Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: Welcome, everybody. It is a true pleasure to have Secretary Blinken here today. The U.S. is Denmark’s friend, close ally, and strategic partner. Today is a good day for Denmark and for transatlantic cooperation, because today, America is back. Secretary Blinken has kindly taken me up on my suggestion to visit Denmark, not even a year after we had your predecessor in town. So today, America is back, and in more ways than one.
The U.S. is back in the Paris Climate accord, of which Denmark is a strong defender. The U.S. is back in the UN Human Rights Council, of which Denmark is currently a member. You are back in the World Trade Organization with Denmark, also aims to reform. And let me tell you, Secretary Blinken: America has been missed.
Denmark appreciates the Biden administration’s return to the negotiating table in the world in the decision making foras, not to defend the status quo but to build alliances for reform. Denmark is more than ready to join you in that crucial work. We appreciate that you stand up for global human rights and democracy, and we appreciate that you, on every single foreign policy issue, stress the need for closer transatlantic cooperation.
Today, we covered a range of issues, from international security to trade policy, from Afghanistan and our 20-years long military presence, which we now are winding down, the Danish leadership in the NATO mission in Iraq, from the Arctic and the North Atlantic, to the situation in Israel and Palestine, and how to defend our common democratic values and global human rights.
We focused also on global climate challenges and cooperation on the green transition, where Denmark has a lot to offer globally as well as in the U.S. And we have reaffirmed our close partnership and cooperation between the United States and Denmark on the full range of diplomatic and security policy issues.
So with these words, once again, a heartfelt welcome to Denmark, Secretary Blinken, Tony, you are among friends. I will leave the floor to you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Jeppe, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure working with you, getting to know you starting almost from day one when we first spoke – spoke on the phone, and in our work ever since, including at NATO and now here in Copenhagen. And it’s a real pleasure to be here, to be with you for my first time as Secretary of State. And I’m grateful to you for very warm but also very productive meetings and for the meeting that we had earlier with Minister Broberg from Greenland and Minister av Rana from the Faroe Islands.
I also very much want to thank Prime Minister Frederiksen for our time together this morning, which was extremely productive. And I was honored to visit with Her Majesty the Queen and his Royal Highness the Crown Prince as well.
I feel a special debt to Denmark for helping me get through COVID-19, because as I told Jeppe in the early days of COVID-19 when many of us were housebound, my wife and I binge watched Borgen, which for those of you who haven’t seen it, is an absolutely wonderful television series. It helped me perfect my Danish. I learned some words like spin doctor – (laughter) – so —
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: I don’t know what that is. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s – but it’s just particularly good to be here and to just get across the board such a warm welcome from everyone.
Before speaking in greater depth about the partnership with Denmark, I do want to talk briefly about the ongoing situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The United States remains greatly concerned by the violence, by the escalating violence – hundreds of people killed or injured, including children being pulled from the rubble. We’re also alarmed by how journalists and medical personnel have been put at risk. Palestinians and Israelis, like people everywhere, have the right to live in safety and security. This is not an Israeli privilege or a Palestinian privilege; it’s a human right. And the current violence has ripped it away.
So we’ve been working intensively behind the scenes to try to bring an end to the conflict. President Biden’s been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. I spent my own flight on – yesterday to Copenhagen on the phone with regional leaders, including from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, as well as with my counterpart in France, discussing the urgent need to end the violence. And we’ll continue to do that later this afternoon.
As we’ve said before, Israel has the right to defend itself. There is no equivalence between a terrorist group indiscriminately firing rockets at civilians and a country defending its people from those attacks. So we call on Hamas and other groups in Gaza to end the rocket attacks immediately.
I’ve also said that I believe Israel, as a democracy, has an extra burden to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, even as it defends itself and its people. We call for an end to the ongoing violence within mixed communities in Israel, and we urge all parties to avoid any actions that undermine the chance for future peace. Further, we call on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians – especially children – to respect international humanitarian law, to protect medical facilities, protect media organizations, and protect UN facilities where civilians are desperately seeking shelter. And we are ready to lend support if the parties seek a ceasefire.
We’ll continue to conduct intensive diplomacy to bring this current cycle of violence to an end. Then we will immediately resume the work, the vital work of making real the vision of Israel and a Palestinian state existing peacefully, side by side, with people from all communities able to live in dignity.
