Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Moussa Yahaya of TeleSahel

(Via interpreter.)

QUESTION:  Secretary of State, good evening.  It’s an honor to having you for an interview at the occasion of your passage here in Niger.  So first of all, how is the cooperation between United States and Niger?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The cooperation is very excellent, and the more and more it is about a quantity – not only in quantity but in quality.  We had the visit of the President Bazoum during the U.S.-African summit, and we had some discussion with President Biden and some – with some colleagues.  And for me, it’s an occasion to be as well here to Niger to follow up and so that we can discuss about what we discussed in Washington, and also to deepen the partnership for the development and whether it’s in democracy, whether it’s in terms of security.

QUESTION:  Security was of course – according to your administration, what is the place of Niger in the layout of the established of – but most of the – how do you appreciate the role of Niger?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The role that Niger play is really essential, but at many levels.  The fact that Niger is a model of democracy in a region which has difficulties at this moment – model because they’re working on, they’re focusing on their governance, the importance of institution and the importance of development; importance of giving really the – a choice.  This example is really important, not only, first of all, for the people of Niger, but also in contrasting about what is happening in the region.

QUESTION:  So talking about development, countries like Niger, to be developed they most of the time go to the fossil energy – which is not, I mean, on fashion right now – to develop their country, which is create also climate change.  At your administration, with the diplomacy that you handle, is – can you help Niger, countries like Niger to be heard?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Of course.  I’m going to – talking about a lot of things.  At the level of development, we have really important projects; also the program that we have that are funded by Millennium Challenge Corporation, of course in the – for agriculture area, and it’s in two areas.  It’s to create access to the market, which is so important for the agricultures – for the farmers, and also (inaudible), which is also important, of course, and all the necessary tactics to have sustainable projects here in Niger.  But at the same time, it’s to create a resilience against the impact of the climate change.

And this is one thing which is about energy I think that we have here in Niger, which is important opportunities where we have discussed with the president, and there as well we will have some investment that will be great.  But what we can see already in the investment projects like Millennium Challenge is to create an organization or a system, a cultural system, that creates employment and creates merchants and also creates links with the neighbor countries like Benin.  And now we have a common market that is being – drawing with the roads that have been – that are created to be – created so that we can link the markets and the countries.

QUESTION:  So what is your views about the war that we are having currently in Ukraine and that have impacted, like, countries like ours through – in the area of – economic area?  Do you want to think of, like, a near end or just to control in terms of military?  And – and on the area in terms of diplomacy?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Before this war that Russia led in Ukraine, we have the food crisis in Africa and elsewhere, and which is climate change and COVID that’s creating an impact, and other conflicts.  And we have to add on this, this Russian invasion into Ukraine, and where we know that Ukraine have a lot of agricultural products and at the same time it creates – because these products and the cereals are being traded by this conflict that we’re having in Russia, it’s really impacted clearly on Africa.

So – and we – if we have done since this – I mean, conflict, we have very important investment into the food security, that we have given about 13 billion U.S. dollars, and at the same time that we have (inaudible) capacity so that we can for the mid and the long term and the – with this Russian aggression, a lot of cereals have been blocked, and the Russian have been blocked the ports.  The United Nations and Türkiye have been – have created a scheme so that this grain can come out, a kind of corridor, and throughout the Black Sea, and which is very important because when the product was coming in Africa.

So we have – this has – needs to be supported, but unfortunately, the Russians is threatening to block this project, and we’re insisting so that this project can continue, so that this project come here in Africa.  And even though it’s not going to come in Africa, in other countries, but it will impact – will give, I mean, product international, and the price will be reduced.

QUESTION:  Last question of actually news, right, that we have.  So it has been intercepted to Black Sea.  What can you say about that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I think that the images that we can see now on the televisions will just talk themself.  It’s really clear that we have some Russians which is – they are accountable for this, and we have some additional risks.  So it’s a true problem, but so we are just having a discussion on the details, so I’ll just come back on the question of which has more importance this war led by the Russians in Ukraine.  We think that it will end maybe tomorrow, so we’ve tried to stop that and for – before the beginning of the aggression.  But unfortunately for Mr. Putin, it’s an imperial project.  According to him, Ukraine doesn’t exist.  It needs to – just a part of the Russia, that be part of Ukraine.

I think this is a problem for us.  Currently we have some principles which is very important that are – play a key role in the integrity, territorial integrity of a country.  For a lot of African countries that have been victim of imperialism in the past, I think that it’s really clear that we have to just stop this aggression and the support – I mean working on this.  I hope that Russia will stop the aggression very soon.  For now, unfortunately, we don’t see any sign, positive sign to support Ukraine.

But at the same time, with all the aid that we have, that we have into Ukraine, we are the first country to give humanitarian aid for development in Africa – 55 billion of U.S. dollars.  And we were talking about the security, food security, and we are the first give the donors for the World Food Program.  And also we just give about 50 percent of the budget and give (inaudible).  This is a direct impact on the life of our friends, a friend (inaudible) countries in Africa.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary of State.  It’s an honor for me.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s a pleasure.  Thank you very much.

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS