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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Cameron at a Joint Press Availability
39 MINUTE READ
December 11, 2023

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron speak during a media availability at the State Department, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 

 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  It’s genuinely a pleasure to welcome Foreign Secretary Cameron here to the State Department, to Washington.  The infamous special relationship has never been more important than it is now, and I think that’s reflected in the conversations we’ve had.  Actually, we began on the phone almost immediately after your appointment, then we were in Brussels together just a week or so ago at the NATO meetings, and we picked right up today, looking at the work we’re doing together both addressing bilateral issues but especially the many regional and global issues where the United Kingdom and the United States are so closely joined.

We spent some talking, of course, about Ukraine.  And I believe, David, your first trip abroad as foreign secretary was to Ukraine.  Our countries are in lockstep when it comes to continuing to do everything possible to ensure that Putin’s aggression remains a strategic defeat and failure for Russia and determined to ensure that Ukraine continues to stand strongly on its own feet as a sovereign, independent country.

Our NATO – our meetings, excuse me, at NATO I think made very clear that there remains unwavering support for Ukraine across our Alliance, and, indeed, well beyond it – more than 50 countries that are working together to support Ukraine.  In those efforts over the last almost two years now, the United States has provided something north of $70 billion to support Ukraine.  Our European allies have provided more than  $110 billion in support.  So when we talk about burden sharing, this is a very powerful example of just that, and we are grateful for the work that our partners have done, starting with the UK.  The UK’s leadership has been absolutely essential.  The UK has committed the second most of any country after the United States in military assistance and, of course, as I said, across the board.  If you look at what our European partners are doing, what other partners in other parts of the world are doing, because this is really a global coalition in support of Ukraine – as I said, other countries are doing extraordinary things – military support, economic support, humanitarian support.

As we accelerate our efforts to enable Ukraine to stand on its own, it’s crucial that the United States and our partners continue to do our respective parts.  And that’s why the supplemental that’s currently before Congress is so necessary and so urgent.  And there’s a very clear choice before us:  Are we going to ensure that Putin’s aggression against Ukraine remains a failure; or will Putin prove that, as he believes, he can outlast us, he can divide us, he cannot only continue to threaten Ukraine but take that aggression elsewhere, including, potentially to countries in NATO?

We know that the supplemental – this is an important moment, and important because the people who want to see it fail, the people who want to see it not go forward, are sitting in Moscow, they’re sitting in Tehran, they’re sitting in Beijing.

We also discussed the ongoing conflict and Israeli campaign in Gaza.  We both recently returned from the Middle East.  We’re also both united on behalf of our countries in support of Israel’s right to do everything it possibly can to ensure that October 7th never happens again.  And at the same time, we’re committed in our conviction that Israel must do everything it can to protect civilians, to ensure that humanitarian assistance flows into Gaza.  For our part, the United States has made clear that Israel has to make maximum efforts to avoid civilian casualties, even as Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields – and, as well, to sustain and indeed increase the humanitarian assistance that’s going to people who need it – men, women, and children; food, medicine, water, fuel.

On hostages, we continue to explore every means to secure their release.  Hamas is responsible for the fact that the pause that enabled the release of more than a hundred hostages came to an end.  We’re pressing for Hamas to renew that effort.  To date, they continue to refuse to return to it.  We’re also pressing in the meantime for Hamas to allow access for the ICRC to the hostages in Gaza to assess their condition, their well-being, and to at least be able to tell the world that.

Finally, when it comes to conflict in the Middle East, we are absolutely united in doing everything possible to prevent it from spreading.  We remain together and with others intensely engaged in the region to make sure that other fronts don’t open up.

This includes safeguarding maritime security in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  We’ve seen totally unacceptable attacks there on shipping.  That has to stop.  We have every reason to believe the attacks were enabled by Iran, by weapons supplied by Iran to the Houthis.  And we are closely coordinating on steps to protect maritime shipping and to make sure that this practice stops.

We’re also focused on ensuring that anything that would add to instability in the West Bank does not continue.  That includes making sure that extremist settler violence stops.  We’ve, as you know, taken steps this week in the United States to impose visa restrictions on responsible individuals and, if necessary, we’ll take further action.  But we’ve seen some progress there, but more needs to be done to ensure that this extremist violence ends.

