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PRIME MINISTER MARAPE:  Thank you very much for your generosity and time.  I know you’ve been very, very busy yourself – the G20, traveling halfway across the world.  For you to give me and my delegation a moment of your time is a token of generosity and your kindness.  Apart from the fact that you have many other appointments to tick off, giving Papua New Guinea one more time to sit not just with you, but closer to (inaudible) U.S. President Biden, who I thought was very kind.  We walked out from the Oval Office that night —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I remember.  (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER MARAPE:  — and I told the President it was truly extraordinary.  It was (inaudible) to go into the Oval Office after the dinner, and it just continues to (inaudible) interface, and not just at the government to government, but more importantly at this level of that close connectivity.  So I really appreciate the fact that you made this time for us.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I have to say, Prime Minister, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that evening.  It was just a wonderful evening on so many levels with all of our colleagues from the Pacific Islands, and it was especially memorable being in the Oval Office with you, with the President, with our other colleagues.  Some wonderful stories were shared, which I won’t necessarily share with our colleagues here today.  But I think it reflects the profound importance that the President of the United States attaches to our partnership and to our relationship with the Pacific Island countries.  We have reaffirmed that commitment over the last year, starting with my own February visit to the region, but especially with the summit meeting between the Pacific Island countries and the United States that the President hosted.

We are committed to these partnerships, but not only to the partnerships, to making good on the many initiatives that we launched together during that summit, and we’ll have an opportunity to talk about that.  We’re also very, very pleased to be opening a new embassy in Moresby.  We look forward to that later this month.  It’s a very practical thing, but it’s also symbolic of the relationship, of the partnership, and we’re grateful for that.  And I understand you may technically be our landlord, Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER MARAPE:  Yes, that’s right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So —

PRIME MINISTER MARAPE:  You’re under good watch.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And we know if we need a lightbulb changed or something —

PRIME MINISTER MARAPE:  Yes, I’m there.  We’ve got everybody there for you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — we know where to go.  But Prime Minister, I would just say simply that all of this is a demonstration of the bonds that we have – history, values, especially people to people, something we talked about.  And I’m very pleased that you would take the time to pursue the conversation today, so thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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