Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly at a Joint Press Availability
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: Hello, everyone. Bonjour, tout le monde.
(Via interpreter) Thank you again, Tony, for being here. It’s a real pleasure to see you. We had a really good meeting, a good working lunch, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.
(In English) And thank you. I was in Washington a month ago. I said to you I’ve been to Washington two times, it’s your time to come to Canada. I didn’t expect you to come within a month, but thank you. I am happy you are here and I am looking forward also for a visit to Montreal tomorrow.
Canada and the United States share a special, unique relationship. Of course, our two countries are bound by geography and history; but as we see elsewhere in the world, being neighbors does not guarantee being allies, being neighbors does not guarantee being trading partners, and being neighbors does not guarantee being friends. We’re all those things because we are stronger together when we stand together.
(In French via interpreter) We have chosen to invest in each other’s success to create prosperity for people on both sides of the borders. We have fought side by side on numerous battlefields because our way of life, our deeply held beliefs, and our democratic values were threatened.
(In English) And most recently we’ve decided, again, to stand together to help our Ukrainian friends defend themselves against the aggression of their neighbor. Vladimir Putin has demonstrated time and again that he will stop at nothing to consolidate his power and continue his war of aggression. As the fight continues, we must maintain or resolve to keep Ukrainians safe, armed, and – as winter approaches – warm.
(In French via interpreter) Secretary Blinken and I also discussed the situation in Haiti. This is a thing we are very concerned about. We recently discussed the crises that Haiti is facing at the Summit of the OAS, and we’ve worked together to deliver vehicles purchased by the Haitian Government for their police force. We currently have a team of Canadian officials on the ground in Haiti that are assessing the humanitarian security crisis and finding ways to resolve it. In the immediate term, we must see a humanitarian truce to restore the supply of fuel, water, and food. This will allow the Haitian people to meet their basic needs and allow hospitals to respond to the ongoing cholera outbreak.
It was also critical that we sanction that gangs that are fueling the violence on the island, and we both welcome the steps taken by the UN Security Council to impose sanctions. We must keep the pressure on. Canada will continue to monitor the situation closely, and we will help where we can and try to support Haitian led solutions.
(In English) We had an opportunity to discuss the ongoing situation in Iran. Canada salutes all Iranian who are fighting against tyranny, and we stand with the women and girls who are bravely defying the regime. The message is simple: women rights are human rights. We have a moral obligation to support the brave women of Iran and hold those persecuting them accountable.
Secretary Blinken and I also discussed our efforts to strengthen international peace and security, including through deepened engagement in the Indo‑Pacific region. The United States and Canada are indeed Pacific nations, but we are both connected to our Pacific partners through more than just our shared coastline. We are joined through deep people‑to‑people ties and a vision for a free, open, and inclusive Indo‑Pacific. We both believe in deepening our diplomatic and economic ties as well as strengthening the resiliency of our global supply chain.
Today, we agreed to hold the first Canada-U.S. Strategic Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific to further align our approaches. And to further economic cooperation in the region, I am pleased to announce that Canada will seek membership to the Indo‑Pacific Economic Framework which is commonly known as IPEF.
Secretary Blinken and I discussed the topic of Arctic security. As regimes with expansionist ambitions with little regard for the rules that govern international behavior are turning their eyes towards the north, we have a responsibility to ramp up our Arctic engagement. Of course, we welcome the United States’ recent Arctic strategy, and I am glad to announce that Canada will host the next round of the Canada-U.S. Arctic Dialogue. There we will advance long term planning to deepen our already strong collaboration in the region.
(In French via interpreter) The Arctic is undoubtedly the next big geopolitical issue, and Canada intends to be a leader on this issue. This is something we are doing for our security and to fight climate change, as well as to defend the rules that govern our states.