Finally, on Gaza, it’s very important that, even as we’re focused on what’s happening day in, day out, that we’re also not only thinking about but working on what comes next, and particularly building a foundation for a durable peace and durable security.  Tomorrow, I’ll have a chance to welcome colleagues from around the region here in Washington from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  I look forward to continuing those discussions with them.

We had a chance, as well, to discuss our approach to the People’s Republic of China.  We’re aligned on key challenges that we face in the Indo-Pacific.  That includes ensuring peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as standing up to the PRC for its nonmarket practices.

We’re also engaging China where we can to try to see if we can find cooperation in solving some of the big challenges that we face, including, for example, risk and safety issues when it comes to artificial intelligence.  The United States and the United Kingdom have been leading in the efforts to establish rules of the road.  Prime Minister Sunak hosted the first-ever global summit on AI safety, a very, very important step.  And this is an area where the United States and the United Kingdom will continue to work together.

Let me just say in closing that, as we’re looking at the challenges we face, I heard the foreign secretary note recently – and I quote, if I can, David – “if we turn this moment of danger and insecurity into something that brings a new sense of unity between allies, there is no reason…we cannot prevail.”  And that’s exactly what we’re doing – strengthening, reinforcing the unity that we already have.   And as we do that, and as we do that with our other partners, we can – and, indeed, we will – prevail.

David.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  Thank you very much, Secretary of State.  Thank you, Tony.  We had an excellent meeting.  It was a detailed, substantial run-through of all the issues that you discussed, and it reminded me of when I was prime minister.  There is no more important relationship for Britain than this partnership with the United States.  And I’m glad to see that it’s not only stronger than ever – the AUKUS agreement, the Atlantic Declaration, things that have been put in place since I left office, and I’m delighted that they’re there, and they make the relationship even stronger, and very glad to be foreign secretary and working on that.

And also, this relationship’s never been more important.  In the dangerous and insecure and unstable world in which we currently live, this is a partnership that really delivers for the United Kingdom, that delivers, I believe, for the United States, and it’s great to be working in partnership with you to strengthen it in every way that we can.

I won’t repeat every area that you mentioned, but just let me make a few points.  First of all, the situation with Ukraine.  This was – apart from the meeting we were having today, this was the reason I wanted to be in Washington, D.C. this week, was to make the point about how important it is that we go on funding Ukraine and helping Ukraine in every way we can to resist Putin’s illegal invasion.  I see it as the challenge of our generation.  Just as my grandfather’s generation had to fight off Nazi aggression in Europe, we are fighting against Russian aggression in Europe.

And the challenge, in a way, is a simple one.  If you add up the economies of the allies of Ukraine – the United States, the United Kingdom, countries of the European Union – we outmatch Russia 30 to one.  What we have to do is to make that economic strength count in the economic support, the diplomatic support, the moral support, but above all the military support that we give to Ukraine.

And one of the points I was making on Capitol Hill is this is not just an issue of European security; it’s also an issue of United States security, too.  As you said, if we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine, he will be back for more.  We know that, and next time it could well be a NATO Ally, in which case it wouldn’t just be British and American funds and weapons, it would be British and American lives.

I think there has been progress.  I think sometimes it’s important to stand back and look at what’s really happened.  Ukrainians have taken back half the land seized by Putin.  Recently they’ve knocked the Russian navy right back across the Black Sea, sinking a good portion of it in the process.  We’ve opened up a shipping lane, with British insurance made available, so that over 200 ships have managed to export grain and other goods from Ukraine, and that’s helped their economy to grow.  And of course, they are knocking on the door of both NATO and the European Union.  And so these are huge advances for this country in their struggle.

And the other point I’ve been making while I’m here is it is value for money.  Thank you, Tony, for what you said about the scale of European support now outmatching U.S. support.  We are rightly sharing a burden, as we should.  It’s our continent.  But I’d also argue that for something like a 10 percent uplift in your defense budget and our defense budget, we’ve actually, with the bravery and strength of the Ukrainians, destroyed about half of Russia’s pre-war defense strength, so – without the loss of a single American or British life.

