Speech by Ambassador Kierscht on Independence Day

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Dear Ministers, and members of the government delegation,
Dear members of the diplomatic corps,
Friends of business, civil society and government,
Ladies and gentlemen, guests of honour.

Good evening. Thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United States. On July 4, 246 years ago, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, and since then Americans have recognized the day with celebrations of all kinds. The first 4th of July celebration is said to have taken place in Philadelphia, in 1777. There were bonfires, parades and fireworks – and a ship fired a thirteen-gun salute to honor the thirteen American colonies of the time. This year, Americans in the United States will celebrate with barbecues, picnics, parades and fireworks. And we’ll do about the same thing here tonight. But before I get to tonight’s festivities, I’d like to highlight a few important issues for the United States and Mauritania.

Our relationship with Mauritania is a growing partnership, based on shared interests and common goals. We work daily with our Mauritanian partners to realize Mauritania’s full potential as a regional security leader, strengthen social cohesion and address human rights issues, and support an inclusive and diversified economy. In fact, Secretary Blinken met with his counterpart Minister Merzoug yesterday in Madrid to discuss these issues.

A word on safety. Without peace and stability, no country can prosper. I commend the leadership role Mauritania has played in countering violent extremism within its own borders and in the Sahel region, and the Embassy welcomes opportunities to continue this partnership. In fact, just last year, the United States deployed a team of special operations experts to train alongside the Groupement des Fusiliers Marins; we concluded a multi-year program of 14.9 million dollars for the Mauritanian battalion supporting the G5 Defense Force; we conducted training with the Mauritanian air force; we have sent military officers to elite US military institutions to study with their US counterparts; and we have trained 66 Mauritanian law enforcement officers under the Counter Terrorism Assistance Program, with many more trainings on the horizon. Mauritania needs to know that America will remain an unwavering partner in the fight against threats of extremism and violence.

Regarding our common objective of strengthening social inclusion and human rights, we welcome the significant progress made by Mauritania in these areas. As President Biden has said, “Defending human rights and demonstrating that democracies are equal to their people is a fundamental challenge of our time”, and we will continue to work with our Mauritanian partners to ensure to meet this challenge together. President Ghazouani has presented an ambitious reform agenda to promote social inclusion and provide access to services for all Mauritanians, and we stand ready to support these reforms. Indeed, the U.S. Embassy has a long history of working with government and civil society on issues such as ending slavery, protecting women and girls from gender-based violence, and supporting human rights. all kinds. For years, we have worked in Nouakchott and the wilayas to promote civic engagement, support girls’ empowerment and end gender-based violence, and help build school capacity.

All this good work is possible not only because of Mauritania’s stability, but also because of its democratic development. With elections coming up in 2023 and 2024, the Embassy looks forward to supporting efforts to ensure that all Mauritanians can have their voices heard at the ballot box.

And finally, our economic partnership. We continue to focus on expanding our economic cooperation, including through opportunities arising from offshore natural gas and Mauritania’s huge potential as a renewable energy producer, as well as in new, smaller industries. Through the U.S.-Mauritania Business Forum, we encouraged increased trade and investment in agriculture, e-commerce, and food manufacturing. We will continue to encourage American companies to bring their innovations to Mauritania while helping the Mauritanian government advance economic and regulatory reforms. To better integrate Mauritanian youth into today’s economy, the U.S. Agency for International Development is investing $24 million in youth programs to promote social cohesion and civic engagement and provide professional training and leadership skills. The hope is that soon all Mauritanians will be able to realize their economic potential in a productive, equitable and environmentally sustainable economy.

Of course, the biggest challenge we’ve all faced recently is the global pandemic. Thanks to COVAX, we donated nearly two million doses of life-saving vaccines to Mauritania. Our close cooperation with the Ministry of Health ensured the distribution of these vaccines throughout the country and contributed to Mauritania having one of the highest vaccination rates on the continent.

Our contributions to Mauritanian society do not stop there. Since 2007, more than 1,300 economically disadvantaged students have benefited from a two-year English program, offering them expanded opportunities in the global marketplace. Over 500 Mauritanians have participated in our International Visitor Leadership Program, including many ministers, senior government officials, academics, journalists and civil society leaders. And more than 250 Mauritanians have participated in such prestigious education programs as Fulbright in the United States. Exchange programs like these foster deep and lasting bonds between our two countries and give us the opportunity to continue to develop mutual respect and understanding.

Finally, I would like to publicly salute Mauritania’s recent votes in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of Ukraine. Mauritania joined the United States and 138 other countries in passing a resolution deploring Russian aggression and demanding that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territory. Our countries also voted together in March to condemn Russia’s attacks on civilians and together we expressed concern about the impact of the conflict on increasing food insecurity. These resolutions sent an unequivocal message of support for Ukraine and international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.

I salute Mauritania’s determination to take this position. Like you, I am horrified by reports of unacceptable civilian casualties and mass displacement in Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression. The United States firmly believes that Mauritania’s vote in favor of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, will be remembered as the right thing to do.

On a lighter note, and last but not least, I would like to thank the many people who made this evening possible. Our sponsors, Kosmos Energy, Les Grands Moulins de Mauritanie, Seaboard Overseas and Trading Group and SOBOMA Coca-Cola Company, for offering their help to make this event possible. And to our own Embassy staff who worked for months to organize it – thanks to Stuart Nincehelser, our Screening Officer, Sarah Benchiba, Protocol Officer, Stephen Dombkoski, our Sound Engineer; thank you to our public affairs and management teams, to our security team for keeping us all safe, thank you for your invaluable contributions to the making of tonight. And a big thank you to the staff in our General Services and Facilities offices, for all the hard work hours that went into preparing the Embassy for this holiday.

And finally, I would also like to give special thanks to the talented musicians of the Eleanor Dubinsky Quartet for coming from America to play such beautiful music for us. Welcome to Mauritania.

With that, dear guests, please accept my gratitude to you. For being here tonight to celebrate American Independence Day and for the important work you do every day. Now please enjoy the reception. Thank you, thank you, shukran.
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