(In English.) This week marks my first year as foreign minister of Canada. I had to hit the ground running. I would say sprinting.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sprinting.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: Sprinting really. In that time we have the chance – we had the chance to see each other in Washington obviously, but at NATO, at the G7, at the G20, at the OAS, at the UN – basically around the world. It’s great to have you here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: So thank you. Merci beaucoup.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mélanie, thank you so much for the incredibly warm reception, the wonderful hospitality, and also – and maybe most importantly – the very productive and important conversation that we had with our teams just a short while ago. And that will continue over the next couple of days.
(In French via interpreter) I’m really delighted to be in Canada.
(In English) This is actually, I mentioned, my second visit to Canada in this capacity. The first one was a virtual visit in February of our first year. But as I’ve said, nothing can substitute for actually being here in person.
As the foreign minister said, we were together in Washington just a few weeks ago. We’ve been together in places all around the world, and I think it speaks – our own collaboration speaks to the closeness of the Canadian-U.S. relationship and the ground that we had to cover today, and as I said, that’ll continue. There’s so much ground, it just speaks to both the breadth of that relationship as well as the depth of the collaboration that we had. On virtually every issue that matters to our people, the United States and Canada are working together.
We discussed, as Mélanie said, our continued unwavering support for Ukraine as it faces this ongoing aggression from President Putin’s Russia. We applaud Canada’s recent announcement of more than $34 million in new military aid to Ukraine, including artillery, satellite communication services, and winter gear for the soldiers. Canada and the United States will continue working with dozens of partner nations to get Ukraine’s brave defenders what they need to keep fighting for their territory seized by Russia and to keep fighting for their people, strengthening our position on the battlefield and ultimately at any negotiating table that emerges.
Canada has also committed more than $320 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and welcomed more than 104,000 Ukrainians to Canada through an emergency visa program that allows Ukrainians to come here for up to three years, during which time they can work and their children can go to school and study. Communities from Newfoundland and Labrador to Yukon are supporting this effort, including members of the Ukrainian diaspora that I met earlier today at Café Ukraine, a community center where volunteers are doing everything from organizing social gatherings and concerts to making newly-arrived families feel a little bit less isolated, helping them find jobs, providing even art therapy for trauma survivors – all of that for free.
Mélanie and I were joined there by Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, whose mother, of course, was born to Ukrainian refugees at a U.S. Army-run refugee camp in Germany. The story of her family – like my own – is testament to the long history of people in our nations serving the countries that once provided them refuge.
The generosity toward displaced Ukrainians is part of a long tradition of Canadians opening their arms to people in need time and again. They’ve done that with approximately 23,000 Afghan refugees since the Taliban takeover in August of 2021. They’ve done that with more than a million refugees worldwide going back to the 1980s. It’s quite remarkable and something that speaks volumes for Canada around the world.
Many of the refugees are sponsored by families, by universities, by faith groups and other citizens through a private sponsorship program that Canada launched more than four decades ago that’s helped more than 327,000 refugees build new lives in this country and become a model for the world. We are going to soon pilot a program in the United States very much like it, and it’s been inspired by what Canada has done, where American communities are eager to play a similar role.
In addition to our assistance to Ukraine, Canada and the U.S. are also supporting our allies and partners across the Atlantic as they head into winter with heavy energy costs. We’re working together through the G7, we’re also doing it bilaterally, to help mitigate Russian-driven supply disruptions. And we’re accelerating the transition toward renewable energy and away from the dependence on Russia and other unreliable governments.
The same goes for other vital inputs in our supply chains. From critical minerals to microchips, we need to be able to source and to make essential products closer to home. That will not only make us more reliable in delivering for our people, but also more competitive in the 21st century economy.
That’s the idea behind the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credit for electric vehicles that are made in North America, which President Biden signed into law in August, and creates incentives for Americans to buy vehicles made in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Tomorrow, I am visiting a lithium battery recycling facility operated by the Canadian company Lithion, which is partnering with General Motors to increase our supply of batteries that power these vehicles, and also bring down their costs.
This is not a one-off. U.S.-Canada cooperation is deepening at every step of the battery value chain, from mining to production to recycling, benefitting communities on both sides of our border. That’s what we saw in the recent announcement by Ontario-based company Li-Cycle that will invest $485 million in expanding a battery recycling facility in Rochester, New York, creating over 200 good-paying jobs.