So I think the last two days have been very important in this regard, making those arguments.  And while I’ve been here, we’ve also put sanctions on 46 different entities across 11 different countries selling dual-use goods to Russia for the weapons program and their war machine.  And we’ve also announced sanctions that we’ve taken very publicly in this case against two individuals linked to the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, who have been undermining democracy in Britain and using cyber attacks.  And we’ve called that out in a, I think, quite right and public way to say that this is unacceptable and mustn’t happen in the future.

Of course, we did discuss the Middle East in a lot of detail, as you said.  We stand with you in supporting Israel and its right to defend itself, and to make sure that they deal with the murderous terrorist sect that is Hamas that did those appalling things on October the 7th, while at the same time stressing the importance of obeying international humanitarian law and trying to minimize civilian casualties.

I very much agree with what you said about the hostage situation.  There’s no justification for taking and holding hostages in this way.  They should all be released, and it’s important that those hostages are given access to or the ICRC is given access to them in the meantime.

In terms of the future, we have to start not only providing the aid that is necessary for people in Gaza, possibly using maritime routes as well as land-based routes if that is necessary, but also thinking about the future after this military operation is over.  And we discussed in our meeting how that’s about how we build up and revitalize the Palestinian Authority, it’s about how we stand up a plan for what happens after this operation is over, and how we map out a future to a secure future for both Israel and for the Palestinian people.  And we’re committed to working together and with others to get that done.

Finally, one issue also that we discussed in our meeting is the situation on the border between Venezuela and Guyana.  These borders were settled in 1899.  I see absolutely no case for unilateral action by Venezuela.  It should cease; it is wrong.  And I’m delighted by the announcements that have been made by the U.S. today in that regard, and I hope to be having some telephone calls later on with the president of Guyana and others in the region to try and make sure that this very retrograde step that has been taken does not lead any further.

But above all, we discussed China.  I’ve been speaking about that a lot today.  I think it’s very important that we not only protect ourselves better against Chinese cyber attacks and other hostile acts, but I think it’s also important that we align with our allies and friends so that we have a more joined-up and combined position on all the issues with respect to China.  And as Tony and I were saying, there is also the engage part of all of this, which is to make sure on issue of mutual benefit like climate change, where we won’t solve it without Chinese action, we are discussing with them what needs to be done.

It was a very good meeting.  It’s a pleasure to be working with you.  We started about a few hours after I took on the job, and you telephoned me and we spoke, and we’ve met since then in Brussels at the NATO conference, in Skopje at the OSCE, and I’m sure there will be plenty of other places, as well as right here in Washington, D.C., we’ll meet.  But it’s been a very good meeting.  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  The first question goes to Vivian Salama with The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Matt.  Mr. Secretary, thank you.  If I may, I would like to quote you back to you, if that’s okay.  Following your meetings last week with Israeli officials, you said, quote, “I underscored the imperative to the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the [– and the] scale we saw in northern Gaza [must] not be repeated in the south.  As I told the prime minister, intent matters, but so does the result.”

This week, officials with the World Health Organization told reporters via video link in Gaza that, quote, “The situation is getting worse by the hour.  There is intensified bombings going on around us, including here in southern areas, [in] Khan Yunis and even in Rafah.”  Have the Israelis disregarded what you requested when you met them last week, and will there be any consequences either with regard to U.S. military assistance or any other if Israel continues down this path?

And secondly, Prime Minister Netanyahu also said this week that the IDF can be trusted – is the only body that can be trusted with demilitarizing Gaza moving forward when the war ends.  Is the U.S. concerned that this will end up an Israeli occupation, whether short and long term, and if not, is there a viable alternative?

And Mr. Foreign Secretary, welcome back to D.C.  The UK has committed 2.3 billion pounds a year in military aid to Ukraine for 2022 and 2023.  When will it agree or announce any commitment for 2024, and will it be the same?

And if America does reduce its financing of Ukraine’s military effort, should Europe step up to fill the shortfall?  Do you think you will have agreement with other European countries to move forward on that?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m happy to start.  Vivian, thank you for the questions.  So first, let me put this in context when it comes to what we’ve been looking for as Israel conducts this campaign against Hamas to try to ensure that what happened on October 7th never happens again, something that we fully support.  But as I’ve said repeatedly, how Israel conducts the campaign matters and matters a great deal, particularly when it comes to doing everything possible to minimize harm to civilians as well as to maximize the assistance that’s getting in to people who need it so desperately.

