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Top US Officials Set for Security Talks with Mexico


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at a press briefing with Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, at the OECD's Ministerial Council Meeting, Oct. 6, 2021, in Paris.

Senior U.S. officials said they believe the U.S. and Mexico are ready for an updated security cooperation agreement, ahead of Friday's high-level security dialogue between the two countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is joining U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in Mexico City for what the State Department is calling a high-level dialogue on security issues.

Representing the Mexican side will be Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and Cabinet secretaries from defense and security agencies.

Senior administration officials said during a phone briefing on Thursday that the U.S. would be unveiling a new initiative, the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities, to look for "ways to reinvigorate security cooperation."

The new U.S.-Mexico bilateral framework will allow both countries to "learn from each other's prevention strategies" and "set enforcement priorities together," a senior administration official said. That cooperation will be applied to security issues including trafficking of illegal narcotics, human trafficking and smuggling, extradition of criminals, money laundering and illicit firearms.

The new arrangement would replace the 13-year-old Merida Initiative, in which the U.S. provided some funding to assist Mexico in combating the threats of drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and money laundering, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday.

"The Merida Initiative helped Mexico strengthen rule of law and counternarcotics capacity," Price said. "We want to see to it that those gains are preserved, [and] that that cooperation is deepened."

The new initiative focuses on exchanging information and interagency cooperation and personnel training, the Mexican official said.

Ebrard said earlier this week that he wants to see the U.S. extradite suspects to Mexico more quickly, stem the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico, and improve efforts to trace the flow of money used by criminal organizations.

The U.S. side is expected to seek efforts to combat the trafficking of illicit drugs such as fentanyl.

Paris relations

Blinken said Wednesday that his talks this week with top French officials were "very productive" and could lead to new collaboration between Washington and Paris to contain China's military ventures in the Indo-Pacific region.

"It is vitally important to the U.S. that Europe in general, France in particular, be a strong and engaged partner in the Indo-Pacific," Blinken said at a news conference in the French capital. He concluded his trip to Europe after talks with other foreign ministers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Blinken suggested that the United States and France could also work together on joint concerns in the Sahel region of Africa and on U.S.-European security.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.