This cooperation is good for both our nations’ competitiveness. It’s good for Canadian and American workers. And it’s good for our planet. And it’s something we’re aiming to replicate across other supply chains.
That’s far from the only way that we’re partnering to boost our competitiveness. Let me just mention quickly a couple of things, and we talked about these as well.
We will continue to work with Canada to advance the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, to drive our hemisphere’s inclusive economic growth.
And the foreign minister reiterated Canada’s interest in joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. As you just heard, we support Canada – a fellow Pacific nation – joining this framework. In the coming months, we will consult closely with other IPEF members on the development of a process for considering new members, because it’s not a decision the United States can make unilaterally, but we would welcome Canada’s participation.
Mélanie and I also discussed other parts of the world beyond Ukraine, where we’re working together to tackle fundamental challenges to international law and to the United Nations Charter.
We’re working together to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its vicious crackdown on brave young women who continue to come out into the streets to demand their rights, more than 40 days now after the killing of Mahsa Amini. We fully support the statement that Minister Joly and 11 other women foreign ministers from around the world issued condemning the regime’s repression.
The Iranian regime has also provided the Kremlin with drones and assisted Russia in their use –drones that are being used to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy the infrastructure they rely on for electricity, for water, for heat. It’s appalling, and Canada and the United States will keep working with our allies and partners to expose, to deter, and to counter Iran’s provision of these weapons.
We support Canada’s efforts to rally countries around the world in ending the unlawful practice of detaining innocent individuals and using them as political pawns. Both of our countries have suffered from this. We’re working and we will be acting together to deal with it.
And we talked about shared challenges in our region, including in Haiti, as you heard from Mélanie. We agree that between deepening food and fuel shortages, the growing cholera outbreak, and gangs blockading ports and terrorizing civilians, the situation is simply unsustainable.
We appreciate Canada’s leadership in creating the UN Basket Fund to strengthen citizen security and law enforcement, and in airlifting vital security-related equipment to the Haitian Government last week – efforts in which the United States has been a proud partner. And we’ll continue to work together to rally international support around helping the Haitian people find a way forward – from the sanctions adopted unanimously last week by the Security Council against the leaders of gangs and the patrons that direct and profit from them, to other measures aimed at improving security for Haitians.
As fellow Arctic nations, as Mélanie mentioned, and shared stewards of the North American Arctic, we see how climate change is rapidly transforming the region. That’s why we’re working together to create an Arctic that is more sustainable, peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative, as is reflected in the updated U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region that we recently released.
So we face a set of complex challenges. But we have the immense good fortune of having a neighbor in Canada that not only shares our interests, but our respect for human rights, our commitment to democracy, our belief that all our people should have equal opportunities to reach their full potential. It’s why we make such a good team. And it’s why we’re committed to taking our relationship and our cooperation to even higher levels.
I simply couldn’t ask for a better partner in Canada and I certainly could not ask for a better partner in its foreign minister, my friend and my colleague, Mélanie Joly. So thank you for having us here today. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: Merci, Tony. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Merci. (In French.) We’ll now be beginning the question-and-answer session. We’ll be taking two questions from Canadian media and two questions from American media. (In French.)
QUESTION: Merci, Secretary Blinken. (In French) – I will ask in French – (in French). (Via interpreter) Madam Joly, the agreement on – the Safe Third Country Agreement – what do you have to say about that? And for Secretary Blinken, are you satisfied with the actual – with the current agreement?
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Christian. Obviously, border security is very important for us and we need to ensure that asylum seekers are treated with compassion. This is an issue that I discussed with the Secretary of State. We have a bilateral agreement on this issue. It is the Safe Third Country Agreement, and those negotiations are ongoing. Of course, our goal is to be able to cooperate with the U.S. on this issue.