This was a topic of conversation with the foreign minister today, because Denmark and the United States are allies and partners on virtually every major issue facing our countries, facing the world, facing our citizens. And I think you can see the strength of that partnership in our shared commitment to democracy and human rights. And I commend Denmark for last week’s successful democracy summit, which illustrated how deeply the Danish people feel, like the American people, about free and open societies that empower all of our citizens, and we look forward as well to working together in the months ahead as we work on our own democracy summit in the United States.
I think the partnership is evident also in the very close economic ties, including our robust trade relationship and, of course, our cooperation on climate. Denmark is a world leader in both its green ambitions and its green technology, especially wind energy, as Prime Minister Frederiksen highlighted at the Leaders Summit just a couple weeks ago, which she participated in. We’re proud of our new partnership with Denmark on decarbonizing the shipping sector. And we look forward to working together to set even higher climate ambitions, drive innovation, invest in renewable energy, and help vulnerable communities adapt and build their resilience.
More broadly, we work together across an incredibly broad range of diplomatic and security priorities, several of which the foreign minister touched upon. We’re coordinating closely to end the global COVID-19 pandemic, and to build back better so that we have in place a better, stronger global health security system to prevent, and if necessary, mitigate the next pandemic.
And together, we’re committed deeply to the NATO Alliance, which we agree is the bedrock of transatlantic security. We’ve had American and Danish troops serving shoulder to shoulder in virtually every NATO mission. Denmark now leads the effort in Iraq. We’ve worked closely together on the coalition to counter Daesh, and, of course, in Afghanistan with a long and strong partnership on security as well as economic and humanitarian support.
We also share concerns about the threat that Russia poses to Europe in light of the recent military buildup on the border with Ukraine, and the threat to European energy security posed by the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We share concerns about the challenges that China poses to our interests and values, including the rules-based order that makes our shared security and prosperity possible.
And we share a commitment to Arctic security. We very much welcome Denmark’s recent decision to invest more than $240 million in North Atlantic and Arctic defense in coordination with the governments of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. And we’ll continue our close cooperation in the Arctic Council, where we’re headed soon, to ensure that the Arctic region is one that is free of conflict, where nations act responsibly and act together to advance economic development, sustainable economic development, to care for the environment, to respect as well the interests and well-being and development of indigenous communities.
All of these matters will be on the agenda that we’ll join together in Reykjavik. On these issues and so many more, our countries stand together and work together. As the only country that belongs to NATO, the European Union, and the Arctic Council, Denmark consistently plays a leadership role in regional and global affairs. And we’re grateful for that.
There’s a Danish proverb that feels quite fitting today, and I quote: “The road to a friend’s house is never long.” So I’m thrilled to be able to visit our friend Denmark today. It is great to be back. And I’m looking forward to our countries continuing a close partnership for many years to come. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: We’ll open for questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you and President Biden have sort of signaled America is back, multilateralism is back, I guess saying this is no longer Donald Trump’s America. But if people are skeptical – I mean, I wonder what you have to say to them. There were 74 million people, Americans voting for Donald Trump. He still seems to be popular to control the Republican Party. He may come back, or Trumpism may come back. What do you have to say to those people who may not be willing to go all-in on the Biden-Blinken line, “America is back”?
And to the foreign minister, you just said America is back and America has been missed. How was it different meeting Secretary Blinken today from meeting Secretary Pompeo less than a year ago?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So happily, I don’t do politics; I just do foreign policy. And I’m also resolutely focused on today and tomorrow, not yesterday. And I would just say judge us not by what we say, but by what we do. Jeppe alluded to some of the steps that we took immediately upon taking office in January, of rejoining the Paris climate accord, re-engaging with the World Health Organization, posing our candidacy for the Human Rights Council at the United Nations, holding the global climate Leaders Summit in Washington. And I could go down the list.
Across the board, I think you’ve seen in a few short months a determination by the United States to reinvigorate its alliances and partnerships – witness this visit today – and also our engagement in multilateral institutions. And there is a strong reason for that that’s animating our thinking, and I’m finding that it has real resonance as I’m talking to counterparts around the world.
Two things. First, we believe that American engagement is important, that it makes a difference. Because in its absence, one of two things is likely. Either someone else will try to come and fill that role – and it may not be a way that advances the interests and values that we share – or maybe just as bad, no one does, and then you have big forces of change that may be disruptive and cause chaos before the challenges are resolved.
