign debt, will it be able to rely on Biden administration support?

And Minister Mondino, whatís your view of a visit by a Secretary of State from the U.S. after such a long time?

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: Thank you. First, as I said more generally, we see extraordinary opportunity here in Argentina. But maybe most important, whatís so evident is that Argentina has what the world actually needs -- and we want to be a partner in Argentina helping to feed the world and fuel the world going forward. And you can see that very powerfully.

Now, the work thatís being done to stabilize the economy is absolutely vital. And as that moves forward and with success -- and again, weíd like to do what we can to help in that success -- I think that opens the doors to extraordinary opportunity in these areas and many more that the United States will be a part of.

When it comes to the question of dollarization, thatís up to Argentina. And of course, we look forward to hearing any plans and to discussing more, but this is a decision for Argentina to make.

And on the IMF -- look, we support an agreement between Argentina and the IMF. The IMF has been, can be, a very important tool promoting the stabilization of Argentinaís economy and the work that is ongoing, the very important work thatís ongoing.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: [Via interpreter] Well, it is a pleasure for us to host a U.S. Secretary of State, but I should say that our administration took office on the 10th of December, and in February we had the under secretary of Treasury, the deputy secretary of Defense. Weíll have the under secretary of the energy affairs department and the man responsible for policy planning. Weíll soon have the chief of the South Command in April. So, weíve had visits focusing on trying to understand what the best way is for us to work together, but above all things to find the best way for Argentina to be able to fulfill its true goals.

And you asked me another question which Iíve now forgotten.

QUESTION: [Via interpreter] So whatís your assessment of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State after such a long time.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: [Via interpreter] Well, of course, itís a highly positive assessment. Weíve been able to share our plans and ideas. Weíve also talked a lot about the freedom of currency. Itís true that here we tend to easily speak about dollarization, but the notion is a lot broader. Itís about freedom of currency. This might be somewhat hard to understand from elsewhere, but for those of us living in context of very high inflation, itís much more relatable.

MODERATOR: And now for the United States a question from Nike Ching from Voice of America.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Secretary Blinken. The United States has renewed its support for Ukraine with the largest package of economic sanctions and economic restrictions on Russia, but many analysts say that Biden and the administration sanctions on Russia have failed to change Putinís behavior. How do you think the new set of sanctions might have more impact? Is the U.S. out of options on changing Russiaís behavior through economic penalties? Is the Biden administration considering designating Russia as a sponsor of terrorism to put more pressure?

And separately, if I may, President Milei is flying to Washington later today to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. You and President Biden always said that you donít get involved in other countriesí domestic politics. How do you assess this development?

And for Minister Mondino, thank you for welcoming us to this beautiful country. A similar question to you. Can you confirm President Milei will meet with former U.S. President Trump on the sidelines of CPAC? What is your governmentís message to the American people during the campaign year? Thank you.

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: Thank you, Iím happy to start. With regard to sanctions being imposed on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine, first itís important to note that itís, of course, not just the United States. Itís dozens of countries around the world that have imposed these sanctions, export controls, and other restrictions on Russia because of the aggression -- the aggression not only against the Ukrainian people but the aggression against the very principles that are so important to maintaining the international system -- territorial integrity, freedom, making sure that countries have the right to decide their own futures. So, the world has been very clear on this.

I believe that already these sanctions, these restrictions, have had a significant impact on Russia both in its ability to prosecute its aggression, but -- even more, we see that theyíre going to have a growing and long-term impact on Russia. Its ability to modernize its industries -- whether itís defense industry, aeronautics, energy extraction, all of the technology thatís being denied it as a result of its actions -- will have an increasingly heavier and heavier impact. The fact, of course, that so many people have left Russia -- more than a million -- including many of the most educated involved in science and technology and production, thatís also going to have a profound impact.

So, we see this playing out both in the immediate, but weíre also seeing it playing out over the long term. Iíd just emphasize that the actions that were taken today -- the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department -- these new measures against Russia, in the wake of the death of Aleksey Navalny, the two-year anniversary of Russiaís aggression against Ukraine -- and actually a decade of aggression against Ukraine -- I think will also have a real impact. Five hundred individuals and entities, this is the largest number of people or -- or entities designated in a single action taken by the United States.

Weíre also taking action against three individuals specifically in connection with the death of Alexey Navalny: the prison warden, the regional prison head, the deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service. What I heard and saw when so many countries of the world were together, both in Munich recently but also at the G20 in Brazil, was outrage at what Russia had done to Mr. Navalny -- as Iíve said, over a decade, persecuting him, poisoning him, imprisoning him, and now his death. So, I think that will be felt strongly as well.

One final thing here. I think this only underscores the imperative of the House of Representatives passing the supplemental budget request that President Biden has put forward. This is urgent funding for what Ukraine needs to be able to do to continue to resist, as itís done so effectively, Russiaís aggression. Also, this will be a very positive investment in our own defense industrial base, because virtually all of the monies involved for up for Ukraineís defense will go into production in the United States.