(In English) So indeed, the security at the border is extremely important and we need to make sure that asylum seekers are also dealt with compassion. It is a bilateral agreement that unites the U.S. and Canada on this very question. This issue was raised by me to Secretary Blinken and negotiations are underway, and we’ll make sure that these negotiations are fruitful.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Little to add. As the foreign minister said, yes, this is something we discussed and we’ll continue to discuss.
Let me just say more broadly, to put this also in some perspective, we are facing a historic migration challenge around the world. We have more people on the move, displaced from their homes, than at any time in recorded history – more than a hundred million people now. And of course, in our own hemisphere, the hemisphere that we share, that’s also very much the case. And whether it is Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, we see people on the move throughout the hemisphere. And this is a challenge that has to be addressed and met by the countries of origin, the countries of transit, and the countries of destination. And we have to do it more effectively together.
Put simply, there needs to be a greater sense of shared responsibility for dealing with migration challenges. That’s exactly what came out of the Summit of the Americas with the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration. And Canada and the United States are helping to lead those efforts.
So across the board, this is something that we’re working on very closely together, in all of its manifestations. And we’ll work through any particular challenges that we have to.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Before I ask my second question, could you answer in French, perhaps?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: English, but – that’s all right. Thank you.
QUESTION: I think you have a great accent in French.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: (Via interpreter) Christian, he doesn’t have an accent in French.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Secretary Blinken, concerning NEXUS and the NEXUS pass, what do the U.S. and Canada need to do to get through that impasse? And Ms. Joly, what do you think of the possibility that some NEXUS officials might be armed at the border?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So NEXUS – this is something else that was discussed in our meeting and we’re both determined to work through it. We both feel strongly that the most powerful bond we have is in the ability of Canadians and Americans alike to move back and forth to our respective countries. It’s what connects us every single day.
So we’re committed and determined to work through this. We want to see the backlog it’s created be addressed. We’ve been working very hard ourselves, putting in additional personnel and resources in the United States to work through the backlog, and we want to and need to resolve this particular issue so that we can go at 100 percent, 110 percent, both to deal with the backlog and to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to facilitate movement between our two countries.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: So indeed, we need to make sure that Canadians that want to have access to a NEXUS card or used to have access to a NEXUS card and want it – want a new one are able to. So that’s why we are looking actively at how to address the backlog and to address services being rendered, and meanwhile working on our own bilateral relationship when it comes to security at the border.
So we’re in solution mode, and we’ll find a solution. I’m convinced.
(Via interpreter) As the Secretary of State mentioned, we want to make sure that any Canadian who has a NEXUS card or who wants to renew one will be able to do so. We are working together to find solutions to deal with the backlog. What is the French word for that? Arriéré, yes, the backlog. Thank you to the journalist for answering my question.
In any case, we’re dealing with working on that backlog, reducing the backlog, and being able to provide services while pursuing our discussions on the issue of border security. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: We’ll go to the next question, from American media this time around.
QUESTION: Leon Bruneau – bonjour – de l’Agence French-Presse.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: Bonjour.
QUESTION: American (inaudible). (Laughter.)
A question for both of you. You said you talked about Haiti in your discussions. There’s a lot of talk about potential setting up a security force, or some sort of security force, a police force with some military elements for Haiti. And at the same time – and I understand it’s a very difficult situation, but at the same time, given past experiences, we don’t see any country really standing up and willing to lead this force, if that is even a good idea, given that in Haiti it may not be so well accepted.
So my question for the Secretary is: First of all, do you think that this force, the idea of a force, security force, is a good idea? And who would lead that force, since the United States has said that they would not do so? You said you would support it but you would not lead it.
(Via interpreter) And to you, Madam Minister, would Canada be ready to lead this force? And if yes, under which conditions?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m happy to start. First, taking a step back on this as well, we have to look at the big – the big picture in Haiti and the challenges that the Haitian people face and that we need to help them address. And we know that between human-made and natural-made challenges, Haiti has more than its hands full. We now have a cholera outbreak, on top of everything else, that is very serious.
