The United States and Germany are partnering to counter Holocaust denial and antisemitism, an effort U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said will “ensure that current and future generations learn about the Holocaust and also learn from it.”
Speaking Thursday at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Blinken said Holocaust denial and antisemitism 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.”
“That’s why we have to find innovative ways to bring the history of the Holocaust to life, not only to understand the past, but also to guide our present and to shape our future,” Blinken said.
He and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas signed a document on the partnership. Blinken said the two governments would work to strengthen education and counter denial and distortion, helping public servants and young people understand the Holocaust and antisemitism in depth and to feel a responsibility to stop atrocities.
“This dialogue will help us remember all that can be lost, but also help us to see all that we can save if we choose — if we choose — to stand up rather than stand by,” Blinken said.
Earlier Thursday, Blinken and Libyan interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba held talks in Berlin on the heels of an international conference focused on supporting Libya’s transition to a permanent, stable government.
“I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to see you, to see the foreign minister, to see your delegation, especially after the very good, good day we had yesterday, which I think demonstrated again the very strong support on the part of the international community, the United Nations for Libya, for a strong, positive future as a unified, independent, stable country without any foreign interference,” Blinken said at the start of Thursday’s meeting.
Wednesday’s conference, hosted by Germany and the United Nations, included officials from 17 countries and reinforced support for national elections in Libya scheduled for late December.
A senior U.S. State Department official told reporters Wednesday that the elections are important “not just to legitimize a long-term, credible Libyan government,” but also to help achieve the goal of carrying out an existing call for all foreign fighters to leave the country.
“A fully empowered, legitimate Libyan government will be in a much stronger position to turn to some of these foreign actors and say, ‘Thank you very much, it’s our country now and we’d like to be the ones to define the security cooperation relationships that we’re going to have and not have them imposed on us,’” the official said.
An official statement from conference attendees said, “all foreign forces and mercenaries need to be withdrawn from Libya without delay,” but on that point Turkey noted its reservations.
The senior State Department official said Turkey sees its personnel in Libya acting as trainers based on an agreement it had with a previous interim government, the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord.
Libya has experienced political instability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi from power. Rival governments operated in separate parts of the country for years before a cease-fire deal in October that included a demand for all foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days.
‘Real world’ solution
At a news conference following Wednesday’s conference, Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said there was progress toward the exit of the foreign fighters and that “hopefully within the coming days mercenaries from both sides are going to be withdrawn.”
A senior U.S. State Department official told reporters that achieving that goal is an important step that now “has to be made operational.”
“There’s a process here, and saying, ‘All means all and they all leave tonight – why haven’t they left tonight? Will they leave tomorrow night?’ is not, frankly, a realistic approach in a real-world situation such as Libya,” the official said.
Next stop France, then Italy
Blinken is on a multi-nation tour that next brings him to France to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, following up on U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent meetings with allies in the region to boost transatlantic relations.
“This is really an opportunity for Secretary Blinken to reiterate the president’s message and speak with our oldest ally about areas of cooperation, including global security, again, recovery from the pandemic, and repairing and modernizing our alliances,” Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters Monday.
Defeating Islamic State will be the focus of a conference co-hosted by Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in Rome. The top U.S. diplomat will also participate in a ministerial meeting in Italy to discuss Syria and the humanitarian needs in that country.
Blinken is also scheduled to visit the Vatican, where Reeker said the agenda includes combating climate change and human trafficking.