The United States continues to engage in candid bilateral discussions with the Government of Bahrain and a cross-section of Bahrainis, and these discussions include human rights. We believe that this process is the most productive way for us to engage on human rights issues, and so we did not join the recent Item 4 joint statement in the Human Rights Council (HRC).
Bahrain has hosted a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, plans to host an HRC mandate holder, and has continued to engage with the High Commissioner’s office. They also established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which produced a comprehensive report on the domestic unrest in Bahrain, along with recommendations that the Government of Bahrain has committed to implement. As part of our bilateral engagement, we continue to encourage Bahrain’s cooperation with the High Commissioner’s office and with the HRC. Most recently, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner visited Bahrain for the fifth time in the last year and a half in support of this dialogue, and we remain committed to this process with Bahrain.
As we noted in our intervention during Bahrain’s session in the Universal Periodic Review on May 21, the Government of Bahrain has taken some important first steps in laying the foundation for dialogue and for reconciliation in Bahrain, but more remains to be done on the full range of BICI recommendations. That includes prosecuting those responsible for the violations identified in the BICI report, dropping charges against all persons accused of offenses involving nonviolent political expression including freedom of assembly, and ensuring fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases. It also means continuing work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces to reflect the communities in which they serve, and to work to implement the recommendations of the BICI in an inclusive way.
We continue to call on all parties in Bahrain to help each other move toward a comprehensive political dialogue that includes the diverse views of Bahraini society in a genuine negotiation. And we continue to stand ready to support Bahrain in this process.
Cross posted from U.S. Mission to Geneva website
We are deeply disturbed by the sentencing today of 20 medical professionals by the National Safety Court in Bahrain. We understand that the cases can be appealed and transferred to a civilian appellate court. We continue to urge the Bahraini Government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys, and verdicts based on credible evidence conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations.
We are also concerned about trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings. We have repeatedly shared our position regarding Bahrain’s judicial proceedings with the highest levels of the Bahraini Government.
We call on the Government of Bahrain and all citizens to create a climate conducive for reconciliation, meaningful dialogue, and reform that, as President Obama said on September 21, will bring peaceful change that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis.
President Obama welcomes the launch of the National Dialogue in Bahrain, which represents an important moment of promise for the people of Bahrain. The United States commends King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for his leadership in initiating the dialogue. We also commend the decision by Al Wifaq, Bahrain’s largest opposition group, to join the dialogue. We urge all Bahrainis to seize this opportunity to forge a more just future together. It is important that government and political leaders create a positive atmosphere to help promote a successful dialogue process.
The United States also welcomes the formation of a commission of inquiry to investigate and report on events connected with the unrest of recent months. By providing an independent assessment of what happened and identifying those responsible, the Royal Commission will play an essential role in advancing reconciliation, justice, and peace in Bahrain. As a long-standing partner of Bahrain, the United States continues to believe that Bahrain’s stability will be enhanced by respecting the universal rights of the people of Bahrain and reforms that meet the aspirations of all Bahrainis.
Thank you all for coming. I have welcomed the opportunity to visit Bahrain. I have had a very productive set of meetings with a wide range of Bahraini officials and citizens.
Bahrain is an important partner of the United States. We have a long-standing alliance based on shared political, economic and security interests. Both countries benefit from stability and prosperity here, and from a society where all people are able to express their views peacefully and contribute to the political process. It is in this context that President Obama met with the Crown Prince last week in Washington, and welcomed his announcement of the government’s intention to begin a national dialogue on reform in Bahrain next month. The challenge now will be how to initiate a dialogue that involves representative leaders on all sides and to ensure that the dialogue addresses and begins to resolve divisive issues.
I have come here as a friend of Bahrain and the Bahraini people and raised these concerns in the spirit of that friendship. We are mindful of the pressing need here for everyone in this society to begin an engagement that will start to rebuild tolerance, mutual respect and a process for navigating divisions. We understand the difficulty of this task, and we also know that no outsider can make it happen. It is for the Bahraini people to forge their own future. Yet it is important for us that Bahrain, our strategic and political partner, succeeds in this endeavor, and that we provide the Bahraini people and government whatever help we can to assist them in building a peaceful and prosperous future.
The United States and Bahrain — and every other sovereign government in this interconnected age — face constantly evolving security challenges. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear time and again that respect for human rights and pursuit of national security interests are not in conflict; to the contrary, they are best advanced in tandem. This is the message I conveyed here this week — in all my meetings with government officials, NGOs and a wide range of private citizens.
In recent months we have seen a clear link in this region between national stability and security and the ability of governments to meet the legitimate aspirations of their people, including the desire of people everywhere for dignity, justice, economic opportunity, universal human rights and a voice in shaping their own future.
