Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Foreign Minister of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani before their meeting

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It is a real pleasure to have Foreign Minister Osmani here. We are welcome – welcome to the State Department, welcome to Washington – our new NATO ally, but I am also very happy that we have launched the strategic dialogue, which I believe will only serve to deepen the cooperation, coordination, collaboration between North Macedonia and the United States. We are very, very happy to do that.

And I also want to say how much we appreciate the very important reform program that North Macedonia has embarked on, on democracy, on energy, on regional economic initiatives. All of these are significant, they are important and we strongly support them.

Likewise, we strongly support the ambitions of North Macedonia’s EU accession process. We really want to see this move forward, and we will continue to support this in any way we can.

And of course we have a lot to say about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. I happen to think you were just in Kyiv one of the days when I was talking to our friend Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister there, so I look forward to having an exchange of views with you at this subject.

But for now, welcome. Very good to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER OSMANI: Thanks a lot. Secretary of State Blinken, dear Antoine, thank you very much for the warm welcome and hospitality, and also thank you to your team for the exceptional organization. It’s such an important day for us. The launch of the strategic dialogue between the United States and the Republic of Macedonia represents an important milestone in our overall bilateral relationship, and I believe it is a logical step forward since 30 years of established diplomatic relations and 15 years of strategic partnership , and in particular two years Allies in NATO.

I think it will open a new chapter of cooperation, will frame our overall cooperation, bring some dynamism and predictability. And this is especially important now that our values ​​have been challenged; and we, countries sharing the same values, must be closely coordinated to meet these challenges.

We are grateful for the support that the United States has given to North Macedonia over the years – the political support that has led us to this day to have a functioning multi-ethnic democracy, a unique type that sets the benchmark, I would say, as a model, to the region, but also as democratic governance and democratic institutions. I think the highlight of our cooperation was our joining NATO, and we are grateful for the support you have given us. This was our first and most important strategic objective for North Macedonia. We are trying to make these two years add value not only to the Alliance but also to our region as a constructive NATO partner.

And we are also grateful for supporting us in our aspiration to EU membership. It was crucial for us that you saw it as a strategic objective, but also to help our company meet the criteria. And we will continue to work together to overcome the (inaudible) differences we have in order to become a member of the EU and to move the whole region forward in the Euro-Atlantic anchorage.

Thank you very much for inviting me today.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. Thank you everyone.