SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. Well, today marks my final attendance at a NATO foreign ministerial. I’ve spent a good amount of time in this building during the past four years, and I think it was time well spent. The alliance has made great strides, and we’ve seen, just in the past 24 hours, how much ground member-states can cover when we are working together. And it proves, once again, why this alliance is one of the greatest forces for security and stability in history.
Yesterday, at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council, we reached a decision to augment Turkey’s air defenses to protect against a threat of ballistic missiles from Syria and reinforce our commitment to Turkey’s security. The United States expects to make a contribution to this essential NATO mission.
At yesterday’s meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, we reviewed our extensive cooperation with Russia in places like Afghanistan and also spoke frankly about the areas of disagreement that continue to exist between NATO and Russia, including Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the need for a political transition in Syria.
At today’s meeting with our non-NATO ISAF partners, we reviewed the situation on the ground in Afghanistan as the transition to 2014 continues, when the Afghan National Security Forces will have full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security, with the U.S. and ISAF forces in a supporting role. And we discussed the need for an efficient, transparent, accountable mechanism to channel the international community’s contributions to the Afghan forces.
At the NATO-Georgia Commission meeting this morning, we continued our conversation with Georgia about how it can keep making progress toward NATO, especially by continuing to strengthen democratic institutions, reform their armed forces, and contribute to our common security.
When you take a step back and consider all the important issues that we covered in a single ministerial meeting here at NATO, it reveals, again, how critical our alliance is. After more than 60 years, it keeps us safe; it projects security and stability globally. And through our partnerships, we’re able to do more in more places. For the United States, we find it extremely valuable to be able to consult closely with our European allies on challenges from Syria to the Middle East to North Korea.
When I think back on the past four years and all we have accomplished together, it really is quite impressive: summits in Strasberg, Lisbon, and Chicago that put forth very substantive outcomes; a new strategic concept to guide NATO in the 21st century; a major successful operation in Libya; a plan to protect all allies from ballistic missiles; a substantive dialogue with Russia started again after having been frozen; chartering a course for the transition in Afghanistan; and of course, enlarging the alliance to include Albania and Croatia.
So the United States is grateful to NATO. We believe it’s needed more than ever, and therefore we believe we all must continue to invest in it, politically, financially, diplomatically, and communicate to our people the value that NATO brings, because these investments are worth it.
And finally, on a personal note, I’ve been very proud to work with Secretary General Rasmussen and the extraordinary team here at NATO, along with my foreign ministerial colleagues. And I thank all of them for the excellent working relationship that we’ve enjoyed the past four years.
MS. NULAND: We’ll take three today. We’ll start with AP, Brad Klapper, please.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you. Madam Secretary, you and National Security Advisor Donilon have spoken with your Egyptian counterparts about Egypt’s constitution process, but you’ve expressed no public concern, despite what some people in your Administration warn is the draft’s attempts to roll back the rights of women, religious minorities, freedom of speech, and the press. Madam Secretary, what shortcomings do you see in the draft constitution, and what would be the repercussions of the constitution entering into force on the democratic transition? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Bradley, first let me say we have been watching very closely this process as it is unfolding in Cairo with concern. We’ve expressed that repeatedly over the last weeks. Because almost two years the Egyptian people took to the streets because they wanted real democratic change. And they, therefore – not the Americans, not anyone else but the Egyptian people – deserve a constitution that protects the rights of all Egyptians, men and women, Muslim and Christian, and ensures that Egypt will uphold all of its international obligations. They also want and deserve a constitutional process that is open, transparent, and fair and does not unduly favor one group over any other.
So the upheaval we are seeing now, once again in the streets of Cairo and other cities, indicates that dialogue is urgently needed, and it needs to be a two-way dialogue, not one side talking at another side, but actual, respectful exchanges of views and concerns among Egyptians themselves about the constitutional process and the substance of the constitution. It’s also important that Egypt’s courts be allowed to function during this period.
So we call on all stakeholders in Egypt to settle their differences through democratic dialogue, and we call on Egypt’s leaders to ensure that the outcome protects the democratic promise of the revolution for all of Egypt’s citizens. Ultimately, it is up to the Egyptian people to chart their way forward. But we want to see a process that is inclusive and a dialogue that is truly open to a free exchange of ideas that will further the democratic process in Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Next will be Javid Hamim from Pajhwok News Agency, Afghanistan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, here? Here.
QUESTION: Thank you. What is the latest development of negotiation about bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan, and what’s its impact on negotiation and reconciliation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we are off to a productive start about the bilateral security agreement. It follows, as you know, on the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we signed between the United States and Afghanistan last May. And with the launching of the talks on a bilateral security agreement, we’ve had the first round of negotiations November 15th. There is an agreed date to have the next round with the goal being to conclude an agreement within one year. And these talks really illustrate our commitment to a post-2014 Afghanistan that can secure itself and to a political process that is able to move Afghanistan further toward democracy and stability that respects the rights of all Afghans, and which puts into writing the partnership that the United States and Afghanistan enjoy.
We also continue to support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process. Ultimately, we believe there has to be a political resolution to the ongoing disputes among themselves. So the United States strongly supports that and we would like to see progress made. We think the two are reinforcing, because we want everyone in the region to know that the United States intends to stand by the people of Afghanistan, and that we want to see all Afghans enter a political process, lay down their arms, absolutely denounce violence, and work together for the betterment of their country.
MS. NULAND: Last one today will be Alexandra Mayer DPA, Germany.
QUESTION: Right here, Madam Secretary. Just to get back on the Patriot missiles, how worried are you that this deployment could actually intensify tensions in the region rather than calm down the situation? And is the United States ready to go further if there are chemical weapons used inside Syria or against neighbors? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, I think it’s a great tribute to NATO that this decision to deploy the Patriots was taken, because it’s very much in line with our solidarity among all of the members. This is for defensive purposes; that’s made absolutely clear in the statement that was agreed upon. It is solely for the defense of Turkey. It will have no offensive or other purpose. I don’t believe that it necessarily brings any greater attention to the tragedy unfolding in Syria, but it does send a clear message to the Syrians that Turkey has the full support of all its NATO allies.
And I have to say again what I said on Monday, what President Obama has said repeatedly: We’ve made our views absolutely clear to the Syrians, to the international community, through various channels – public, private, direct, indirect – that this is a situation that the entire international community is united on. And our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria. And so as part of the absolute unity that we all have on this issue, we have sent an unmistakable message that this would cross a redline and those responsible would be held to account. And we intend to make that view as clear as we possibly can.
Now ultimately what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that needs to start as soon as possible. Now that there is a new opposition formed, we are going to be doing what we can to support that opposition. I’m looking forward to the Friends of the Syrian People meeting next week in Marrakesh, where we will explore with likeminded countries what more we can do to try bring this conflict to an end. But that will require the Assad regime making the decision to participate in a political transition, ending the violence against its own people. And we hope that they do so because we believe, as you know, that their fall is inevitable. It’s just a question of how many people will die until that date occurs.
So on Syria there’s great concern here at the alliance but a great solidarity in defending Turkey and sending a clear message to the Assad regime and in trying to work toward the day when we can see the conflict come to an end.
MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.