October 1, 2022

ACN Center

Area Control Network

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Khadija Ihsane of Medi 1 TV

17 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Rabat, Morocco

Dar Kika Salam

(Via Translation)

QUESTION:  Ladies and gentlemen, we are taking advantage of his whirlwind tour of the Middle East and North Africa to receive him for an exclusive interview with Medi 1.  We discussed various topics with the US Secretary of State, such as the goals and challenges of his visit to Morocco, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear agreement, and of course the war in Ukraine.

Hello, Antony Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hello.

QUESTION:  Thank you for meeting with us here in Rabat, six years after the interview you agreed to grant to Medi 1 TV in June 2016.  You have just returned from an unprecedented summit held in the Negev desert in Israel, a little over a year after the Abraham Accords.  How did relations evolve after this summit, Mr.  Blinken?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First of all, this is a pretty remarkable picture.  A picture that we could not have seen four, five years ago.  Not even two years ago.  We could not have seen the leaders of Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the United States, and Israel together in one picture.  And I think this reflects the desire to find the possibility to create together opportunities for the people of each country, because by creating trade links, links between students, between citizens, we will be able to focus together on issues that have an impact on everyday life, such as the investment, the infrastructure.

We are working together on the climate, on global health, and on security issues as well.  This is very powerful.  Of course, we are not setting aside the future of the Palestinian people and the need to also create a country for the Palestinians and try to invest in their future as well in the meantime.  So I think this is very powerful, but it also demonstrates, just like His Majesty the King said, a vision and the courage to no longer accept the barriers of the past, and in fact to overcome them and find a way to bring us together.  This is very powerful.

Lastly, what we are going to do together.  We talked about this in Negev yesterday, we will focus on concrete projects and on how to act together to meet the needs and desires of the people in each of our countries.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary of State, can we say that today and after this summit in Negev, the relations between the United States and the Gulf countries are at their highest?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We have partnerships that have existed for many years, and those partnerships are essential and important to us, not only in terms of security issues, but the future of our countries as well.  I think it was an important time as well to not only strengthen those partnerships, but to strengthen the idea that the United States is invested in those partnerships.  This is the message that I wanted to convey to my colleagues.

QUESTION:  Very good.  Morocco is the third and penultimate leg of your tour, Mr.  Secretary of State.  It is undeniable that Morocco represents a strategic ally for the United States in the region today, both on security issues, as you so aptly mentioned, and on issues relating to the preservation of peace as well.  In your opinion, what is the role that Morocco is called upon to play in the future, both regionally and in Africa?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Morocco is first and foremost an essential partnership for us, and it has existed for a long time.  It is of the utmost importance to us because we obviously act on various issues bilaterally.  We act together at the regional level where Morocco’s voice and diplomacy have a very significant impact, whether in challenges such as in the Sahel, Libya, but also in Africa, West Africa for example, and what we can achieve together.

It also has an impact at the global level because we are working through this partnership on issues like the COVID pandemic.  Morocco has been very successful in the vaccination campaign for example, and we look at what we can learn, what we can achieve together across the world and in Africa.  Same goes for the climate, where Morocco has very advanced projects to manage what is really an existential dossier for everyone.  So what I see is a partnership that not only acts in the region, but more and more at the global level.

QUESTION:  You mentioned the Sahel.  The stability in the Sahara sub-region depends on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.  I would like to quote a brief excerpt from the State Department statement on the purpose of your visit to Morocco.  I quote: “We reaffirm the importance of respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national unity of all member states of the United Nations.”  Knowing that the sovereignty of Morocco has been recognized by the United States, what are the potential future states in this matter today or rather tomorrow?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We have discussed this issue today, just as we discuss it every time we meet.  We find Morocco’s autonomy plan to be a credible, serious, and realistic plan, and I believe that it can respond to the needs and aspirations of the people of Western Sahara.  The special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General Staffan de Mistura is conducting very important work, and we support him.  We discussed this issue today with my colleague and friend Nasser Bourita.  This is something that we will be following up on in the coming weeks.

