Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gavrilita Before Their Meeting

PRIME MINISTER GAVRILITA:  Dear Secretary of State Blinken, welcome to Chisinau.  I’m sure we would have all loved to have met under different circumstances and for your visit to have occurred on a more positive occasion.  Yet precisely because our region has been plunged into war, it is even of more importance that your visit comes as a sign of strong support not only for our effort to deal with the large influx of refugees and to help the people of Ukraine, but also to support our aspiration to be part of the free world.

We strongly condemn the act of war on Ukraine and fully support the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.  We stand united with the people of Ukraine and our call is for restoration of peace as soon as possible, first and foremost through diplomatic efforts.

We are firmly committed to help those who are fleeing from Ukraine.  The government has put in place the most comprehensive humanitarian operation in the history of the Republic of Moldova.  As of this morning, we had more than 230,000 people who have crossed the border from Ukraine and 120,000 stayed in Moldova; 96,000 of them are Ukrainian citizens.  For a small country like Moldova, proportionately this is a very large number and managing such an influx has only been possible because of the extraordinary solidarity shown by every person, every company, every nongovernmental organization.  Everybody has come together to host, to provide shelter, to provide food, to provide assistance to those who are fleeing the war.

But we will need assistance to deal with this influx, and we need this quickly and through flexible instruments.  Unfortunately, this humanitarian crisis comes on top of the developmental challenges that Moldova already had, and it was dealing with global challenges like the pandemic and energy crisis and inflation.  So we were already in double-digit inflation.  This war will also not only cost us in terms of the humanitarian cost, but economically, trade with Ukraine has been a very important element of our economy and we see disruptions of transportation routes and we see a global impact economically of this war.

So we count on your quick and comprehensive support as we have always had, and we are very grateful for the support that the U.S. Government has provided for the development of Moldova and to ensure the well-being of its citizens.

And finally, I just want to mention that we’ve – while we are facing these unprecedented circumstances, we are firmly committed to our path for European integration.  We believe that this is an agenda to transform Moldova into a modern, prosperous European state based on the fundamental values of human rights and the rule of law.  And we are committed to steer towards membership in the European Union.  We have submitted our application on the 3rd of March.  And as we embark on this journey, we know that we can count on the friendship and the strong support with the United States.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Prime Minister, thank you very, very much.  And indeed, you can count on that support across the board.

Let me first say, as you noted so well, this terrible, unprovoked war of choice is having, of course, profound consequences for the Ukrainian people, who are suffering terribly as a result while showing extraordinary resilience, but it’s also having consequences beyond Ukraine’s borders, including here in Moldova.  We admire the generosity, the hospitality, the willingness to be such good friends to people who are in distress, and indeed, we want to do everything we can to help you deal with the burden that this is imposing.  But we’re grateful for it.

As you also noted, at a time when all of us have so many things that we need to do to make the lives of our citizens better – dealing with what’s left of COVID-19, advancing the economic recovery that touches everyone, meeting the challenge of climate change and transforming our economies to account for that, so many things that we need to do for our societies, for our people – the last thing anyone needed or anyone wanted was a war, especially one that was totally unnecessary, totally unprovoked and, I’m afraid, premeditated.  And so the consequences, as you point out, go beyond Ukraine.  They go beyond even Ukraine’s neighbors.  They are in fact global because this is having an impact on everything that we actually need to be doing and should be doing.  And like you, we want to see it brought to the swiftest possible conclusion.

But meanwhile, we’re prepared to do everything we can in support of the Ukrainian people, in support of Ukraine’s neighbors who are standing up for the Ukrainian people and helping those in distress, those fleeing, and, of course, continuing to put pressure on President Putin and his government to change course.

Meanwhile, though, we’re also very, very pleased to be working closely with you.  I am in effect back to Moldova because this is my second visit here.  I was here in 2016.  It’s wonderful to be back.  And it’s especially wonderful to be back because your story is such a powerful one and positive one at a time that we need powerful and positive stories.  It’s a story of democracy emerging and strengthening and taking root, and it’s something that I think is inspiring to the world because it’s coming at a moment when over some years, democracies have been moving backward, not forward.  You’re the example of the opposite.  You’re showing us and you’re showing the world how democracies can grow, strengthen, and we are and will be your partner in that.  So thank you for having us.

PRIME MINISTER GAVRILITA:  Thank you.