Blinken Heads to Europe to Boost Alliances

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Brussels Monday for meetings this week that the State Department says are aimed at boosting ties with the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and partnering on issues such as climate change, counterterrorism and ongoing efforts in combating the coronavirus pandemic. Blinken is scheduled to take part in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers Tuesday and Wednesday, and to also hold talks with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “It’ll be an opportunity for the secretary and the foreign ministers to discuss the NATO 2030 initiative,” Acting Assistant Secretary Philip Reeker for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs told reporters ahead of Blinken’s trip. “Proposals under that [2030 initiative] for alliance adaptation, concerns over China and Russia, as well as climate change, cybersecurity, hybrid threats, combating terrorism, energy security — clearly the global pandemic enters into this, and other common challenges that we face together.”Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of new NATO headquarters during the move to the new building, March 18, 2021.After four years of foreign policy under former President Donald Trump that focused only on prioritizing U.S. interests, Reeker said Blinken will deliver a speech in Brussels outlining a commitment to “rebuilding and revitalizing alliances” while highlighting the importance of NATO.  “We know we’re stronger and better able to overcome challenges when we face them together, and we’re going to modernize our alliances, mend them as needed, and deal with the world as we face it,” Reeker said. Blinken’s itinerary also includes a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union’s (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. The State Department said agenda items include economic recovery efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic and addressing “global challenges that come from Iran, Russia and China.” Specifically, regarding Iran, Reeker said the top U.S. diplomat will consult with EU colleagues about the prospects of the United States and Iran mutually returning to the agreement signed in 2015 that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Both the United States, which left the deal under Trump in 2018, and Iran, which responded by taking steps away from its commitments, have expressed a willingness to observe the agreement once again, but each has signaled the other side should start first. The final part of Blinken’s trip agenda is bilateral talks with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès. 

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