QUESTION:  So in the near future.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We are working on it.

QUESTION:  Very good.  A new ambassador has just been appointed.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  His Excellency Puneet Talwar.  What would be the roadmap in his new assignments in Morocco, Mr.  Blinken?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Puneet Talwar is the ambassador who was just nominated and he must be approved by the Senate, but I hope that will happen quickly.  He is a friend, a long-time friend, and we have worked together for 20 years.  He is very close to President Biden and worked on his staff when they were in the Senate.  So they worked together, and I know he will be an exceptional ambassador for the United States and that he will be exceptional for the ties between our two countries.  I trust him completely and President Biden trusts him completely.

QUESTION:  And based on your experience with Morocco, is there any advice you can give him?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  How fortunate.  How fortunate to come here to this remarkable country.  How fortunate to be here at a time when our work together is so important.  How fortunate to be here at a time when I see all kinds of possibilities to strengthen what we do together and even to broaden our horizons, in the Negev yesterday and across the world tomorrow.

QUESTION:  The next and final stop in your tour is our eastern neighbor, Algeria.  Given the current situation in Europe and the resulting energy issues, will Algerian gas, and particularly the gas pipeline, be part of the negotiations and discussions that you will have with the Algerian authorities?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Two things.  First, you mention the current situation in Europe, and that is very important because, initially, Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is creating enormous suffering in Ukraine.  Half of the children in Ukraine are now displaced and had to flee their homes.  Therefore, what is happening is important at that level, but it is also important for two other reasons.

First, there are very important principles at stake, principles that support security and peace throughout the world, not only in Europe, but here as well.  When these principles are attacked as they are by Russia, it poses a problem for everyone.  The principle that a country cannot change the borders of another country by violence, that a country cannot decide for another regarding its policies and future – that is an issue.  But thirdly, we see an impact across the world.  We now have problems in food flows because of this Russian aggression in Ukraine, for the exports of agricultural products are now at stake.

QUESTION:  Especially wheat on which many African countries depend, including Morocco.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Exactly, especially wheat.  Farmers in Ukraine are forced to either fight for their country or flee.  The harvest is not completed, and exports are blocked in the ports of south Ukraine.  This creates a problem across the world.  Energy prices are another problem.

QUESTION:  They are exploding.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  They are exploding.

QUESTION:  Do you think it is maybe time to seek other alternatives to Russian gas for example, and maybe through the reopening of this Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Europe is very focused on the idea that we now really need to diversify from Russian gas and oil, because Russia is now unfortunately using them as a policy tool.  That is mainly the problem, and it is obviously acting in a totally unacceptable way for everyone.  So I think when you talk to European countries, you know that they are very focused on the need to diversify.

QUESTION:  And the Americans would perhaps plead for this diversification, which would maybe come from these countries.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  A diversification that comes from everywhere in a way, including us.  But not only diversification.  The shift should also be done with a view to this fight for the climate.  This is also very important.  We need to make sure that, amid this diversification, we try to advance the climate issue so that we can prevent the world from getting warmer.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

  • Fighting Between Armenia and Azerbaijan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Septuagenarian charged with manufacturing “ghost guns”
    In Justice News
    A 73-year-old has been [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Tajikistan Foreign Minister Muhriddin
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s Travel to Europe
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Judicial Conference Approves Measures to Increase Security for Federal Judges
    In U.S Courts
    A series of recommendations to upgrade and expand security for federal judges and increase Congressional funding to support the security program have been approved by the federal Judiciary’s national policy-making body.

    [Read More…]

  • Former Managing Director and Two Former Loan Officers Plead Guilty for Roles in Widespread Bank-Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    The former managing director of residential lending and two former loan officers of a financial institution headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, pleaded guilty to participating in a years-long scheme to originate fraudulent residential-mortgage loans through the bank’s low-documentation Advantage Loan Program.

