PRIME MINISTER GONZI: Good morning. Thank you for joining us for this press statement. Once again, Excellency, Madam Secretary of State, it’s a pleasure to have you here and to express at great (inaudible) my welcome to you for this visit to Malta. This has been an opportunity for us, once again, to reiterate the strong relationship and friendship that exists between Malta and the United States, a relationship that has grown over the years, strengthening from one circumstance to another and also finding its culmination, I must say, in the recent events that have happened in the Mediterranean region.
All of you are aware that events in the Mediterranean in these last 10 months, 11 months, have brought tremendous change, which we in Malta consider to be very good news for all of us. This is a transformation that is taking place. It is a historic event that has taken place, and history has demanded from Malta a specific role, which we have performed and tried to perform to the best of our abilities.
We see now that the phase of evacuation and violence is hopefully finished, and we see three countries – Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya – moving towards a path that hopefully will lead to a democracy, which the people of these countries with themselves, designed for themselves. And therefore, Malta will continue to provide and support in the widest manner possible.
And this was a theme which we discussed in some detail with Madam Secretary of State, and I am pleased to note that we are completely – in complete agreement on what needs to be done in the immediate circumstance, which is still a little bit of a humanitarian challenge, especially with what has been happening in Sirte and continues to happen, but also in the medium to long term and how – what contribution we can make, all of us, to see the whole scenario develop in the best interest, not only of our region, but I would say of the whole world.
We also spent some quality time discussing bilateral issues of importance. Malta is extremely grateful to the Government of the United States for the support we have received constantly on the issue of resettlement of immigrants and resettlement of these persons in the United States, and we appreciate the contribution, the help and support, the understanding that we’ve constantly received from the United States. We are also grateful that we have mentioned recent times to sign a (inaudible) agreement, a visa waiver agreement, all of which are clear indications of this strong relationship that continues to develop.
So I believe that this visit, once again, consolidates something which is already very strong, but prepares also an opportunity for us to continue to grow in the future. So thank you very much, Madam, and I leave the – it open for you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Prime Minister. And I am pleased to be the first Secretary of State in the United States to visit Malta in more than two decades. It is, for me, the opportunity that I was seeking to thank the government and people of Malta for their extraordinary response to the events of this last year and to reaffirm the strong partnership and friendship between our two countries.
I’m also delighted to announce that President Obama has decided to nominate one of our most experienced diplomats, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, to be our ambassador here. We stand ready to assist in every way possible with Malta’s critical role in the events of the Arab Spring and now the fall.
In our meeting today, I thanked the prime minister for Malta’s assistance in evacuating American citizens and Embassy staff from Libya earlier this year. The prime minister, the entire government, and many private citizens went the extra mile to get our people home safely, and we are very grateful.
As you just heard from the prime minister, as someone who is on the frontlines of watching what is happening here in the Mediterranean region, he is very well acquainted with the challenges and opportunities that the people of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and the greater region are facing. And in fact, I think that the prime minister has been particularly helpful in meeting with and counseling representatives of the new Libya over the last several months, as they look to build a new future for their country. There’s no doubt that Malta will continue to play a critical role in helping to establish the rule of law and providing health and education services and to help create an inclusive government that will represent all Libyans from all areas of the country, and of course including the women of Libya. Malta’s unique geography, history, and expertise will make it a valued partner in this work.
The prime minister and I also discussed our shared interest in keeping the Mediterranean safe from illicit nuclear materials and enforcing international sanctions against Iran’s proliferation activities. The United States appreciates Malta’s leadership in this area, including its work with the international community to interdict prohibited Iranian cargo, to deny port access to ships that are bearing illegal cargoes, and working as a good partner in the enforcement of United Nations sanctions. I also want to recognize Malta’s efforts to stop the flow of human trafficking across the Mediterranean and to assist political refugees from conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa as well.
All of these efforts underscore that while Malta may be a small nation in size, its contributions to regional peace and security are significant. And the United States highly values this partnership, and we look forward to working even more closely in the future.
So, again, let me thank you, Prime Minister, for your leadership. Let me thank your government, with whom we have excellent cooperative relationships, and let me thank the people of Malta for not only their hospitality to me and my delegation, but more importantly their openness and support for the aspirations of the people in this extraordinarily important region. So thank you very much.