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Press Conference with President Azali
Remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Richard R. Verma
June 8, 2023

Moroni, Comoros
May 31, 2023

Good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you, President Azali, for your remarks and your warm hospitality.  It is wonderful to visit Comoros for the first time— I only wish I could stay longer to see more of these beautiful islands.

My visit follows the Africa Leaders Summit which President Biden hosted in December.  At that summit, the President committed to 2023 as a year of deep U.S.  engagement and travel across Africa.  We’ve already seen this with Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Blinken, and others, and we’ll see more before the year is done.  I am proud to visit Comoros and to be the most senior U.S.  diplomat to ever visit this beautiful country.

My visit also comes in a year when Comoros is the Chair of the African Union for the first time.  I want to congratulate President Azali and the people of Comoros for this historic opportunity to demonstrate leadership among African nations to solve African problems, and to contribute to our shared effort to address the global challenges we all face, from climate change to food insecurity to global health.

I want to commend President Azali for the leadership he has demonstrated so far as AU Chair.  Thank you, Mr.  President, in particular for supporting international action to end the fighting in Sudan and ensure humanitarian access.

I have traveled all the way to Moroni to deliver a simple message on behalf of President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, and the American people to the Comorian people—we value and intend to deepen our relationship with Comoros.

In the past two years, our bilateral relationship has made tremendous progress.  We will further expand our relationship in five key areas: development assistance, democracy and governance, security cooperation, economic and commercial ties, and people-to-people ties.

Let me start first with development assistance.  Today, I am pleased to announce that, working with the U.S.  Congress, we plan to provide $5 million for Comoros in development assistance to support food security, energy, and workforce development.  This funding will make a real difference in the lives of ordinary Comorian citizens.

Second, we will partner on efforts to promote democracy, good governance, and human rights.  That is why, in preparation for your 2024 elections, working with the U.S.  Congress, we plan to provide $600,000 to support civic education.  This will help the people of Comoros understand their rights and obligations to bolster democracy.

Third, we are committed to expanding our security partnership.  The United States understands the importance of maritime security in Comoros, and, working with the U.S.  Congress, we intend to provide drones and associated training, subject to congressional notification, to help Comoros secure its maritime domain.

Fourth, we will seek to grow our economic and commercial ties, particularly in renewable energy and fisheries.  As one example, Gigawatt Global signed an MOU in March to invest up to $100 million over five years to develop renewable energy in Comoros.  And I am pleased to announce that the U.S.  government’s Power Africa initiative will support Comoros in its efforts to expand clean energy availability through technical support, including transaction advisory services.

Finally, stronger ties between people foster stronger ties between nations.  Today we are opening a newly renovated American Corner at the University of Comoros… a state-of-the-art venue which will allow the people of Comoros to join conversations—both in-person and virtually—about important issues that face your community and our world.

Thank you once again for joining us today.  Thank you again, President Azali, for warmly welcoming me to Comoros.  I look forward to your questions.