There are several positive developments that have occurred here in recent weeks. We welcome the release of some detainees who were not charged, the restoration of some scholarships, and the reinstatement of a number of employees who were wrongfully dismissed from their jobs. We also welcome the announcement by the government that it will investigate deaths of people in custody, including one case where five prison guards are under investigation. The Government of Bahrain also has promised to investigate allegations of mistreatment of detainees in custody.
On the other hand, we continue to receive reports about some students being expelled from universities and some workers being dismissed merely because they have exercised their political rights. We remain concerned about the continued detention of a number of Bahrainis who have neither been charged nor tried, about the treatment of those people in detention, and about reports that some have been subjected to physical abuse during interrogations. I urge Bahrain to abide by its commitments to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with both local law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations. I also expressed my concerns for the government to take tangible steps to rebuild confidence and trust in the medical system.
Meaningful dialogue can only take place in a climate of respect for the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly — principles articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a number of treaties that Bahrain has ratified. In the coming weeks, all parties here will need to create an appropriate environment for national dialogue, and all parties must participate to forge a just future for this country.
Leadership is also required by the local media and social media. Throughout the world, we have seen how media freedom raises public awareness, identifies problems, opens discussion, and brings problems to light so that corrective action can be taken. We note with concern the arrest and in some cases continued detention of some journalists. In a number of countries around the world, the dissemination of messages of hatred have also had unfortunate consequences and have taken years for societies to heal themselves. Mindful of the peril of misinformation and misuse of media that can exacerbate divisions within society, I urge all responsible parties here to refrain from and denounce hateful speech, which can and often does lead to violence. I emphasize that in order to create positive conditions for national dialogue here, local media and social media must play a constructive role in reconciliation and cease from actions that are divisive or inciting.
I benefitted from my visit here and I look forward to sharing what I have learned with colleagues in Washington and continuing my involvement here in addressing these important issues. I welcome your questions.
Readout of the President’s Meeting With His Highness Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain
The President met today and had a productive discussion with His Highness Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, following the Crown Prince’s meeting with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. The President reaffirmed the strong commitment of the United States to Bahrain. He welcomed King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s decision to end the State of National Safety early and the announcement that the national dialogue on reform would begin in July. He also expressed strong support for the Crown Prince’s ongoing efforts to initiate the national dialogue and said that both the opposition and the government must compromise to forge a just future for all Bahrainis. To create the conditions for a successful dialogue, the President emphasized the importance of following through on the government’s commitment to ensuring that those responsible for human rights abuses will be held accountable. The President noted that, as a long-standing partner of Bahrain, the United States believes that the stability of Bahrain depends upon respect for the universal rights of the people of Bahrain, including the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, and a process of meaningful reform that is responsive to the aspirations of all.
The State Department has a long history of supporting reform efforts in Bahrain, through direct diplomatic engagement and projects of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).
During the past eight years, MEPI has worked strategically with Bahraini partners on a reform agenda focused on political pluralism, women’s rights, youth empowerment, labor, civil society strengthening and legal and judicial reform. Engagement around these issues has included opportunities for dialogue and collaboration between government and non-government stakeholders.
MEPI supports the growth and aspirations of Bahrain’s peaceful civil society. Recent programming with civil society partners has focused on raising awareness of women’s rights at the community level; developing documentary films and public service announcements on domestic violence; conducting trainings on disability rights, strengthening civil society, governance and transparency, human rights and media monitoring, and training for female candidates.
Since September 2009, the American Bar Association, with MEPI funding, has been working with the Ministry of Justice and local bar associations to increase judicial capacity, improve legislative drafting, and promote professionalism among Ministry officials.
The U.S. Embassy has emphasized youth programs, including enhanced collaboration with academic institutions, and exchange and scholarship programs focused on promising young Bahrainis.
Secretary Clinton delivered a keynote address at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain on December 3, 2010, in which she highlighted “human security” as one of four main principles critical to maintaining Gulf security. She defined human security as including participatory governance, freedom of expression, free access to education and employment, and women’s empowerment. While in Manama, the Secretary also held a town hall meeting to directly engage with civil society and youth.
DRL Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathy Fitzpatrick visited Bahrain on January 11 to engage the Government of Bahrain and advocate for reforms, including on its incarceration policies, commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, and civil society development.
Assistant Secretary Feltman has visited Bahrain five times since demonstrations began in February to address unrest and political reform.
The State Department has expressed deep concern about the detention of civil society leaders and opposition politicians, as well as Bahraini moves to clamp down on opposition political activities and independent media. Secretary Clinton issued a statement on March 19 in support of political reform in Bahrain, saying “our goal is a credible political process that can address the legitimate aspirations of all the people of Bahrain.”