I’ve been to the region, as you know, I think three times since October 7th, and actually four times to Israel during those trips.  After – during the first trip, we made the case for the imperative of getting humanitarian assistance to move into Gaza.  After we left, that assistance started to flow, with the trucks beginning to move into Gaza with the desperately needed assistance for Palestinian people.

The second, next trip we took, we focused in on how humanitarian pauses could be beneficial in getting hostages out, getting more assistance in, and allowing people to move about in a way that got them out of harm’s way.  Well, shortly after we left, that’s also what happened.  And we saw Israel first establish these corridors in the north as well as daily pauses to enable people to move from north to south, to do so safely, to get out of harm’s way, and hundreds of thousands of people were able to do that and to get out of harm’s way.

At the same time, we got the – after negotiations with tremendous assistance from Qatar and from Egypt, we got the – the pause for hostages.  More than a hundred hostages were released, reunited with their families, and at the same time, we doubled the amount of humanitarian assistance during that period that was getting in.  As well, we facilitated, as I said, the movement of people out of harm’s way.

Now, on this last trip, as Israel has moved the campaign against Hamas to the south, we have focused in, as you’ve said, on the imperative of maximizing – maximizing – efforts to protect civilians and get not only assistance in but to sustain the higher level of assistance that was reached during the humanitarian pause and actually build on it.  And what we’ve seen over the initial days is some important additional steps in the direction of doing just that.  The Israelis have been evacuating neighborhoods instead of entire cities, so focusing in on a much more deliberate way on those who may be in harm’s way as they conduct the campaign against Hamas; establishing some deconfliction areas, some safe areas that people can go to where they can be safe from being in the line of fire; and having a more narrowly focused area of where this military operation is actually being conducted.

Having said that, as we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south after the end of the humanitarian pause, it is imperative – it remains imperative – that Israel put a premium on civilian protection, and there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there, the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.

There are a number of things that we think it would be important to really focus in on: not only having these safe areas but making sure that the communications are such that people know where they can go, when they can go there safely; making very clear when the periods of being able to move from one place to another are in place – in other words, these in effect daily pauses; making sure that those pauses apply not just to one neighborhood but to a broader area so that, again, people have confidence to know that they can move out of harm’s way and move to a safe area; making sure that the areas that they go to are fully resourced and supplied with things that people will need to get by while they’re away from their homes – food, medicine, water; and, again, also making sure that in areas that are clearly out of the conflict zone that they remain so, that military means not be used in those areas.

So this is something that we’re talking about with the Israelis on a regular basis, including as recently as today and including in the President’s conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today.  We continue to recognize the extraordinary difficulty of this task as Israel is dealing with a terrorist adversary that intentionally embeds itself with civilians.  But again, Israel has an obligation to do everything possible to put a premium on protecting civilians and maximizing humanitarian assistance.

In terms of what comes next in Gaza, we’ve been very clear on the importance of Palestinians – local voices, local faces – having responsibility and control of Gaza, and ultimately that being joined in control of the West Bank, and ultimately a clear path to fully affirming Palestinian political rights and other rights.  And the best way to do that is through two states.

Now, there are going to be very challenging questions of security, of governance, of reconstruction that we have to address.  David and I talked about some of them today and we’ll be talking about them intensely in the days and weeks ahead, including as well with the many countries that are coming to Washington tomorrow from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to map that out.  But we’ve also been very clear, as I was in Tokyo, about some basic principles of the way forward, and those include that we cannot have an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza, we cannot have forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, we cannot have the territory of Gaza diminished in any way, and of course we can’t have Gaza used as a platform, as it was, for the most heinous acts of terrorism against Israel.  And ultimately, as I said, we want to see Palestinian responsibility, Palestinian control, for Gaza and for the West Bank.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  Thanks.  We haven’t yet announced our figures for ’24-’25, but when we do I don’t want anyone to be in any doubt that we will continue to be giving the best possible support we can to Ukraine.  I mean, if you think about Britain’s contribution, we were one of the first to give anti-tank weapons when people were doubtful whether that was a good idea.  We were one of the first to provide tanks when people were wondering whether that was a good idea, first to do long-range artillery, first to do long-range fire.  So I think you’ve consistently seen a very serious UK contribution not just in terms of quantum but in terms of quality, and that will continue.