But in order to actually get to a place where we can genuinely help Haitians with the assistance that they need and also make sure that they can be on the path to elections to get to a new government over time, the knot that really has to be broken in the first instance is concerning security, because Haiti now faces a situation where gangs dominate important space in Port-au-Prince, the capital, as well as in other parts of Haiti, preventing assistance from getting through – everything from food and fuel and water – by blocking critical ports, critical fuel facilities, and also creating an environment in which people cannot move freely about, which would certainly make an election down the road impossible.
So our countries have been working very closely together to do a few things to try to cut this insecurity knot and deal with the gang problem. One is to support the Haitian National Police, including with equipment, with advice, and just recently, as you know, Canada provided armored vehicles to the Haitian National Police with our collaboration. At the same time, we are trying to break the nexus between these gangs and some of the political actors who are financing them and directing them, and that goes to the sanctions that were recently put forward at the United Nations as well as sanctions we’re doing on our own basis to try to get at those who are supporting and directing the gangs.
Having said all that, I think it’s a shared view that more likely needs to be done for the national police in support of them to allow them to get a real grip on security and to take back these parts of the capital that the gangs have been dominating. So there is now a second draft resolution in the works at the United Nations after the initial resolution on sanctions that would authorize a non-UN international assistance mission to improve the security situation and enable the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid to Haiti. And so what we’ve been talking about is what might that look like, what would it need, and we’ve both been talking to a variety of countries to gauge their interest and willingness to participate in that.
So that’s the conversation we’re having, but I think we – and I appreciate very much the fact that Canada has just sent or announced that it’s sending an assessment team to Haiti to look at what would actually be required in terms of supporting the police. But the purpose of any such mission would be to support the Haitian National Police in doing their jobs to make sure that the state once again actually controls the country, not gangs that right now are one of the biggest problems that we face in actually being able to move forward and help Haiti.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: So to follow up on that, first and foremost, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that Haiti is facing a triple crisis, the first one being a security crisis. The Varreux Terminal needs to be unblocked. It is fundamental that Haiti be able to supply itself with gas and as well as with clean water, because as Secretary Blinken mentioned, there is an outbreak of cholera right now. So the second also crisis that Haiti is facing is a humanitarian one, and we definitely need to support Haiti to make sure that – and bring the international community to support Haiti facing this important crisis.
And finally I would say it is also of equal importance to address the political crisis, because there needs to be fair elections happening, and we need to make sure that the environment for these elections to happen is the right one. But to do that we need to address the security and humanitarian issue. So that is why Canada sent an assessment mission. I confirmed it this morning. The goal is to be able to have information coming from the team that is right now in Haiti on these three crises.
We’ve said it many times: We will always support solutions that are by and for Haitians, because we believe in the fact that solutions are better when, of course, they’re taken by them and that we support them. That is also why we’re having conversations with the United States on this issue. That’s also why I had a long conversation with the head of the African Union, who is in town, Moussa Faki, this morning about the issue, and also that I had conversations with my CARICOM colleagues, because we need to make sure that it is, yes, Canada and U.S. collaborating with the Haitians, but also with many other countries. At the end of the day we need to make sure that there is strong legitimacy for this approach, and Canada will always be there to support Haiti.
I think one of the things that we haven’t done, when it comes to Haiti in the past, over the decades of Canada being involved in Haiti, is really sanctioning the people that are at the core of the financing of these gangs, and we need to make sure that we have a strong approach when it comes to sanctioning. And we are working with the U.S., along our United Nations partners, because obviously this conversation is happening at the UN Security Council. There was an important resolution also that was – that was taken by the UN Security Council on sanctions, and particularly targeting the head of the gangs, which is a so-called “Barbecue.” And we want to make sure that Canada follows suit on this, but the conversation regarding sanction is well and alive, and we need to make sure that the people that are benefiting from the violence in the streets of Port-au-Prince are held accountable.
MODERATOR: Our next question will be from Canadian media, and just a reminder that we request that your question be asked in a single interaction. Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi. Mercedes Stephenson, Global News. Thank you for taking our questions. Secretary Blinken and Minister Joly, you were just discussing Haiti. I’m wondering, Secretary Blinken, when you came here, if you were hoping for a commitment from Canada to lead this mission and if that is something you would still like to see. And Minister Joly, what the range of options are – because it will be partially determined by what we’re capable of, which comes to my follow up.