    [Read More…]

  • Justice Department Announces New Rule to Help Enhance Safe and Secure Storage of Firearms; Publishes Best Practices Guide for Federal Firearms Licensees
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced a new rule to help enable the safe and secure storage of firearms and published a Best Practices Guide for federal firearms licensees (FFLs). This new rule implements the existing Gun Control Act requirement that federal firearms licensees that sell firearms to the general public (non-licensees) must certify that they have available secure gun storage or safety devices.

    [Read More…]

  • Gabon Travel Advisory
    Exercise increased [Read More…]
  • Federal Jury Convicts Former Reality Television Personality for Downloading and Possessing Child Sexual Abuse Material
    In Crime News
    A federal jury convicted an Arkansas man today for receiving and possessing material depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

    [Read More…]

  • Croatia Travel Advisory
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Abusive Tax Schemes: Offshore Insurance Products and Associated Compliance Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    Federal law provides certain tax benefits for transactions involving genuine insurance products, including insurance products held offshore. While taxpayers may lawfully hold offshore insurance products, they contain features that make them vulnerable for use in abusive tax schemes. For example, offshore insurance products can be highly technical and individualized, making enforcement challenging, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials. Furthermore, insurance is not defined by federal statute, potentially making a determination of what constitutes genuine insurance for federal tax purposes unclear. Offshore micro-captive insurance products, which are made by small insurance companies owned by the businesses they insure, may be abused if the corporate taxpayer improperly claims deductions for payments made to a micro-captive for federal tax purposes. Courts have applied certain considerations to determine whether these deductions can be claimed. For example, one consideration is whether the insurance legitimately distributes risk across participating entities. IRS officials said they expend significant resources reviewing these schemes because of the varied ways insurance companies may work. Offshore variable life insurance products, which are insurance policies with investment components over which the insured has certain control, may be abused if the individual taxpayer fails to meet IRS reporting requirements or pay appropriate federal income taxes. Federal regulations require that taxpayers with certain foreign life insurance accounts report this information to IRS and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The structure of life insurance products may vary and taxpayers are required to pay taxes based on the underlying type of financial product the policy represents. The figure below shows how noncompliance may occur when taxpayers use life insurance and micro-captive insurance in abusive tax schemes. Abusive Use of Micro-captive and Life Insurance When structured in abusive ways, insurance products held offshore can be designed to aid in unlawful tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers. Two products that IRS has recently warned have the potential for such abuse include micro-captive insurance and variable life insurance policies. GAO was asked to review how taxpayers may abuse offshore insurance products. This report describes (1) how offshore insurance tax shelters provide opportunities for income tax abuse; (2) how offshore micro-captive insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes; and (3) how offshore variable life insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes. GAO reviewed IRS tax and information return forms, relevant U.S. case law and IRS guidance, academic and trade publications, and applicable statutes and regulations. GAO also interviewed IRS officials and professionals in the tax preparation and insurance industries. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or LucasJudyJ@gao.gov.

    [Read More…]

  • Justice Department Ensures Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe Are Permanently Prohibited from Exhibiting Animals and Terminates Their Interests in Seized Animals
    In Crime News
    On Dec. 23, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma entered a consent decree between the United States and Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe permanently prohibiting them from exhibiting animals, terminating their interests in 97 endangered or threatened animals seized from their facility, and affirming that they have legally abandoned their rights to an additional 41 animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

    [Read More…]