But the other side of the coin is this: As President Biden looks at it, when we look at the problems that are confronting our citizens – whether it’s in Denmark or the United States, every single day, that are going to have an impact on their lives, like COVID, like climate change, like the disruptive impact of new technologies – not a single one can be effectively addressed by any one country acting alone, even if it’s the United States. We have more of a premium than at any time since I’ve been involved in finding ways to cooperate and coordinate with other countries. That’s what’s animating us.
And so I would say to those who are looking at the United States with a question mark: Judge us by what we do, and whether we make good on that perspective, on that worldview.
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: Well, Poul Erik, I had a excellent also working relationship with the predecessor to Tony. And U.S. is Denmark – our most important ally. It is the foundation for our security, prosperity, and also for freedom of values that we hold so dear, and we must never take it for granted. Therefore, I am very pleased with also Secretary Blinken, Tony, your leadership and Biden’s leadership in the world for these values – democracy, rule of law, international cooperation based on rules where small and big countries can work together in solving global problems like the climate problems and other problems. And there I see U.S. is back, as also Tony alluded to. And we need U.S. leadership in the world today, and that’s something Denmark commend a lot.
So we strengthen today our bilateral relationship, the Kingdom of Denmark and the U.S., but also we welcome very much that U.S. is back in international foras fighting for the values that we maybe too long have taken for granted.
MR PRICE: Christina Ruffini.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Mr. Secretary, if it’s okay, I’ll start with you. The prime minister of Israel and officials from the IDF said over the weekend that they’ve transmitted intelligence to the United States that shows Hamas was using that tower they struck in Gaza to house military assets. As you know, it also has several media organizations who lost their offices and equipment and archives. Have you seen that intelligence? Has it been transmitted? And did you find it credible?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So let me start by saying, I think as you know, I had the opportunity over the weekend before leaving to speak to the president and CEO of the AP, Gary Pruitt. We had what I thought was a good – very good conversation. And I wanted to speak to him and as well as to all of you to reaffirm the strong commitment of the United States, the unwavering support of the United States for independent journalists and media organizations around the world, including for their safety and security.
I think independent journalism is especially important in conflict zones. I made a similar point earlier this month when we marked World Press Freedom Day, and I had the opportunity then to speak to journalists from around the world who, like so many of you, are pursuing the truth at – sometimes at great risk, and that’s something I take very much to heart.
So when it comes to the strike in Gaza, first, I was relieved that no one from the journalism community in that strike was hurt and people were able to leave the building safely. As you know, I think, President Biden and other members of the administration have raised directly our concerns with our Israeli counterparts about the safety and security of journalists operating in Gaza. And we have stressed the need for their protection.
Shortly after the strike, we did request additional details regarding the justification for it. I wouldn’t want to weigh in on intelligence matters in – in this forum. It’s not my place. I will leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment of that information.
The broader point, though, remains, and this is really critical: Israel has a special responsibility to protect civilians in the course of its self-defense, and that most certainly includes journalists.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a follow up: You said that you’ve requested additional information. Have you received it? Have you seen it? And did you find it credible?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I have not seen any information provided. And again, to the extent that it is based on intelligence, that would have been shared with other colleagues and I’ll leave that to them to assess.
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: Yeah, I would also like to emphasize we also talked on the issue in the Middle East, Blinken and I. We are deeply, deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine, and we have called from the Danish side for immediate de‑escalation. It is needed to avoid further loss of civilian life. I have myself been in contact with the Israeli foreign minister and also the Palestinian foreign minister. The indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and militant groups in the Gaza Strip is completely unacceptable. So I recognize Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense, but the Israeli military operations must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law. U.S. and EU are already deeply engaged in ensuring de-escalation, and it’s something that we work hard for. And I echo the words of Tony, that we need to protect civilian life as much as we possibly can.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it’s from the Danish Broadcast Cooperation. Is it an American priority that Denmark steps up its efforts to secure the Arctic? And what do you – if so, what do you specifically want the Kingdom of Denmark to do? Are we talking military presence? Are we talking more surveillance?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think, in fact, Denmark is stepping up. The investment we talked about, about $240 million in what is called – in the terminology domain awareness, basically having the – a capacity in place through – people through technology to know who’s doing what, where, at any given time, is usually important to maintaining security. And we very much appreciate the role that Denmark is playing in helping to do that. And so I think as well, one of the things that we’re working on together is heading toward the NATO leaders’ summit in just about a month’s time, where among other things, NATO is going to be hopefully adapting a program for NATO between now and 2030, revising some of its strategic concepts. And that has to include making sure that we have in place the appropriate resources and assets to sustain security in the North Atlantic. And the two of us are helping to lead those efforts, and Denmark is a critical partner in all of that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you guys discuss that Denmark still don’t pay the two percent of its GDP to NATO?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So I think we’re all tracking the need for allies and partners to achieve, as was agreed back in the Wales summit, these goals. And I think again this is an important step in dedicating resources to situational awareness in the North Atlantic, and we continue to look to our partners to continue to make progress in dedicating the appropriate percentage of their budget to defense.
