INTERVIEW - COP27 comes at a crucial stage in the world: US State Department regional spokesman

Ahram Online , Sahar Zahran in Washingtom DC , Tuesday 11 Oct 2022

In an interview with an Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington DC, Samuel Warburg, the regional spokesman for the US State Department, stressed the importance of the coming climate change summit in Sharm El-Sheikh (COP27) and discussed various regional issues.

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During the interview, Warburg also reiterated the US’s commitment to mitigating the effects of the Ukraine war on Egypt and other regional countries, especially when it comes to energy and food security.

He discussed the ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna, saying that Washington was prepared for any outcome.

The regional spokesman echoed the administration’s support for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution, saying that Washington does not want to focus on other files, such as full Palestinian membership in the United Nations.

Finally, he addressed the situation in Libya, acknowledging its importance to Egypt and stressed that any solution must come from within Libya itself, and cannot be imposed from abroad.

Ahram Online: First, how do you see the Egyptian efforts to make the climate summit a success? And what can the US administration offer in this regard?

Samuel Warburg​: There is no doubt that the climate summit, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh next November, is of great importance as it comes at a crucial stage the world is going through, evidenced by the participation of high-level officials from the United States in it.

It is necessary to stress that the United States and other major countries such as China bear the responsibility and should not unload them on the developing countries, but rather help them to take the necessary measures to address climate change.

The summit will come out with positive results. There is a common vision. The exchange of ideas and the development of proposed solutions must be a collective effort.

AO: Do you think that President Biden's speech attacking Russia might affect Putin's decision-making and cause him to retract his threats to use a nuclear weapon or do something else?

SW: Regarding President Joe Biden's warning to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin against the use of a nuclear weapons, I say that so far it seems that this war was chosen by one person without a doubt, and without the will of the Russian people who know nothing about it and do not support it because the Russian government has prevented any news about it.

In this war, the United States, in coordination and cooperation with our allies, will continue to provide defence and military assistance to the Ukrainian people.

Putin and his government bear all [responsibility for] the negative repercussions and effects on food security, supply and energy in Europe.

As long as Putin continues this war against the Ukrainian people, we will continue to provide military and defence assistance to Kyiv, and also help countries that suffer from the repercussions of this war, including challenges from food security, energy, etc.

President Biden, in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, talked about how we are providing an additional $3 billion for food security and related projects.

We know that many Middle Eastern countries and their people suffer from food shortages, especially since all wheat sources are now closed in Ukraine, and this is a big challenge.

Therefore, the United States, through the International Development Agency and through our participation and contribution to the World Food Program, will continue to support them.


Al-Ahram Correspondent in Washington DC Sahar Zahran interviews Samuel Warburg, the regional spokesman for the US State Department

 

AO: The negotiations in Vienna over the Iranian nuclear agreement have reached a dead end. What are the US’s options?

SW: We do not see that we have reached the end of these negotiations if we take into account the course of the negotiations through 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. I mean, these negotiations took us a lot of time. But this does not mean that we should sit silently for several years.

President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken were clear that it is imperative that the negotiations lead to a result. Biden was clear from the beginning that he would not allow the Iranian regime to possess nuclear weapons. Washington is ready for all scenarios, whether with a return to the nuclear agreement or without it.

AO: Could Israel take a unilateral step that would surprise the world?

SW: It is not possible for me to speak on behalf of the Israeli government. The United States, as we have heard for years from different administrations, supports Israel’s right to self-defence. If we talk about Iran’s role in financing terrorism or we talk about Hamas and Hezbollah, we say that Israel has the right to self-defence.

AO: There are demands for Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations. How can the United States of America support this request?

SW: In this regard, I would like to express my gratitude to the Egyptian government for the role that President El-Sisi played in ending the recent violence in the Gaza Strip and for all the efforts made by the Egyptian government to calm things down.

As President Biden has said, the Palestinian and Israeli people deserve prosperity, stability and security. The United States believes that the two-state solution is the most appropriate solution. We in this administration have resumed dialogue and relations with the Palestinians, which were unfortunately severed by the previous US administration. We have resumed humanitarian and economic assistance not only to the Palestinian people, but also to the United Nations and UNRWA.

The United States does not dictate to Israel what steps it should take to achieve this, but we are talking about the current situation and the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Biden administration urges all parties to refrain from any unilateral steps, including settlements and anything else, because these steps do not create the appropriate conditions for the resumption of dialogue between the two sides.

In general, we have contact now with the Palestinian people and Palestinian officials, and we will continue to do so and will build on this communication to urge the two sides to sit at the negotiating table.

Regarding Palestine’s request for full membership in the United Nations, I think that the Palestinians should focus on direct negotiations and the United States supports the right of the Palestinians to have a homeland in which the Palestinians live side-by-side with the Israelis, and this is our focus now. The administration believes that the most appropriate solution is the two-state solution.

AO: What about Security Council reform?

SW: President Biden, in his address to the General Assembly, called for reforming the Security Council and said the time has come for that at the General Assembly.

AO: Regarding the existing divisions in the Middle East, especially in Libya, do you think that the US involvement in this regard is weak?

SW: The US supports the sovereignty of the Libyan state and believes that any solution in Libya must be between the Libyans themselves. It is not possible for the United States, Russia, Turkey, or any other country to impose any solution on the Libyan people. Therefore, the special envoy is in contact with all parties and had some meetings in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly, and dialogue took place with all parties. We know that some countries in the region have a great interest in the affairs inside Libya.

There are challenges, no doubt, and without a government, consensus or a common vision, this will lead to a vacuum that will unfortunately be exploited by the militias. Therefore, we are in contact with the Egyptian government because we know that the chaos in Libya will affect our friends in Egypt.

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