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Secretary Clinton: Remarks With His Excellency Eamon Gilmore, T.D., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland



SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. It’s a pleasure to welcome the new Tánaiste here to the State Department. Eamon Gilmore is very welcome, and we had an excellent discussion. And there was a broad agreement, as you might guess, between two such strong friends and allies. I’m sorry I had to spend St. Patrick’s Day away from the celebrations, but I am delighted that we have so many common goals for the continuing close cooperation between our two countries.

We are obviously following what’s happening in Japan on a minute-by-minute basis. Ireland very generously has contributed to the appeal for humanitarian assistance. We are also grateful for the offer of Irish experts to assist in dealing with this. As both Ireland and the United States know, Japan has been very generous in the past during others’ times of need, and we are responding.

The conversation that Eamon and I had about Libya began with the passage of the Security Council Resolution 1973, which provides authority for the international community to take enforcement actions to protect civilians in Libya. The Libyan people have called for international assistance, and this resolution paves the way for that call to be answered. Colonel Qadhafi’s refusal to hear the repeated calls up until now to halt violence against his own people has left us with no other choice but to pursue this course of action. While this resolution is an important step, it is only that – an important step. We and our partners will continue to explore the most effective measures to end this crisis.

We talked at length about the Irish Government’s extraordinary support for ending global hunger, an area that we are going to continue to work on together. We will be hopefully traveling to Africa at some point to highlight the joint project, the 1,000 Days campaign to improve maternal and child nutrition. We also appreciate greatly Ireland’s support of the Cookstove Alliance, a very important initiative that we kicked off last September and which has such potential to protect women and children from death and illness by toxic smoke and to protect the environment.

And finally, of course, we talked about the ongoing peace efforts in Northern Ireland. We commend everyone on the progress that has been made. I will meet later today with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. We are absolutely committed to work together to give a consistent message of support that the path to peace is the only path.

So let me thank you again for coming and having this opportunity to meet with you here in Washington.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER GILMORE: Well, thank you very much, Secretary Clinton, for your kind words and for your warm welcome. It is a great personal pleasure and privilege for me to have the opportunity to visit Washington today and to have substantive discussions with you on a broad range of global and bilateral issues.

I’m particularly grateful that you would make time in your increasingly hectic schedule for exchanges. I know that you just got back from important visits to Europe and the Middle East. And it is very useful to hear your impressions on these issues, which have been so much to the forefront of our concerns in recent weeks. We discussed the situation in Japan and the ongoing critical situation there. Our thoughts are very much with the Japanese people, who are such good friends of the United States and of Ireland.

For my part, I updated Secretary Clinton on the economic situation in Ireland, and the steps which the new government for national recovery intend to take to promote economic growth, restore confidence, fix our banking system, and support the protection and creation of jobs. We are determined to rebuild Ireland’s reputation internationally and to drive export-led economic recovery.

Ireland and the U.S. have many areas of common interest. Your own constant encouragement and unwavering support in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland is deeply appreciated by all your friends in Ireland, as is your ongoing support for the International Fund for Ireland. I also took the opportunity to thank Secretary Clinton for her strong support of the Irish community here over many years, and we discussed the prospects for progress on immigration reform as well as bilateral visa arrangements.

We discussed the popular uprisings against autocratic regimes in North Africa and the Middle East which have marked a profound and historic change in the region’s political landscape. I commended Secretary Clinton for her role in speaking out forcefully and offering clear moral and political support to those peacefully seeking change throughout the region. As regards to Libya, I believe that Colonel Qadhafi has lost all legitimacy to rule and should be encouraged to leave the stage. We hope that the adoption of Resolution 1973 will bring an end to that violence, protect civilians, and facilitate humanitarian access. In our discussions today, we also spoke about the pursuit of comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The time and commitment which the Administration and you personally, Madam Secretary, has given to the pursuit of peace in the region, has been widely appreciated.

Ireland and the U.S. have a shared priority in combating hunger and we’ve been able to work together in developing strong partnership in the area of food security. I know that this is an issue of deep personal interest to you, and I can assure you that the new government very much regards this as a central element in our foreign policy and Ireland’s role in the world. We look forward to working closely with you to build on what we have achieved so far, and to explore new areas of cooperation in the future. I’m very pleased to announce today Ireland’s support for the Cookstoves Initiative in the amount of half a million dollars.