  • Palau Travel Advisory
    Exercise increased [Read More…]
  • Timor-Leste Travel Advisory
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Real Estate Appraisals: Most Residential Mortgages Received Appraisals, but Waiver Procedures Need to Be Better Defined
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Although Title XI permits federal regulators to exempt certain mortgages from an appraisal requirement, such exemptions likely have not increased overall risks for regulated lenders (e.g., banks and credit unions) and homebuyers. This is because GAO estimates the lenders obtained appraisals for around 85 percent of the mortgages eligible for an exemption in 2018–2019 (see figure). An appraisal of a home’s market value can help lenders mitigate the risk of loss and homebuyers mitigate the risk of overpaying. Regulated lenders obtained appraisals even when not required by Title XI for various reasons. For example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac generally require appraisals for mortgages they purchase from lenders, so lenders obtained appraisals in order to sell mortgages to them. In addition, regulated lenders typically obtained appraisals for mortgages of $250,000 or less, although they were permitted to use an evaluation (an estimate of a home’s market value not conducted by a state-approved appraiser) in place of an appraisal. Most Residential Mortgages Originated in 2018–2019 That Qualified for a Title XI Appraisal Exemption Still Had an Appraisal The Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) followed its process in granting a waiver to North Dakota in 2019 but faced challenges in making the determination. ASC may temporarily waive the requirement that only state-approved appraisers perform Title XI appraisals if it determines a scarcity of appraisers led to a significant delay in obtaining appraisals. However, ASC’s regulations and guidance for processing temporary waiver requests do not define scarcity and significant delay or establish standards to determine when these conditions exist. For North Dakota’s request, the absence of such standards led different stakeholders to use different definitions and data to prove or disprove the conditions existed—creating challenges for ASC in making its determination. Defining the key terms in measurable ways and establishing standards to determine if such conditions exist would better ensure that ASC has a consistent and objective process for reviewing and granting future waiver requests. Why GAO Did This Study Congress enacted Title XI in the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 to require regulated lenders to obtain appraisals for residential mortgages from state-approved appraisers, unless eligible for one of its exemptions. Title XI also created ASC to monitor Title XI-related activities and authorized it to grant waivers related to appraiser credentialing requirements. In late 2019 and early 2020, federal regulators raised the threshold under which lenders can (but do not have to) obtain an evaluation instead of an appraisal for mortgages to $400,000 or less. Also, in 2018, North Dakota requested a temporary waiver, citing delays in appraisals because of a scarcity of appraisers. GAO was asked to review Title XI exemptions. This report examines the extent to which (1) Title XI appraisal exemptions increased risks for federally regulated lenders and homebuyers, and (2) ASC followed its waiver review process or faced challenges when it granted North Dakota a temporary waiver. GAO reviewed and analyzed Title XI and related regulations, most recently available mortgage data, research on appraisals, and ASC records, and interviewed federal agencies and industry stakeholders.

    [Read More…]

