Question: Can you confirm that the Government of Cuba has scheduled an appeal on July 22 for Alan Gross? What is the US reaction?
Answer: Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison on March 5, 2011 for “crime against the independence and territorial integrity of the state.” On July 7, the official Government of Cuba website “Cubadebate” published a notice advising that the Cuban Supreme Court would hear oral arguments related to imprisoned American Alan Gross’ appeal. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs also officially informed the U.S. Interests Section on July 7, when representatives were called in and handed a diplomatic note advising of the hearing date of July 22, 2011. His attorneys have appealed his sentence and the July 22 Supreme Court hearing is the next step in the appeal process. Representatives from the U.S. Interests Section plan on attending.
The Department of State remains committed to seeking the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Gross. We will continue to use all diplomatic channels to press for his release so that he can be reunited with his family. We refer all questions about Mr. Gross’ case to his attorneys.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone, and it is such a pleasure to welcome the minister here for her first official visit in this new capacity. I met with her in Lisbon and asked if she could come early in the year, and I’m delighted this worked out. We just had a wide-ranging and productive discussion about mutual security, economic and development goals around the world. I look forward to many more such conversations.
The enduring partnership between the United States and Spain is rooted in friendship and common values. We are not only bilateral partners, but regional and global as well, and united in a shared vision for a world that is peaceful, secure, and prosperous.
Are we going to translate as we go or are we going to do it in English?
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: No, I can do in English.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. I wish I could do it in Spanish. (Laughter.)
We discussed the evolving situation in Lebanon where Spanish soldiers have served in the peacekeeping operations of UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, under a Spanish commander. We both share deep concerns about the influence of outside forces, and we hope to see a government emerge that will serve the interests of the people of Lebanon and sustain the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.
As NATO allies, we have worked closely and comprehensively to support the people of Afghanistan as they rebuild their country. Spanish troops are fighting the insurgency in Badghis Province and helping Afghan forces take lead responsibility for their own security. At the same time, civilian experts from Spain are helping Afghans grow food crops, train police forces, build roads that connect the country’s far-flung rural communities.
As global partners, we are working side by side to solve some of the most pressing problems. Both our countries are committed to fighting chronic hunger. Spain was one of the founding contributors to the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which has already helped farmers boost productivity, encouraged investments in high-yield technologies, and helped improve nutrition for women and children.
With its historical and lasting ties with Spanish-speaking countries, Spain is an especially important partner in this hemisphere. We are working together to help the people and governments of Central America ensure safety and build prosperity. After the United States, Spain is the second largest donor of development assistance in the region, including its work with the Group of Friends, a consortium of governments and organizations that fosters aid donations. It is actively working in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, so many other places. And I want to thank the government and the people of Spain, especially during what I know are challenging economic conditions for all you are doing to help people get a better education, to help farmers, to help bring clean water and so much more to advance development. But I would expect no less, because Spain is a great champion for human rights not only in the Western Hemisphere but around the world.
I expressed our thanks for its work with the Catholic Church to secure the release of political prisoners and for Spain’s ongoing efforts to encourage Cuba to release Alan Gross, who has been harshly and unfairly jailed for too long. I also appreciate all the work that Spain is doing in Haiti. They have worked with a wide range of international partners donating food and medical supplies, providing doctors and nurses, and now working with us to ensure a legitimate, democratically elected government.
Now, we have both been challenged by economic circumstances over the last two years. And Spain and the Spanish Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Zapatero, has taken decisive measures to reduce its debt, calm the markets, reassure other Eurozone partners that it’s working toward financial stability. We know how important a healthy Spanish economy is.
As we look toward the future, we see many, many challenges, but I feel much better and take great comfort in the fact that Spain and the United States will be working together.
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: Thank you. Thank you very much Secretary of State Hillary.
Hello, good morning. Let me start by expressing my deep satisfaction of being here in the State Department and in this great country and this great capital. I’m very grateful to be here and to have the opportunity to exchange views of many things that we have in common.
We had a very fruitful exchange of ideas. Spain and the United States are close friends and close allies, and we are close partners, bilaterally speaking, but also inside the European Union and also within the G-20. We have to speak about so many issue, as the Secretary of State has explained. More specific, our talks today have (inaudible) the quality and intensity of our relation. We have covered a broad range of topic in a very short time, almost an hour. But we have found a high degree of proximity and mutual understanding and empathy.