In terms of what would happen if the U.S. didn’t come forward with the supplementary package, I believe the U.S. will.  I believe that – I’m not an expert on your political system, but in Congress there is a majority for supporting Ukraine.  And I don’t want to get too involved in which things you link to which things; that’s not for me to decide.  But I am sure that goodwill will prevail and the money will be voted through, and it will have a huge effect not just on morale in Ukraine but also making sure that European countries keep asking themselves what more can they do, and as Tony said, actually that European countries, if you look at the combined economic, humanitarian, and military assistance, are now properly pulling their weight, as they should.

MR MILLER:  The next question goes to Nomia Iqbal with the BBC.

QUESTION:  Thank you, UK Foreign Secretary and Mr. Secretary.  So in all the conversations about post-war Gaza, what about holding elections to give an administration there the same mandate your own governments enjoy?  Or are you worried Palestinians – and you talk about the importance of local voices.  Are you worried that they will reject the Palestinian Authority, an organization you want to revitalize but one that doesn’t have much credibility with people on the ground, and that there is the potential that Hamas could win a post-war vote?

My other question is Ukraine’s spring offensive has failed to gain significant ground.  The U.S. Senate, as we know, is blocking funding for Kyiv.  Are you watching the war slip away from Ukraine?

And specifically to the UK Foreign Secretary:  Mr. Cameron, you say you’re here for Ukraine.  So the $61 billion or so that’s earmarked is American taxpayers’ money.  A poll last month suggested nearly half of Americans want the war in Ukraine to end quickly even if that means ceding land to Vladimir Putin.  So what would you say to those members of the American public who might look at you and accuse you of trying to interfere and influence domestic policies?  Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  Let me just take the first point.  Look, I’m a small-d democrat rather than a big D-Democrat, but I believe in democracy.  I believe in elections.  But actually, one of the things I did after leaving office was to spend some time looking at how we try and help the most fragile states, the most fragile situations.  And I think often a rush to elections rather than trying to build a provisional government that represents the different shades of opinion in different parts of a country can be a mistake.  The most important thing is to get services flowing, to get governance in place, to make sure there’s security.  There’s plenty of time for elections in future, but getting that thing right is actually the most important of all, and that’s what I’m sure we should be focused on.

Just on the spring offensive, I don’t want to repeat all the things I said, but I think if you actually stand back and look at the overall picture of what’s happening between Ukraine and Russia, it is a massive defeat for Putin.  He has lost 300,000 people.  He lost a quarter of his attack helicopters in one night a few days ago.  He’s lost a big proportion of his Black Sea fleet.  He’s seen NATO grow and be as more confident and more united than I think I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime now with the addition of Finland and Sweden.  So I think when you actually zoom out and look at the big picture you can see what a strong position Ukraine has put itself in through its bravery and through our support.

I’ve now forgotten the question that you asked me.  I wrote it down and I can’t read my writing.  What was it?

QUESTION:  Americans might —

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  Oh yes, am I interfering with America – I hope I’ve been very careful to say I’m not telling you how to do this vote and how to run your life or anything else.  I’ve literally just come as a friend of America, as a friend of Ukraine, and made some arguments that I think are very relevant about why this is absolutely the right thing to do.  In the 1930s we didn’t act fast enough to deal with the evil dictator who was invading European countries and redrawing borders by force, and we know how that ended.  And I think strength through deterrence and helping your allies and stopping this appalling invasion is absolutely essential.

So I’ve been making those arguments, but I also I hope have made some value-for-money arguments.  As I said, for a 10 percent uplift in the U.S. defense budget has actually with Ukrainian bravery destroyed almost half of Russia’s pre-war military capacity, without the loss of a single American life.