  • Tajikistan Travel Advisory
    Do not travel to [Read More…]
  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Deep-Sea Mining
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters The ocean floor contains vast quantities of critical minerals vital for many applications, such as aircraft components and rechargeable batteries. Increased demand for such minerals has driven technology development for exploration and extraction from deep-sea mining. However, the long-term environmental effects from deep-sea mining are as yet unknown. The Technology What is it? Deep-sea mining is the process of exploring for and retrieving minerals from the deep seabed. Three types of deposits hold most of these minerals: polymetallic nodules, also called manganese nodules, which are lying on the seabed; sulfide deposits around hydrothermal vents; and ferromanganese crusts, which are rich in cobalt and manganese and line the sides of ridges and seamounts. These sources hold a wide variety of critical minerals, including cobalt, manganese, titanium, and rare earth elements, as well as gold, copper, and nickel (see fig. 1). Many of these minerals are in international waters. For example, the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which spans 1.7 million square miles between Hawaii and Mexico, holds trillions of polymetallic nodules. Mining for sand, gravel, and aggregates is underway nearer to shore, but these areas hold only limited critical minerals. Figure 1. Cross-section of a polymetallic nodule, approximately 1 to 4 inches in diameter, showing the critical minerals that can be found within the nodule, and their applications. These minerals play an important role in the U.S. economy, contributing to industries such as transportation, defense, aerospace, electronics, energy, construction, and health care. The International Energy Agency expects demand for cobalt, copper, nickel, and rare earth elements to at least double (or possibly more than triple) within the next 20 years. Researchers continue to develop technologies for locating and extracting mineral samples and for establishing deep-sea mining operations. How does it work? Private companies have developed several technologies and designs for both exploration and systems to deliver extracted material to ships or surface-based mining platforms. For example, underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) can be used to locate prime extraction sites and collect samples from the seabed. Companies are also developing technologies to collect material from the seabed. Designs to gather polymetallic nodules include a vacuum to systematically dredge large swaths of the seafloor, along with hydraulic pumps and hose systems that lift the extracted materials to surface vessels or platforms. Extraction of sulfide deposits around hydrothermal vents or the slopes of undersea ridges could involve drilling and cutting into the crust, breaking up the materials, and transporting the pieces to the surface in a similar system (see fig. 2). Figure 2. Examples of extraction systems for deep-sea mining. What are some concerns? These deep-sea mining methods may have environmental effects. Specifically, extraction processes create sediment clouds at the seabed or in the water above. These clouds, which could contain toxic heavy metals and spread over long distances, would eventually settle back to the seabed. Furthermore, disturbing the seabed may destroy habitat, with unknown effects on sea life. Researchers are studying these and other effects. For example, in August 2020, a collaborative program involving more than 100 U.S. and international researchers was established to study the potential environmental effects of Pacific Ocean polymetallic nodule mining. How mature is it? Advances in several technologies have made it possible to explore and sample wide areas of the ocean floor. These advances have generated improvements in undersea imaging, software for predicting the locations of mineral fields, and guidance for ROVs. Multiple companies are designing and testing technologies for retrieving material, including hydraulic pumping and conveyance systems. Some of this testing has occurred to depths of approximately 21,000 feet. To date, there are no deep-sea commercial mining operations though several companies are progressing in that direction. For example, a Canadian company reported that it is retrofitting a former ultra-deep-sea drilling vessel as the first sub-sea mining vessel. It anticipates beginning a pilot mining project in mid-2022 to retrieve polymetallic nodules. Opportunities Technology applications. Minerals found in the seabed, such as cobalt, manganese, nickel, and rare earth elements, are important components of smartphones, steel, and green technologies including solar cells, electric vehicles, and wind turbines. Some of these minerals are rare on land; deep-sea mining could provide a valuable source. Access to critical minerals. According to a 2019 Department of Commence report, the U.S. needs to mitigate the risk of being heavily dependent on critical mineral sources under foreign government control. Currently, such sources include China, Russia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mining deep-sea minerals could provide an alternative source for critical minerals. Less reliance on land-based mining. Land-based mining can adversely affect the terrestrial environment. For example, acid rock drainage (created by the exposure of crushed rocks to air and water) can release harmful contaminants, such as arsenic, mercury, and lead. Advances in deep-sea mining may decrease those effects by reducing the demand for land-based mining. Challenges Environmental effects. Researchers currently lack data on the extent to which sediment plumes from deep-sea mining could affect ecosystems or spread to other countries on ocean currents. International relations. U.S.-based deep-sea mining companies could face uncertainties when operating beyond the U.S. exclusive economic zone (which generally extends up to 200 nautical miles from shore), according to industry experts. The U.S. has agreements with some countries but is not a party to the 1982 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea and its related International Seabed Authority, which regulates and controls mining of the international seabed area between member countries. Policy Context and Questions With increased demand for critical minerals and the unknown long-term environmental effects of deep-sea mining, key questions for policymakers include: What analyses of incentives and barriers might help clarify the viability of private sector deep-sea mining as an alternative to land-based critical mineral resources, especially those under foreign control? What are the trade-offs for the U.S. in ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea? What research is needed to understand the environmental effects of deep-sea mining and ways to mitigate those effects, and who should conduct this research? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.

    [Read More…]

  • Government Contractor Agrees to Pay More Than $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Lawsuit for Overbilling in Federal Contracts
    In Crime News
    Airbus U.S. Space & Defense Inc., formerly known as Airbus Defense and Space Inc. (ADSI), has agreed to pay to the United States $1,043,475 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by billing impermissible fees in contracts with a number of federal agencies. 

    [Read More…]

  • United States and Partners Promote Accountability for Corruption and Human Rights Abuse
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Niger Travel Advisory
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]

Source: Network News
Area Control Network

Copyright © 2022 ACN
All Rights Reserved © ACN 2020

ACN Privacy Policies
ACN TOS
Area Control Network (ACN)
Area Control Network
Area Control Network Center