Finally, I thank Secretary of State Clinton for the extraordinarily warm welcome extended to the Taoiseach in Washington yesterday, and particularly the announcement that President Obama will visit Ireland in May. We see the President’s visit as a vote of confidence in Ireland at this time, and he will, no doubt, receive an enthusiastic and warm welcome when he comes in May. So thank you very much indeed.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: We’re pressed for time, so two brief questions. First, to Jill Dougherty, CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, Libya, the resolution, please. Could you tell us what is the endgame of this resolution? Stop the violence against civilians, stop Qadhafi’s forces, or get him out of office? In other words, should this continue until he is gone? Also, the Libyan Government is saying that they were calling for a ceasefire. What do you think of that? Will you engage with them about that?

And just very briefly, these attacks – well, we always do this, this is now a tradition – (laughter) – but the third question – Yemen. Snipers are firing from rooftops on people. What can you tell us about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, as to Libya, obviously, the United States is very pleased with yesterday’s vote. It sent a strong message that needs to be heeded. The efforts by the international community to come together to make clear to Colonel Qadhafi that he cannot continue his violence against his own people, he cannot continue to attack those who started out by peacefully demonstrating for changes that are within the right of any human being to do so, and the fact that he now has received not just the message of those of us who have been calling for him to end and the fact that he has lost his legitimacy, but the Arab League and the statement that they called for with respect to the resolution.

Now, we’ve seen press reports of a ceasefire by the Libyan Government. This is a fluid and dynamic situation. We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see actions on the ground. And that is not yet at all clear. We will continue to work with our partners in the international community to press Qadhafi to leave, and to support the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.

It is important, Jill, that we take this one step at a time. The diplomatic effort that was required to answer questions and create a level of cooperation as represented by the resolution was very intense in the last weeks, and the overwhelming vote by the Security Council, I think, reflects a broad understanding that, number one, stop the violence, and number two, we do believe that a final result of any negotiations would have to be the decision by Colonel Qadhafi to leave. But let’s take this one step at a time.

With regard to Yemen, our message remains the same. The violence needs to end, negotiations need to be pursued in order to reach a political solution.

MODERATOR: Our next question, Christopher Donoghue from Newstalk.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. Good morning, Tánaiste. And thank you for having us here again, Madam Secretary. Just on the question our colleague asked there, is anything short of Colonel Qadhafi leaving acceptable. And in the discussions yourself and the Tánaiste had on this matter this morning, did you seek or receive any support from Ireland on what may follow military action, be that troop transport or whatever it may be through Shannon Airport?

And just also, Secretary Clinton, the last time you were in Dublin, you said to us you were working very hard to convince the President to come to Dublin. We have that now. Would you be there? And what advice do you have for him on what to pack and what to expect?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, with respect to Libya, again, I want to take this one step at a time. We don’t know what the final outcome will be. The first and overwhelmingly urgent action is to end the violence, and we have to see a very clear set of decisions that are operationalized on the ground by Qadhafi’s forces to move physically a significant distance away from the east, where they have been pursuing their campaign against the opposition. There will have to be an accounting of what has already occurred. There are many stories, as you know, of massacres, abductions.

Until we can have a better idea of what actually happened, it’s hard to know what the next steps will be. The Secretary General appointed a special representative, a former Jordanian foreign minister. We will obviously want to have the international community involved in any kind of dialogue with the opposition and with the Qadhafi regime. So we just passed this resolution last night, and I think now we’re going to be working to operationalize it. And we’ll see, as I’ve already said, what the next steps will be.

We are delighted that the President will be coming to Ireland. That is very good news for everyone, and I don’t know how many Irish Americans will believe they have to be there with him, but I would imagine that the number will be substantial. The trip will be in May. We’re working with the Government of the Republic of Ireland to plan it. We were delighted by their enthusiastic positive response to the President saying that to the Taoiseach in the Oval Office.

So I’m excited. And I never know where I’m going to be, as has been evident for the last several weeks, but I would love to be there, because I love to be in Ireland under any circumstances. But I do have a lot of good ideas about what the President would like to do that I will share with our ambassadors and others who will be planning this trip. But in a time of very big challenges, from nuclear reactor dysfunction to continuing strife and conflict, this is a very good news story. Thank you all very much.

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