Now, of course there are all sorts of issues we all have to deal with in our own countries at the same time as making the arguments for international engagement and for working together overseas.  But I don’t think I can remember a time when the need for international solidarity and action to tackle these threats has been more important for our own domestic security.  I simply don’t think there is in any of our countries a sort of put up the drawbridge and think you can insulate yourself from these problems.  You can’t.  Our people, whether you’re American or British, they live all over the world.  Our businesses trade all over the world.  We need international stability and security and open sea lanes and all those other things, and I think that argument is one worth making, and that’s what I’ve been making here this week.  It’s not interfering, it’s making an argument and hoping that people will engage with you, listen, and hopefully vote through that money.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What David said.  (Laughter.)  And let me just say how he is more than welcome in this moment.  Because sometimes, some of my colleagues across government, including in the Congress, hearing something from our closest ally and partner – that has an even greater resonance than hearing it from me or other people in the administration.  So we really welcome it.  It’s so important that they hear the perspective that David brings to bear on this, that the UK brings to bear, and I think it has a very positive effect in getting the focus where it needs to be both on the success that we’ve had together to date in our support for Ukraine, but also the imperatives of continuing that support.

It’s not – the only way this slips away is if the support goes away.  And I’m convinced that, as you’ve heard David say so eloquently, there’s been extraordinary success by Ukraine, extraordinary strategic failure by Russia; it’s in our interest to make sure that both endure with regard to Ukraine, and the best way to do that is to sustain our support.

One other footnote on this, and this is more for the American audience.  If you look at the investments that we’ve made in Ukraine’s defense to deal with this aggression, 90 percent of the security assistance we’ve provided has actually been spent here in the United States with our manufacturers, with our production, and that’s produced more American jobs, more growth in our own economy.  So this has also been a win-win that we need to continue.

MR MILLER:  For the next question, Simon Lewis from Reuters.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Matt.  Firstly, Foreign Secretary Cameron, you’re here about 11 months before voters here in the U.S. will go to the polls – you may have looked at the polling ahead of your trip – for the presidential election.  But I’m interested to know, what is the level of concern in the UK and among other U.S. allies that this country could take a turn towards isolationism or even authoritarianism, particularly if President Trump returns?

And additionally, the UK’s Telegraph has reported this month that your defense minister, Grant Shapps, wants to drop plans to hand back the Chagos Islands to Mauritius.  Is that something you guys have discussed today, and is there – are there concerns for both of you that handing back the Chagos Islands at this time could create an opening for China and mean the loss of a strategic U.S. base?  So I’d be interested in both your responses on that one.

And for Secretary Blinken, today Reuters and AFP, Agence France-Presse, published detailed reports that make clear that our journalists were hit by Israeli tank fire, with two strikes that killed my Reuters colleague Issam Abdallah and injured six other reporters, including an AFP photographer, Christina Assi, who was severely wounded on October 13th.  These were journalists with clear press badges, markings, just doing their jobs, like more than 60 other journalists who have been killed in this conflict so far.  After seeing that evidence, Secretary Blinken, do you believe Israel’s assurances that it doesn’t intentionally target journalists?  Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called today for investigations of these strikes as a war crime.  Would you support those calls?  Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  Should I do the – I mean, first of all, I – I’m not going to get involved in the U.S. election.  All I know about elections is the opinion polls, they told me I was going to win outright in 2010 and I didn’t.  They told me I wouldn’t win in 2015 and I did.  And so I always – polls are a bit like if you’re a farmer with weather forecasts, you – they’re all you’ve got, but they don’t necessarily turn out to be right.  But I’m not going to get involved in any way.

On the issue of the vital U.S. air base at Diego Garcia, when foreign secretaries and secretaries of state get together, they often discuss the importance of the assets that we share and use around the world, and that is an important one and we touched on that this afternoon.

I’ll let Tony answer the rest of the questions, but can I just give my sympathies and condolences to the loss of your colleague.  What journalists do in war zones – and I’ve seen it with the BBC and the reporting that they’ve done, and ITV and other British journalists – it’s absolutely essential that you have independent, impartial, professional journalists covering these conflicts, and it’s an incredibly difficult job, incredibly brave job, and the condolences from me and from everyone in the UK for that loss of life.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And Simon, I can only start with the same thing, which is expressing my own deepfelt condolences for their loss and for your loss, and, like David, I have extraordinary admiration for the men and women in your profession who every day around the world, in the most dangerous places in the world, are trying to bring the facts, the stories to other people.  And that, too, is more important than ever.  As someone who actually started his career as a journalist, this is something that’s near and dear to my heart, and my respect and my admiration for everyone in the profession, but especially those who put their lives on the line to bring stories to the rest of the world.  That really knows no bounds.  So I’m deeply sorry for this loss.