Secretary Blinken, how does the United States feel about Canada’s current levels of defense and foreign affairs spending? We have a chief of defense staff who has said we can’t do more than the essential. The Canadian Government announced $5 billion they said was new spending for NORAD. It turned out that was recycled. And we’re under enormous pressure to be able to perform even the basic capabilities. I’m wondering if that concerns the United States, and Minister Joly, if that’s a frustration for you in trying to fulfill your job with Canada’s (inaudible). Et en français, as well, please.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Happy to start. So on Haiti, if you look at the draft resolution, that’s before the Security Council right now, the second resolution, it is looking for and asking for countries to provide contributions and personnel of equipment, of other resources for a potential mission, one that would be very limited in scope, limited in time, and in support, as the foreign minister said, of the Haitian National Police, because the purpose is to reinforce their capacity to finally get a grip on the security situation and to deal with the problem of gangs dominating certain critical parts of Port-au-Prince in particular.
So we’re talking between us, but also, as Mélanie said, with many other countries about who might be willing to participate in such a mission, as well as who will lead it. And that’s an ongoing conversation that we’re both having and having with others. So this is a work in progress and we’re continuing to pursue it.
With regard to defense spending, I’d say a couple of things. First, Canada’s making extraordinary contributions every single day, particularly as we see with the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and the work as well as the very important material support that Canada is providing to the Ukrainians to help them defend themselves. And we just saw another significant provision of support, as well as very significant humanitarian assistance both in Ukraine itself, as well as, of course, all of the support that Canada is giving to so many Ukrainians who have come to Canada.
More broadly than that, though, we as allies have been working together in NATO for years to continue to strengthen our contributions to our common defense. We had the recent NATO Summit in which we’re working closely on a new Strategic Concept, which will require resources. We have a common commitment that we’ve made many years ago at the Wales Summit to spending a certain percentage of our GDP on defense for countries. This is a work in progress. We’re all making efforts to meet both the commitment it was made in 2014, but also to take into account so much that has changed since 2014. And that requires us, I believe all, to do more to provide for our common security.
We took steps at NATO in the face of the Russian aggression to strengthen NATO itself, including on the eastern flank. Canada’s played an important part of that. But I think as we’re talking about this now, we’re looking at new challenges that weren’t even there in 2014 when we all made these commitments to NATO and to our defense spending. So I think we all have to find ways to resource them properly, and that’s part of our conversation.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: Thank you. So on Haiti, Mercedes, so we have provided $40 million since the beginning of this year for the Haitian police. And we historically have very much been involved in creating their training and really making sure to empower them on the ground. What we’re seeing right now is there is more help needed and the Haitian police need to be able to handle the gangs, which is not the case at this point. And so that’s why the assessment team is in Haiti right now to see what’s the level of organization of the Haitian police and what’s the security situation. What does the Haitian Government has in terms of tools to deal with the gangs that are funded?
And so that is why we’re looking at different options, but we want to make sure that we have the right assessment. And I’ve said it many times – it needs to be by and for Haitians. So we will be working with Haitians themselves, and we need to work also with many countries around the world to deal with this issue.
And so I think that Canada has always been a very, very good friend to Haiti. We have a strong relationship. Our police forces have strong relationship with Haiti also because they’ve been there in the 19th, at the beginning of the 2000s, and we want to maintain them. And more than ever, Haiti needs us. And so of course we will play a role.
In terms of military investments and being able to do my job, I think – looking back at the last year, I think it’s been a very busy year. And I think that we can be proud of Canada’s leadership in the world on many issues, from indeed Haiti but also looking at what we’re doing to support women in Iran right now or, obviously, everything we’ve done on the question of Ukraine. On the question of Ukraine, we’ve spent and invested more than $3.5 billion at this point at all levels. We’re one of the countries that is investing the most per capita.
