US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s multinational trip to Europe brings him to Italy on Sunday for several days of meetings with top Italian leaders, Pope Francis, Group of 20 leaders and ministerial-level officials.
After being warmly received in France and Germany, Blinken left Paris on Sunday for Rome, where he meets Italy’s foreign minister, United Nations food security agencies and U.S. embassy officials. He will also meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio will co-chair a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Rome on Monday, when it will also meet with Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President Sergio Mattarella to discuss the Syrian civil war and humanitarian needs in this country.
The State Department said Syria remains of great concern, with tens of thousands of women and children in humanitarian camps facing security challenges as members of the Islamic State terrorist group scramble to exploit the camps to recruit the next generation of fighters.
Also on Monday, Blinken travels to Vatican City for meetings with Pope Francis and Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Among the topics he and Vatican officials are expected to discuss are climate change, human trafficking and debt relief for impoverished countries.
His meeting with the Pope precedes a meeting scheduled for October between the pontiff and US President Joe Biden, the second American Catholic president.
At a recent conference, U.S. Catholic bishops voted to draft a communion statement that could rebuke leading Catholic politicians, including Biden, who advocate for abortion rights but personally oppose the practice.
During his visit to Paris on Friday, Blinken warned that the lack of an interim deal to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities could prompt the United States to abandon its efforts to join a nuclear deal.
“We’ll see if we can bridge the differences, but they are real, and we must – we must be able to bridge them,” Blinken said at a briefing in Paris after meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves The Drian. .
“I would tell you that with regard to the [International Atomic Energy Agency], this remains a serious concern, a concern that we communicated to Iran, and it needs to be … resolved. “
The agency said a three-month interim surveillance agreement reached on February 21 expired on Thursday after being extended for another month. He said he was seeking an “immediate response” from Iran on whether it would extend the monitoring deal, according to an internal agency statement seen by Reuters news agency.
Blinken admitted earlier Friday at a press conference in Paris that the United States could possibly decide not to join the deal if negotiations in Vienna continue without progress.
“There will come a time, yes, when it will be very difficult to return to the standards set by the JCPOA”, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the great powers to curb its program of uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
He called on Iran to make “tough” decisions to advance talks that could revive the deal.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement Friday that “the opposing parties are the ones who have to make the decisions.”
The negotiating parties held talks for six weeks, and a sixth round of indirect talks ended last Sunday with major issues still unresolved.
Le Drian underscored Blinken’s warning, telling reporters in Paris on Friday that it was up to Iran to push the talks forward.
“It has been six weeks since negotiations resumed. Progress has been made and now we will enter the most difficult times. It will require strong and courageous decisions on the part of the new Iranian authorities, but now is the time, ”said Le Drian.
Blinken met with French President Emmanuel Macron later on Friday.
America’s top diplomat arrived in France from Germany, where on Thursday he and German leaders said the United States and Germany were teaming up to fight Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism , an effort which, according to the Secretary of State, “will ensure that present and future generations know about the Holocaust and also learn from it.
Speaking at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Blinken said Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism go hand in hand with homophobia, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination, and have become “a rallying cry for those who seek to tear down our democracies.”
The senior US diplomat also met with interim Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba on Thursday following an international conference focused on supporting Libya’s transition to a permanent and stable government.
Wednesday’s conference, hosted by Germany and the United Nations, included officials from 17 countries and increased support for national elections in Libya slated for late December.
Libya has experienced political instability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi from power. Rival governments operated in different parts of the country for years before a ceasefire agreement in October that included a request for all foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days.
This report includes information from Reuters and AFP.