And it is important and appropriate that it be fully and thoroughly investigated.  My understanding is that Israel has initiated such an investigation, and it will be important to see that investigation come to a conclusion, and to see the results of the investigation.

On Diego Garcia, I can just say, as David said, look, this is a joint U.S.-UK military facility that plays a vital role in the Indo-Pacific region.  For us, it plays a vital role in global security.  It enables our own support for regional stability, it gives us an ability to respond rapidly to crises, and also to counter some of the most challenging threats that we face.  We, as you know, recognize UK sovereignty over British Indian Ocean Territory, but this is a bilateral matter for the UK and Mauritius to work out, and we support their engagement to resolve the differences.

MR MILLER:  And the final question goes to Dan Rivers with ITV.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Are there any circumstances in which the UK and U.S. would accept Israel continuing to wage this war for more than a month?  To both of you.

And specifically to the foreign secretary, those on the right of the Conservative Party feel that the prime minister’s Rwanda legislation and his decision to sack Suella Braverman and appoint you are part of a deliberate shift to the middle ground.  Do you think those moves have deeply divided your party now?

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  First of all, in terms of my appointment, I was asked to be foreign secretary at a time of great international difficulty to try and help deal with some of the issues we’ve been talking about today, whether that is the Ukraine conflict, whether it’s the situation in the Middle East.  And I took the job because, first of all, I admire Rishi Sunak as prime minister.  I think he’s doing a very good job at a difficult time.  I think he’s a man of great integrity, depth, and talent, and it’s a pleasure to work with him.  And I did it because I served an apprenticeship as prime minister for six years to become a foreign secretary, and I hope that I can bring some of the relationships and contacts and knowledge and things that I learned from six years as prime minister, 11 years as a party leader, to doing this job.  That’s why I took the job.  It had nothing to do with anything else.

But let me be clear.  I support what the government is doing to deal with illegal migration.  There is nothing more destructive to a country’s reputation for a fair migration system than widescale, very public, very visible illegal migration.  And the action that has been taken so far has reduced the small boat crossings by about a third this year compared to last.  But the next steps are vital, because ultimately what we’ve got to do is break the model of the people-smuggling gangs that are responsible for this.  And therefore you have to break the link between getting in a boat, arriving in Britain, and being able to stay in Britain.

And remember, all these people that are coming, are coming from a safe country.  They’re coming from France, or they’re coming from Belgium.  They are safe countries in which they could claim asylum and stay.  Instead, they’re choosing to come to Britain, and we need to break that people-smuggling model, break that link, and that is what the Rwanda policy is all about.  And I support what is being done, and I think the prime minister has done a good job at coming up with the right package – a treaty with Rwanda that only a couple of weeks ago everyone said would be impossible, it wouldn’t happen.  It has happened, and it’s a very good treaty.  A bill has been published and will be introduced to the House of Commons, and a pack of evidence about the true nature of what happens in Rwanda is being put together, and I’ve seen that myself and I think it’s very convincing and will overcome the arguments put in the supreme court.

So that’s the position.  Every country has to deal with this.  One of the things I’ve noticed since coming back into office is how much the conversation has changed around Europe.  Country after country is recognizing the difficulties and dangers of widescale illegal immigration, and having to find new ways to try and deal with it.  Now, of course there are many things that you can do as foreign secretary or development secretary to help with this, which is to make sure that there is growth and development in African countries and in fragile states and in conflict-affected states from which many people come.  And all those things are important, and I believe in doing all those things.  I’ve always argued for that.  But ultimately, you do have to have an immigration system that is firm but fair, and puts an end to widescale illegal visible migration which undermines the system – the point I made to start with.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And on – back on Israel and Gaza, in response to your question, first and again, we strongly support Israel’s efforts to ensure that it can effectively defend itself, and as I’ve said repeatedly, do its best to ensure that October 7th never happens again.  In our conversations with Israel, we talk about how long this campaign will take, and also how it is being prosecuted.  But these are decisions for Israel to make.

Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY CAMERON:  Thank you very much.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.