In the field of bilateral relation, we have touched upon the issue of common interest and concern. It included a string of visits. I expressed my desire to receive her in Spain as soon as possible.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I expressed my desire to do so. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: We are waiting for her. (Laughter.) Trade and investment relation, (inaudible). So we have so many things now in which we are working. (Inaudible) issue that has been mentioned here in the – of our meeting. But also security and cooperation, the field of defense, has been part of our work talks. In that same, we have opted for ascending the Defense Cooperation Agreement, which is – which expires next February introducing (inaudible). We also exchanged views of Afghanistan (inaudible) of our (inaudible) determination to assist success in the process of transition endorsed by the political leader for (inaudible).
We have been speaking about also the current situation in the Maghreb. This is also very important. It’s (inaudible) strategic important for Spain but also for the United States. We have exchanged views on the Western Sahara, but Tunisia also has been part of our talks today, very important also for us. Also we have spoke about Middle East, Lebanon, the new Government of Lebanon and how we can coordinate our position, our initiative in order to get stabilization of the region.
Spain and the United States also share a profound attachment to Latin America. We have strong historical ties, have become the two main investors in the continent. Well, we share also view about Central America, and we are planning to collaborate and coordinate our position because, well, there is a problem of security in the region in which we can coordinate some initiative with our different (inaudible), cooperation (inaudible). And so I think we will develop that opportunity to work intensively together.
Also we have spoke about Haiti. We are also worried about the situation of Haiti, and we want – I mean, to be together also in that process in order to recognize the result of the election, the recent election. So we are working together with some other countries in the region – Canada, and Brazil – but also with the United Nations mission and the European Union.
I don’t want to finish without mention also the – our decide for the candidacy of Mr. Moratinos to the FAO so – well, in the end we – what I want to say is that we want to thank, once again, Secretary of State for your kindness and your commitment with Spain and with our country, I mean, for the future of our relationship. So I feel very happy to be here. I thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: Thank you.
MR. TONER: We have time for just two questions. The first is Dave Gollust from Voice of America.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, on Lebanon, do you anticipate being able to continue a normal, political, or aid relationship with a Lebanese Government that’s – in which Hezbollah is believed to be calling the shots. I know outgoing Prime Minister Hariri described it as tantamount to a coup. What’s your expectation for the future of our relations?
And in our tradition of two-parters, there are some major demonstrations in Egypt today, and I’m wondering if there is concern in Washington about the stability of the Egyptian Government, of course, a very valuable ally of the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, David, we are watching the situation closely and carefully in Lebanon. We are monitoring new developments. As you know, the government formation is just beginning. A Hezbollah-controlled government would clearly have an impact on our bilateral relationship with Lebanon. Our bottom lines remain as they always have been. First, we believe that justice must be pursued and impunity for murder ended. We believe in Lebanon’s sovereignty and an end to outside interference. So as we see what this new government does, we will judge it accordingly.
With respect to Egypt, which, as your question implied, like many countries in the region, has been experiencing demonstrations. We know that they’ve occurred not only in Cairo but around the country, and we’re monitoring that very closely. We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people, and we urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence. But our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.
MR. TONER: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, regarding Tunisia, I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit more on the discussions you had today with Minister Jimenez. And also, how likely do you see the possibility of the violence in Tunisia spreading to the rest of the region, and if you’re planning to collaborate?
And for Minister Jimenez, I’d like to know if you have expressed some disappointment to Secretary Clinton with the fact that Guantanamo is not being closed. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to Tunisia, both the United States and Spain have a great interest in and commitment to Tunisia and the people of Tunisia. We each have our respective involvements that have been focused on our bilateral relations. But at this point in time, we are very much concerned about how we help the people of Tunisia make this transition. I have spoken to the foreign minister and to the interim prime minister, the prime minister as recently as this weekend. I’m encouraged by the direction that they are setting toward inclusive elections that will be held as soon as practicable. But there’s a long way to go. As the minister and I were discussing, there’s no experience. There’s no institutional muscle memory about how you do this. And, therefore, Spain, United States, European Union, United Nations, other organizations around the world that want to see this transition successful and leading to a democratic vibrant outcome are offering whatever help we can. In fact, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is in Tunisia right now meeting with a full cross section of Tunisians to hear from them firsthand how they want to see this process unfold. So we’re going to stay in very close touch, and I know that this will be on the agenda of the European Union on Monday –
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: Monday, yeah.
