Assistant Secretary Nuland: I am delighted to be back in Prague. It is no accident that Secretary Kerry sent me here within days of the new government being formed. As you know, we have a deep, vital, important alliance with the Czech Republic – not only in bilateral terms, not only in global terms, but in economic terms, in terms of the moral and practical example that the Czech Republic sets in terms of democracy, in terms of countering corruption, in terms of standing up for the values that we share, and that make us strong.
We have had a very good day today. I talked to the president’s senior advisor. I had some time with the new foreign minister. I had some time with his deputies and then we sat with some anti-corruption activists here in Prague and both from the NGO sector but also from the judiciary, from parliament which was very valuable to me in learning what is going well here and potentially ideas that we can apply in other countries whether they are in Central Europe or whether they are in Eastern Europe where democracy is under threat, where dirty money is affecting democratic institutions, structures, free media. And then we had a chance to talk to a broad cross-section of NGOs who primarily work in the field of supporting the work that the Czech Republic does and is traditionally known for in supporting civil society, supporting democracy beyond your shores in Eastern Partnership countries and around the world. Because as I said, we are not only an alliance for security, an alliance for economic prosperity, but we are also an alliance for values.
Question: If I may have one on the Ukraine. Vice President Biden just called on President Yanukovych to accept compromises. Yet we know that the Ukraine opposition wants nothing less than him stepping down which applies also to Vice President Biden’s call to pull police off the streets and on the other hand, we have these extreme groups that are seizing government buildings and so forth. What message are you bringing? What is the U.S. position on the situation in Ukraine?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, as you know, I am leaving from here to make my fourth trip to Kyiv in two and a half months following up on Vice President Biden’s conversation yesterday with President Yanukovych. As you may know, Vice President Biden has been talking to President Yanukovych at regular intervals over the last couple of months, and also to follow up on the work that Secretary Kerry did at the Munich Security Conference both with the Ukrainian opposition and with his counterpart Foreign Minister Kozhara. The U.S. position I think is quite clear. We want to see the current political crisis solved peacefully, solved democratically through dialogue. We think the most urgent issue is to de-escalate the situation on the street; institute on the one hand amnesty; address the human rights abuses, which are egregious and dangerous; then to resume the dialogue between the government and the opposition on redressing the political balance, redressing the electoral climate such that a national technical government could be formed that could take Ukraine forward, take Ukraine back to economic health for the IMF, and successfully to free-fair elections in Europe. So, we are working on that with all sides, we are working on that with the government, with the political opposition, with the business community, with civil society, with religious leaders and I will look forward to seeing stakeholders in all of those communities over the next thirty six hours.
Question: I guess my question is concerning the Temelin bid. Did you have a chance to talk about this topic with Mr. Zaoralek? And if you can maybe elaborate more on your discussion?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: We always talk about Temelin when we come here. We took the pulse of the new government regarding its plans moving forward. As we always do, we make clear that we believe Westinghouse is the best choice, both in terms of security, safety, and the quality of the product. We discussed a little bit timelines/game plan, but we also think this is a security issue for the Czech Republic.
Question: I don’t know if it is impolite to ask in the presence of the current Ambassador, but it’s no secret his term is coming to an end and I wonder whether the U.S. opened the process already in D.C. of the selection of the new Ambassador. I am asking because there was a period before Ambassador Eisen came of almost two years when nobody was here and it created some bad blood.
Assistant Secretary Nuland: We are working hard to learn the lessons from the last time and ensure that we do not have a gap here if we can possibly avoid it. And that our successor for Ambassador Eisen – it may not be possible for them to be as physically energetic but that they’ll certainly be as committed to the relationship. So, watch this space.
Question: The U.S. has threatened sanctions on Ukraine whether the oppositions or the government and is that still on the table and what exactly did you have in mind?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: The United States has made clear that we are prepared to use sanctions against those who try to solve this problem violently, those who are responsible for political repression, and those who work against democracy. We, as you probably know, have revoked some individual visas and we keep on the table openness to doing more. We believe that this is a necessary instrument to ensure that voices whether they are in the government or elsewhere who believe that violence is the answer are deterred.
I need to go, guys. Thank you very much.
- Cross posted from state.gov