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US: I’ve no higher priority than bringing home any unjustly detained American – Blinken

THE United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has said he has no priority higher than bringing home every American unjustly held abroad.

Blinken spoke while presenting the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in
Washington on Monday.

Blinken thanked Niger government for its role in the release of Jeffrey Woodke an American, after more than six years in captivity.

“I want to thank the Government of Niger, where I was just last week, for its important assistance in bringing him home. I also want to thank our team, starting with Special Envoy Roger Carstens, all of those who have been working at the department to bring him home, tireless efforts, and I’m very pleased that we are now seeing that come to fruition today.

“As you know, I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world. We won’t rest until they’re all home and, like Jeffrey, reunited with their families,” he said.

He said throughout this week, President Xi is meeting with President Putin in Russia, adding that America expects that China may use this visit to reiterate calls for a ceasefire under its peace proposal.

“The United States welcomes any initiative that advances a just and durable peace. China’s proposal includes elements that we have long supported, including ensuring nuclear safety, resolving the humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians.

“And indeed, the first element calls for upholding sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries.

“The fundamental element of any plan for ending the war in Ukraine and producing a just and durable peace must be upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

“Any plan that does not prioritize this critical principle is a stalling tactic at best or is merely seeking to facilitate an unjust outcome. That is not constructive diplomacy,” Blinken said.

He went on: “Calling for a ceasefire that does not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory would effectively be supporting the ratification of Russian conquest. It would recognize Russia’s attempts to seize a sovereign neighbor’s territory by force. It would enable Russia to further entrench positions in Ukraine. And a ceasefire now, without a durable solution, would allow President Putin to rest and refit his troops and then restart the war at a time more advantageous to Russia.

“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia – supported by China or any other country – to freeze the war on its own terms. Such a move would violate the UN Charter and delay – defy, excuse me – the will of the 141 countries who have condemned Russia’s war in the United Nations General Assembly.

“One party to this conflict – Ukraine – has already put forward a just peace formula. If China is committed to supporting an end to the war based on the principles of the UN Charter as called for in point one of its plan, it can engage with President Zelenskyy and Ukraine on this basis and use its influence to compel Moscow to pull back its forces.

“Russia’s purported annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory, including vast areas it doesn’t even control, and its ongoing, brutal attacks on civilians make clear that President Putin currently has no interest in such a peace.

“That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes.”

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