We also are leading, like Tony said, on the eastern flank of Europe, the NATO Latvian forces. And I’m coming up with an Indo-Pacific strategy, and the goal is definitely for Canada to play a bigger role in the region. But as you know, Minister Anand, our defense minister, has a defense policy review to undergo, and so I’m convinced that she’ll show great leadership on this issue.
So you want me to say that en français? Okay.
(Via interpreter) So, of course, when it comes to Haiti, we have long been involved in creating training for the Haitian police, including through their academy. And this is curricula that was developed through the ’90s and the 2000s in Canada. Canada has long been a very close friend of Haiti, and our objective has always been to improve and deepen that friendship. No decision will be taken without the involvement of the Haitians themselves. I have always said any solutions must be by and for Haitians because, of course, this is all for them. It is the Haitian people who are suffering now, and they’re the ones who need to be helped.
We’ve worked with the Americans and other countries in the region to ensure that we deal with the humanitarian, economic, and political crises there. And something else that’s quite important now is that there currently is an assessment mission there on the ground, and the goal of the mission is to understand what is the state of the police force in Haiti and what is the current security situation.
When it comes to defense, well, we’ve invested over $3.5 billion in the Ukraine crisis since the beginning of the year. We’re also leading NATO forces in Lithuania, and we’re starting to play a greater role in the Indo-Pacific as well. Secretary Blinken and myself have had good discussions concerning defense investments, and Minister Anand is currently reviewing the national defense policy, so I’m convinced that that will end in a solution.
MODERATOR: (In French.) We’ll now be taking our last question.
QUESTION: Hi, Jennifer Hansler from CNN. Thank you so much for taking our questions. Mr. Secretary, President Putin today praised the Saudi crown prince and said Russia would look to deepen its relations with Saudi Arabia. Will this factor into the U.S.’s response to the OPEC decision? And when can we expect to see the first repercussions for that decision?
And then to both of the ministers, Russia has suggested it could let the Black Sea grain deal expire. Are there any concessions that the U.S. and Canada would consider in order to facilitate the extension of that deal?
And how specifically do you deter Iran from providing drones to Russia, and given the pace of these drone attacks on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, are you confident that the U.S. and Canadian support can be robust and quick enough for Ukraine to keep its heat on and its critical services this winter?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Now would you ask it in French as well? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, sadly only speak Spanish. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: (Laughter.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: A few things. First, one of the reasons that we were very disappointed in the OPEC+ and Saudi decision to decrease production was precisely because of the potential impact it would have on oil prices, not only affecting consumers in our respective countries but potentially lining President Putin pockets at the time when he continues to pursue the aggression against Ukraine – indeed, in many ways, doubling and tripling down on it with the mobilization, the annexation, the loose talk about nuclear weapons, and now the horrific assault on Ukraine’s basic infrastructure: trying to turn the lights out, turn the power off, turn the heat off for the Ukrainian people. So anything that assists that is profoundly wrong and profoundly objectionable.
Having said that, it’s worth noting that Saudi Arabia supported the resolution that came before the United Nations General Assembly, where 143 countries condemned the purported annexation of Ukrainian territory by Russia. And just recently, Saudi Arabia came forward with, I believe, more than $400 million in humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. Both very positive decisions that that we’ve taken note of.
As we’ve said, the relationship with Saudi Arabia has been built up over many years, many decades through many administrations, on a bipartisan basis. We will look at this, as we are, methodically and with deliberation for the purpose of making sure that it is working to advance our interests. That’s the objective. And we have a multiplicity of interests when it comes to the relationship with Saudi Arabia. And as we’re looking at this, we’re – we want to make sure that, as I said, those interests are being advanced and supported.
When it comes to the grain agreement, first, remember none of this should have been necessary in the first place, because the only reason we had to get this grain agreement is because Russia invaded Ukraine and then blockaded its ports, denying the entire world the benefits of the Ukrainian breadbasket. Thanks to terrific work by the United Nations, by the secretary-general, with the support of Turkey, an agreement was reached where Russia stopped the end of the blockade of Odesa and a process was put in place to allow Ukrainian grain and food products to flow out to the world. And that’s been a tremendous benefit. More than nine million metric tons of grain have gotten out through the Odesa ports. Two-thirds of that has gone to the Global South, to countries in Africa and Asia and elsewhere, who desperately needed it. It’s had a very positive impact in lowering prices that’s benefited everyone around the world.