SECRETARY CLINTON: — when there’s a full meeting. And before I turn to the minister, on Guantanamo, let me say how much President Obama and I appreciate what Spain has already done. We are absolutely committed to closing Guantanamo. It’s turned out to be a little more challenging than we had hoped when we set that goal, but there is no doubt about our commitment, and the continuing support from friends like Spain will enable us to keep moving in that direction.
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: Thank you. If you don’t mind, Secretary, I prefer speaking in Spanish in order to give –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: — a Spanish voice to the media about Guantanamo. (Via interpreter.) As the Secretary has said, this is something that we discussed, and Spain is supporting the U.S. Government in its decision to close Guantanamo. Spain and Europe support the United States in its firm decision in this regard, and for that reason, Spain has already received three detainees from Guantanamo. We hope that the U.S. will continue its good efforts with the U.S. Congress in this regard and there will be continued and greater efforts from European countries to help to this end. We’re doing this because we are friends, we are allies, and we believe that this is a good decision.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
At this point, do you have any evidence that the offer by Libya – the ceasefire – is real? Would you have to – what would you have to see to trust it? And will this in any way slow down the operations that have set in motion the Security Council approving this resolution?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are waiting to see what Mr. Qadhafi actually does. The Security Council called for a ceasefire, and President Obama has made very clear we expect to see a ceasefire – but not just by words. We want to see actions on the ground. We want to see Qadhafi’s troops begin moving away from the cities that they were marching toward that they have sieged. We want to see them pull out of the cities that they’ve taken by violence and force. We want to see them open up the country to real humanitarian assistance coming in to help the people.
And so he knows what he is expected to do. He’s on a very tight timetable, because the international community has made its will known with the Security Council resolution. So we will know whether he is going to abide by the Security Council or whether the international community will have to enforce the resolution.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
If your goal, as you have stated, is that Qadhafi leaves, is the military action inevitable?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We don’t know yet, and so I don’t want to prejudge it. Because it is possible that he will see the overwhelming opposition of the world and begin to behave in a way that a leader should behave, in which case he will have begun to answer the demands of the Security Council. Now, I don’t know what he will do, but by this time tomorrow we will have a much better idea.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
What will be your goal in your meeting in France?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what is so remarkable about what happened in the Security Council and it will be demonstrated at the meeting in France tomorrow, is that this is not a U.S. unilateral action. This is not even an action by NATO. This is an action that came from the demand of the Arab League. The Arab League, last Saturday, said to the international community, we want a Security Council resolution that will stop this man from what he is doing, and then said we will help you. So this was remarkable that we had for the first time an Arab League decision to suspend a member and then to call for action, including the potential of military action.
So tomorrow in France we will have the heads of state of a number of European countries, of Arab countries, and everyone will work to determine the best way forward.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
The United States will, in fact, participate in this no-fly zone?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Now, we will be aiding the efforts of the Europeans and the Arabs because we have some unique capacities. But the President has made clear this will be a well-defined, limited, discrete mission that the United States will go forward in helping others to make sure we do this.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
Are there discrepancies in what Japan is communicating to the U.S. as to the safety of – particularly on the nuclear situation? And is the U.S. prepared to evacuate thousands of Americans, if necessary?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are always prepared to evacuate American citizens if we believe that they are in danger. And where we stand right now is that our nuclear experts are working very closely to reach our own judgments based on the information we can obtain about what’s going on and working closely with the Japanese to assist them in dealing with this unprecedented disaster that they are facing.
But we have said we will assist those Americans who wish to leave, and we are doing so. We have also worked with our military, which has, as you know, many people stationed in Japan, to make sure that we are closely coordinating.
It is not yet at a point where we would order people to leave, but we have said, based on our information, we would like to see Americans at least 50 miles away from the plants.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
Despite widespread concerns here and elsewhere, Jean-Bertrand Aristide has returned to Haiti. Are you concerned that he could be a destabilizing force at this moment?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it is going to be up to former president Aristide what kind of force he is inside Haiti. What’s important is that the people of Haiti are looking to the future, not to the past. They have an election on Sunday, which is so significant because it will be the first time there will be a handoff of power between a democratically elected president to the next democratically elected president. And the United States is going to do everything we can, along with our international partners, to make the election successful – free, fair, transparent, with credible results. And that’s what I think people are looking at in Haiti.