With regard to President Milei, look, I canít speak to his schedule and future meetings. Thatís of course entirely up to him. All I can speak to is the meeting that we just had, and I can tell you, following on what the foreign minister said, that it was -- from my perspective, at least, an incredibly positive, productive, detailed, wide-ranging discussion. And it only underscored the fact that, for both of our countries, thereís a strong desire and a strong intent to deepen and strengthen our relationship. And I went through many of the areas where we intend to do that. So, I could not be more pleased on behalf of President Biden with the meeting we just had, the presence and participation of so many members of the cabinet. I think it augurs very well for the work that our two countries plan to do together in the months ahead.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: [Via interpreter] Sorry -- same with me. I donít know whether there will be any meetings in CPAC. I can say that since these are commercial flights, there might be delays and any schedules might be disrupted.

So, I would like to add something on Ukraine. Itís not just about territorial integrity, which of course is very important. And in Argentina we do have our own issues in that regard. Here we are talking about a case involving children that are not with their parents or families in Ukraine, but rather in Russia right now, and itís hard to identify them. So, we need to consider the topics we need to discuss, which often might seem to be only issues of economic interest, and we need to also take into account the other issues that are important for a society to live in peace.

MODERATOR: [Via interpreter] Finally, for the Argentine press, NicolŠs Gallardo from CNN Radio.

QUESTION: [Via interpreter] Madam Minister, Mr. Secretary, good afternoon. The question is for Secretary Blinken. I would like to actually pick up on some issues that have just been referred to. First, whether the U.S. support in the context of the restructuring of debt to the IMF will translate into imminent disbursements, considering the importance of the United States on the IMF board.

And the other point has to do with your trip to Brazil and the relationship with Milei. Could Argentina become the main partner for the U.S., Biden administration, in the region even more than Brazil, considering particularly the statements made by Brazilís President Lula on the situation in China or also with regard to Russia or Israel? Could Argentina replace Brazil in the region, or could the relationship between the U.S. and Argentina be clouded by President Mileiís planned trip to Washington, where he will meet the former president and Republican candidate, Mr. Trump?

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: Thank you. With regard to the first part of the question on the IMF, as I said before, the work with the IMF and the agreements that Argentina has with the IMF we see as very important, and we believe that the IMF can be a vital tool in helping to advance stabilization of Argentinaís economy. And so, we welcome that work. I think the IMF has been looking to Argentina to present a significant macroeconomic plan for its future. Argentina has done so.

But we look to that work continuing because it can be a vital source of strength in Argentinaís efforts to stabilize the economy and then to really grow it. And as I mentioned before, there are so many areas of opportunity where Argentina can play a critical role in the global economy. It already is, but there is so much more that can be done once stabilization is achieved, and the United States wants to be a partner in that.

But speaking of partners, to the second part of your question, we donít have exclusive partnerships. We welcome working with any country that wants to join in advancing common objectives, common interests, based often on common values. And so, the way we see it is this. Weíre living at a time where -- Iíve been doing this for almost -- more than 30 years now. And I canít think of a time in the world where weíve had such a multiplicity of challenges, a complexity of challenges, and the fact that most of them are interconnected in ways that they werenít before.

That only underscores to me and to our administration the absolute, essential importance of working in partnership, finding new ways to cooperate, to coordinate both with individual partners -- and thatís true for Argentina and the United States. Itís also true for Brazil and the United States -- but also in different arrangements of countries, in broader partnerships, in alliances, through the multilateral system, where the United States has re-engaged as well -- if weíre actually going to succeed in producing results for our people, which is our responsibility.

So, in our own hemisphere, itís important to us to have the strongest possible relationships, the strongest possible partnerships with leading countries, to include Argentina, to include Brazil.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONDINO: [Via interpreter] If I may add something, I had been spared of questions from you so far. Brazil is Argentinaís main partner, but it doesnít matter who the main partner is. Your mom must have told you this when you were a child. It doesnít really matter if youíre the best one. What matters is for you to be better than yesterday, and even better tomorrow.

QUESTION: [Via interpreter] I asked about Donald Trump. So, there is no uneasiness in the White House with regard to the fact that the president, President Milei, is flying tonight to perhaps meet with Joe Bidenís rival?

SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: As you often -- my colleagues who travel with me often hear me say, I donít do politics. I do policy and foreign policy in this case. And on that basis, all I can tell you is I couldnít be more pleased with the meeting with President Milei, with the entire team here, and also more convinced that there is a strong desire on the part of both the Government of Argentina and the Government of the United States to deepen and strengthen the partnership that we have. Thank you.

MODERATOR: [Via interpreter] This concludes the press conference. We thank the ministers.

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