SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It’s a great pleasure to have Prime Minister Kovachevski here. We have a strong partnership with North Macedonia, a tremendously valued Ally in NATO at a time when that really matters. We are so grateful for your solidarity, your leadership on Ukraine and helping to defend it against Russia’s aggression. Deeply appreciate as well your leadership right now at a very challenging time of the OSCE that’s making a real difference. And we strongly, strongly support North Macedonia’s European Union path and appreciate very much, Prime Minister, your leadership in that effort.
We have a lot to talk about today, including everything I just mentioned, but also how we can advance things like greater energy security for the region, for North Macedonia; work that also needs to be done to combat misinformation and disinformation that is increasingly vital. I look forward to all of that, but mostly to say welcome. It’s great to have you. We so appreciate the partnership, the collaboration that we have, and I think that’s more essential than ever.
Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER KOVACHEVSKI: Well, first of all, thank you, Mr. Secretary of State, for the warm welcome at the State Department today. The United States and North Macedonia’s relationship is multifaceted, strong, and it’s based on values before all. And our strategic partnership gives results. Thanks to this strategic partnership, North Macedonia has been able to go through very difficult but brave decisions in the past decades, and these visionary decisions brought the country into NATO, enabled opening accession negotiations with the European Union, and chairing the OSCE during the most difficult year in Europe after the Second World War.
We share the same system of values, and that is why we stand by our decision to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom and for their efforts to keep their sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is why we aligned 100 percent our foreign policy with the European Union’s foreign policy on the first day of the brutal attack of Russia on Ukraine. And we have proven as a reliable partner within NATO.
North Macedonia values the United States as a close and reliable friend, as a NATO Ally, and an important partner on our way to the European Union membership, and recognize there’s a factor of stability in the region. We are proud of our partnership and I must say that during the last year, 2022 was exceptionally challenging year in Europe, for our country as well. I must thank your colleagues, with whom we worked together through the U.S. ambassador in Skopje, and we managed to come over the crisis – energy crisis, food crisis – and to ensure financing of everything what was needed for the citizens of North Macedonia. So for this I have to thank you in the name of the government and in the name – in the name of the people of North Macedonia. Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you so much, Prime Minister.