QUESTION: But the U.S. had preferred he had not returned?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, putting together this election, still in the midst of all of the destruction from the earthquake, is a huge undertaking. And we just want it to be done as smoothly as possible. And I’m hoping that that will be the case on Sunday.
QUESTION: Okay, on the trip of the President to Latin America. (In Spanish.)
One of the reasons of the trip of the President, he has said, is to reestablish economic ties, to strengthen them, and to talk about job creation. And do you think, for instance, that China is gaining terrain on the United States with Latin America?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think China is certainly expanding its commercial relationships in Latin America, which it is doing all over the world. There’s nothing unusual about that. But Latin America is America’s biggest trading partner, and we are very committed to doing everything we can to strengthen those economic ties and also the relationships between the United States and the countries of Latin America, because we have so much more in common when it comes to democracy, when it comes to dealing with challenges from climate change to energy security to social inclusion and income inequality. And that’s what we’re focusing on and that’s what the President will be talking about.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
Do you expect any concrete initiatives to come out of this trip?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I think you will see some very important announcements on the economy and greater economic cooperation between the United States and Brazil. You will see a reaffirmation and a very strong statement of support for democracy and the need to continue to improve it in Chile. And you’ll see a real commitment on the part of the United States to helping El Salvador and Central America deal with the twin challenges of security problems caused by the criminal gangs, the narco-traffickers, and inequality and poverty, which has to be addressed.
QUESTION: Okay, on Mexico. (In Spanish.)
As you know, the ATF Operation Fast and Furious has created an uproar in Mexico. They claim that they didn’t know anything about it. Were you aware that it was taking place, and how has it affected the relations with your partner?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was unaware of it. It was a law enforcement initiative. But I do think it’s important to recognize it was aimed at doing something that we are in full agreement with Mexico about, and that is stopping the flow of illegal guns across the border.
But we’re still working on making sure there is good cooperation and good information sharing. We’ve come a very long way in working with our Mexican friends on this shared challenge of criminality. And the Department of Justice has announced it will be investigating that particular program.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. ambassador in Mexico, Carlos Pascual, does he still have your confidence after the WikiLeaks scandals?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I deeply regret the WikiLeaks situation, and I’ve told President Calderon that. But I do really appreciate what Ambassador Pascual has done in his time as our ambassador because he’s worked closely with many parts of the Mexican Government. We are close friends and partners with Mexico but we don’t always agree on everything, as no two countries do. And so I’m going to continue to really support the important work that’s being done, and it will be up to the ambassador to determine how effective he can be going forward.
QUESTION: Okay. (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: One more?
QUESTION: One more? Okay, one more. It seems that Cuba returned to the United States (inaudible) Cuba, like in the recent measures that were announced, Cuba comes back with something, and this time it’s being the sentencing of an American citizen.
What can you do about it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we deeply deplore the sentencing of Alan Gross. He should not be there in the first place, having been in prison for so many months. He should not have been brought before a court and charged with crimes that he did not commit. We believe he should be released and returned to his family on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible. And we hope that the Cuban Government will do that, because I think everyone knows that President Obama came into office and has demonstrated a willingness to try to assist the Cuban people and provide greater relationships and connections between the Cuban people and Cuban Americans and other Americans. But it is very regrettable that Alan Gross is being treated the way he is.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, we wish you the best in your trips and your diplomacy in Europe. Thank you for this time, the best of luck to you. Thank you for this time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
We deplore this ruling. Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries. He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of the world. As Secretary Clinton said, “Alan Gross has been unjustly jailed for far too long. We are deeply concerned about his and his family’s well being.”
We call on the Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release him. To allow him to return to his family, and bring to an end the long ordeal that began well over a year ago.
As Secretary Clinton has said, Alan Gross has been harshly and unfairly jailed for too long.
We deplore the Cuban government’s announcement that Cuban prosecutors intend to seek a 20 year sentence against Mr. Gross. As we have said many times before Mr. Gross is a dedicated international development worker who was in Cuba providing support to members of the Cuban Jewish community. He has been held without charges for more than a year, contrary to all international human rights obligations and commitments regarding justice and due process. He should be home with his family now.