Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama Before Their Meeting

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  It’s been a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Rama here to the State Department, to the United States, and give us an opportunity to talk about the work that the United States and Albania are doing together in so many different areas, so many (inaudible).  We actually sit next to each other at the Security Council at the United Nations.  We’re grateful for the work that we’re doing there together.

But I have to tell you, Prime Minister, what stays with me and will stay with me for a long time is the fact that early in the summer, after we announced that we were going to leave Afghanistan and end the war there, you were the first to offer to take in Afghan refugees, evacuees, and that’s exactly what you’ve done.  I’m grateful to you and to the generosity of Albania that you gave safe harbor to well over 2,000 Afghans.

I’m grateful for that, but also for the work that we’re doing every day in Europe on security in close – increasingly close ties, particularly through NATO, and also, as I said, on the Security Council, where we have many challenging issues to work on together.  So very good to have you here.  I look forward to a very good conversation.  Welcome.

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  It is an honor to be here, and of course, it’s also a true pleasure that we happen to see you in the beginning of a year that (inaudible) anniversary of our diplomatic relations.  They were brutally interrupted by Albania going a totally different direction for more than half a century, but here we are back together.

We value as most precious this friendship, this relation.  We are very proud to be on your side and to help as much as we can to give back what you have done for us during all these years, not just for Albania but also for Albanians in Kosovo and for Albanians all over.  So we are very proud to be your allies and we’ll do our best to deserve this special friendship.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thanks, everyone.