Blinken says US is not pursuing regime change in Russia

The US Secretary of State is on a Middle East tour which includes Israel, the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to give a news conference with Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2022.  POOL/AFP
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Shortly after US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power", US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country has no interest in pursuing regime change in Russia.

Mr Blinken was speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday, at the first leg of a Middle East tour that will include the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria.

"The President, the White House, made the point last night that quite simply President Putin cannot be empowered to wait for or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else," Mr Blinken said.

"As you know and as you've heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy for regime change in Russia or in any where else for that matter. In this case as in any case, it's up to the people of the country in question, it's up to the Russian people."

Mr Blinken also said he would be speaking to the region's leaders about methods to curb the impact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had on soaring wheat prices which have hit the most "vulnerable" people the hardest.

"This impact is acutely felt in this region where most countries import at least half of their wheat - a significant portion which comes from Ukraine... Over the course of this trip we'll be discussing steps that we can take in co-ordination with partners to mitigate these consequences, to alleviate some of the burden this is placing on people throughout the Middle East," Mr Blinken said.

As talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal continue and an agreement, officials say, becomes imminent, Mr Blinken said the US and Israel see "eye to eye" on the "most important element" of the deal, which is to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.

This clarification comes after Israel said it had disagreements with Washington over aspects of the deal.

During his trip, Mr Blinken is slated to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of efforts to seek an improvement in the quality of life for Palestinians and to calm tensions ahead of the upcoming month of Ramadan, Easter and Passover.

At Sunday's press conference, Mr Lapid told reporters that Israel has "no problem" with the US setting up an office to address the day-to-day problems faced by Palestinians.

"We just don't think that Jerusalem is the right place [for this office] because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and Israel alone," he said.

Updated: March 27, 2022, 2:03 PM