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: And also at our meeting – a meeting with my colleague, our colleague from Greenland and the Faroe Islands on Arctic and North Atlantic issues together, and it was a very productive meeting in the spirit of good cooperation, close friendship, and I look forward to continuing that. On NATO, it is the fundamental alliance for all of us for our security, and Denmark is contributing, of course – of course with cash, but also with capabilities and also contributions to missions. We are leading the NATO mission in Iraq, a very important mission, and are taking a huge responsibility also with enhanced forward presence with soldiers in Estonia and the Baltic states to ensure the integrity of NATO. And when it comes to Arctic issues, we have the capability package, the $240 million where we want to raise situational awareness and ensure that we have the capacity to look at what is going on in the region to also protect our sovereignty in the region.
MR PRICE: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you so much. And for the foreign minister, I just wanted to sort of ask a little bit more about the question from Danish Public Broadcasting about whether you’re specifically worried about Russia’s activities in the Arctic region and Greenland, and what you intend to do about it.
For Secretary Blinken, you and President Biden have called for de-escalation in the conflict in Israel and Gaza, and it seems like quite the opposite has happened. What do you think about that? Would you support a United Nations Security Council statement immediately to call for a ceasefire, given that many U.S. senators and others are calling for an immediate ceasefire? And if not, what other concrete steps – or in general, what other concrete steps can you do at this point to influence what’s happening there on the ground? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: Yeah, on the Arctic, it is North Atlantic – it is important with the close partnership with Greenland and Faroe Islands, United States, and then, of course, Kingdom of Denmark. We have a unique cooperation. We are both – we will move after this meeting to Arctic Council, which is an architecture that has also ensured that we have a situation of non-conflict – of constructive cooperation around Arctic issues and an aim of also low tension in the Arctic region.
That said, we have seen Russian – some of the military bases in the northeastern flank that was closed off at the end of the Cold War has been re-opened. They have mainly defensive capabilities but also some offensive capabilities. And we see increased activities in the Arctic region. And I think it’s – it has to be done with a due diligence that we are ready to ensure to see what is going on in the Arctic region, and therefore we have this package where we have surveillance, we have other capacities to see what is going on to protect our sovereignty and our interest. But we have a unique cooperation and we want to safeguard it as that, so when we go to Reykjavik in a few days, this is a aim that we share.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: With regard to the second part of the question, we have been working around the clock through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to the conflict. As you know, President Biden was on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas 24 hours ago and on Saturday. I’ve spoken to both of them. As I mentioned coming over here, I spent most of the time on the plane actually calling various counterparts: Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, as well as my French counterpart. And there’ll be more such conversations later today. We’ve had a whole series of senior officials, starting as well with our Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, working with her counterparts, Deputy Secretary of State Sherman as well, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, and of course we have our Senior Official for Israel-Palestine Affairs Hady Amr on the ground in Israel now.
In all of these engagements, we’ve made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a ceasefire. And that’s precisely the message I think you heard from Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield during the UN session yesterday. Any diplomatic initiative that advances that prospect is something that we’ll support. And we are, again, willing and ready to do that, but ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a ceasefire. Any ceasefire would be, by definition, between them but we are ready to engage in support of. Meanwhile, we are working tirelessly across every diplomatic channel we have to advance the prospect of getting to a – getting to calm and ending the violence.
QUESTION: Does that mean the United Nations Security Council does not help that process of de-escalation, and that’s why the U.S. isn’t supporting it or – correct me if I’m misunderstanding.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: No, no that’s – it’s – we’re not standing in the way of diplomacy. To the contrary, we’re exercising it virtually nonstop. The question is: Will any given action, will any given statement actually, as a practical matter, advance the prospects for ending the violence or not? And that’s the judgement we have to make each time. If we think that there’s something, including at the United Nations, that would effectively advance that, we would be for it. We thought it was very important the other day to have this open discussion where the parties could put forward their views, their concerns, and be heard. And we’ll continue to look for ways to advance the goal that we have, which is ending the violence.
QUESTION: Thank you guys.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER KOFOD: Thank you so much. Thank you.
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