So the idea that Russia would now say, ah, it doesn’t want to continue, it wants to turn it off, I think will be met with great anger by countries around the world who are benefiting from Ukrainian grain. I think it’s profoundly in everyone’s interests to make sure that this grain can continue to move out of Ukraine, and certainly we will do everything we can to sustain the agreement. But I think a decision by Russia to discontinue this agreement would the met with deep concern from countries around the world, especially in the Global South.
With regard to Iran and the drones that it’s providing to Russia, that Russia is using to kill innocent Ukrainians and to try to destroy the infrastructure of Ukraine, we’ve been warning about this going back many months. Starting in July, we raised concerns that Iran was thinking about providing these drones to Russia. Since well before the Russian aggression, we’ve been going after the Iranian drone networks, the UAV networks. We sanctioned them well over a year ago. We just sanctioned them again a few weeks ago. We’re trying to break up these networks. And we’re looking at everything that we can do, not just with sanctions, to disrupt this trade, as well as, of course, to help the Iranian – the Ukrainians, excuse me, harden their own defenses.
But I think, again, the fact that Iran is doing this is something that virtually the entire world will find profoundly objectionable. It’s also evidence of the fact that the sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia, all of us, and the export controls, are having a powerful impact because Russia is unable to produce parts for its own equipment, to manufacture its own equipment, and it’s having to turn to whatever corner of the world it can find to try to get things to continue its aggression. So we are looking very hard at what can be done to stop this, but the first thing is it’s very visible to the entire world. And I think the world is not going to countenance this relationship and the supply of these weapons to Russia.
Finally, we just proceeded with, I think, our 24th drawdown of defense equipment for Ukraine. As I said, the Canadians have recently contributed additional systems to the Ukrainians. We have a process in place that Secretary of Defense Austin is leading. It was started in Ramstein, Germany, where we’re coordinating the efforts of dozens of countries to make sure that Ukraine continues to get what it needs to defend itself. And this has been an evolving picture over time. As the nature of the aggression has changed, moved to different places, using different means, we’ve adjusted, and we’ll continue to do that, as I said, to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need.
There’s a profound commitment that we have – but not just the United States and Canada, dozens of countries have – to make sure that Ukraine continues to get what it needs to defend itself and to take back the territory that was seized from it by Russia.
FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY: Thank you. On the UN grain deal, I must say that I just had a conversation this morning with the head of the African Union, which was very concerned as well that this deal will not be continuing to be supported by Russia. So I think we can really work with many countries around the world – definitely the U.S. and us, but also working with African countries and Middle Eastern countries that are depending from this important grain deal. And we will continue to voice that support to that deal at the UN through our ambassador.
I think also that it is equally important for us as a very important grain producer to continue to provide the world with our own grains and food. We’ve increased also massively our support to the World Food Programme; we’re now the fourth biggest donor in the world. And my job is to make sure that, working with the minister of international development, we shed light on the question of food security. We will be going to the G7 next week – Tony and I – and definitely as this G7 will be particularly focused on the needs of Africa, we will be looking at how we can continue to support the UN grain deal, but at the same time that we can address the issue of the food crisis.
And finally on the question of Iran, we look forward to working with the U.S. on shedding light on Iran’s involvement in Ukraine and making sure that they’re held accountable. I’ve already, as mentioned, hosted a female foreign minister meeting – nearly 17 of them were present – and we also launched a very important declaration to support women in Iran that are fighting for women rights. But I think that the issue of Iran being involved in Ukraine and supporting Russia brings the Iranian regime’s – how can I say – inhumanity to another level. So that’s why we will make sure that we hold them accountable. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (In French.) This ends press conference for today. Thank you all for being here.