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Secretary Of State Blinken's Busy Week Of Diplomacy: U.N. And Quad Summits


U.S. diplomats, including the top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, spent this week some doing repair work in New York. World leaders met, of course, at the United Nations after a jarring summer for the United States. Both the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a U.S. arms deal with Australia dismayed U.S. allies because of the way they were done. U.S. efforts to rejoin a nuclear agreement with Iran came to a halt. So what now? NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Blinken says he met with officials from over 60 countries this week. Iran, though, wasn't one of them. And the new Iranian foreign minister, who was in New York, wasn't making any promises to those he did meet about when nuclear talks might resume. Secretary of State Blinken says the U.S. is ready.


ANTONY BLINKEN: The question is whether and, if so, when? Iran is prepared to do that. We have been very sincere and very steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy.

KELEMEN: The goal is to get both the U.S. and Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned. One U.S. official says everyone agrees that the talks should resume where they left off and soon, before Iran makes more advances on its nuclear program. Afghanistan was another major topic. Norway's foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide captured the mood when she spoke to reporters outside the Security Council.


INE ERIKSEN SOREIDE: I would very much have liked to seen a different end to the exit of international troops. I think we all would have liked to see that.

KELEMEN: The Taliban now want to address the United Nations. But she says the world needs to keep the pressure on.


SOREIDE: We cannot allow ourselves now to give mixed signals to the Taliban on what we expect. We have to join forces. We have to put forward demands.

KELEMEN: Secretary Blinken said the Taliban have to keep counterterrorism commitments and uphold basic rights if they want legitimacy.


BLINKEN: The relationship that it has with the international community is going to be defined by the actions it takes.

KELEMEN: Climate change and the coronavirus pandemic were other major themes of the week. Blinken also had to clear up a dispute with his French counterpart over a security partnership in Asia that blindsided the French. The secretary is vowing to deepen cooperation and coordination.


BLINKEN: We can do more, and we can do better. I think that we very much welcome European engagement and French engagement and leadership in the Indo-Pacific.

KELEMEN: His Chinese counterpart didn't go to New York but took part in meetings virtually and was critical of U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Iran. China's president, Xi Jinping, took a veiled swipe at the U.S. in his speech, complaining about countries that form small circles and play zero-sum games. President Biden tried to reassure the world body that he's not interested in a new Cold War.


US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Say it again - we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.

KELEMEN: Today, Biden is hosting the first in-person summit of the Quad, the U.S., Australia, India and Japan, a group that is widely viewed as an anti-China bloc. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "SHADOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.