Deputy Secretary Steinberg visited Bahrain May 17 and affirmed the long-standing commitment of the United States to a strong partnership with both the people and government of Bahrain and stressed the importance of full respect for universal human rights. He urged all parties to pursue a path of reconciliation and comprehensive political dialogue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Before we begin, I want to say a few words about Warren Christopher. He was a friend, a mentor, and truly a diplomat’s diplomat. He served our country with such great distinction in so many capacities over his long and very productive life. There are a lot of days in this job when I ask myself, “What would Warren do?” From the Balkans to the Middle East, to China and Vietnam, he helped guide the United States through difficult challenges with tremendous grace and wisdom. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and with his many, many friends and colleagues throughout our country and around the world.
Now, this has been a quick but productive trip, and I want to give you a brief update and then answer your questions. First, let’s remember how we got here. As you know, Americans and people around the world watched with growing concern as Libyan civilians were gunned down by a government that has lost all legitimacy. The people of Libya appealed for help. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council called for action.
The international community came together to speak with one voice and to deliver a clear and consistent message: Colonel Qadhafi’s campaign of violence against his own people must stop. The strong votes in the United Nations Security Council underscored this unity. And now the Qadhafi forces face unambiguous terms: a ceasefire must be implemented immediately – that means all attacks against civilians must stop; troops must stop advancing on Benghazi and pull back from Adjabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya; water, electricity, and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas; humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.
Yesterday, President Obama said very clearly that if Qadhafi failed to comply with these terms, there would be consequences. Since the President spoke, there has been some talk from Tripoli of a ceasefire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story. Colonel Qadhafi continues to defy the world. His attacks on civilians go on. Today, we have been monitoring the troubling reports of fighting around and within Benghazi itself. As President Obama also said, we have every reason to fear that, left unchecked, Qadhafi will commit unspeakable atrocities.
It is against that backdrop that nations from across the region and the world met today here in Paris to discuss the ways we can, working together, implement Resolution 1973. We all recognize that further delay will only put more civilians at risk. So let me be very clear about the position of the United States: We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of Resolution 1973.
As you may know, French planes are already in the skies above Benghazi. Now, America has unique capabilities and we will bring them to bear to help our European and Canadian allies and Arab partners stop further violence against civilians, including through the effective implementation of a no-fly zone. As President Obama said, the United States will not deploy ground troops, but there should be no mistaking our commitment to this effort.
Today, I was able to discuss next steps with the full group and also conduct smaller focused conversations with many of my colleagues. I met first with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron. Both France and the United Kingdom, along with other key partners, have stepped forward to play a leading role in enforcing 1973. We reviewed the latest reports from the ground and discussed how we can work together most effectively in the hours and days ahead, and how we would work very cooperatively with our other partners, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, as well as others that are not in that long list.
I also had the opportunity to engage today with my Arab counterparts, including Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq representing the presidency of the Arab Summit, Secretary General Amr Moussa of the Arab League, Prime Minister Hamid bin Jasim of Qatar, Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayid of the UAE, Foreign Minister Fassi Fihri of Morocco, and Foreign Minister Judeh of Jordan.
We have said from the start that Arab leadership and participation in this effort is crucial, and the Arab League showed that with its pivotal statements on Libya what really that meant. It changed the diplomatic landscape. They have sent another strong message by being here today, and we look to them for continued leadership as well as active participation and partnership going forward.
With Sheikh Abdallah and Prime Minister Hamid bin Jasim, I reiterated our strong and enduring partnership. The United States has an abiding commitment to Gulf security and a top priority is working together with our partners on our shared concerns about Iranian behavior in the region. We share the view that Iran’s activities in the Gulf, including its efforts to advance its agenda in neighboring countries, undermines peace and stability. Our Gulf partners are critical to the international community’s efforts on Libya, and we thank them for their leadership.
We also had a constructive discussion on Bahrain. We have a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future. Our goal is a credible political process that can address the legitimate aspirations of all the people of Bahrain, starting with the Crown Prince’s dialogue, which all parties should join.
Of course, that process should unfold in a peaceful, positive atmosphere that protects the freedom of peaceful assembly while ensuring that students can go to school, businesses can operate, and people can undertake their normal daily activities.
My GCC counterparts said they share the same goals in Bahrain. Now, Bahrain obviously has the sovereign right to invite GCC forces into its territory under its defense and security agreements. The GCC has also announced a major aid package for economic and social development in Bahrain. We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. As I said earlier this week, violence is not and cannot be the answer. A political process is. We have raised our concerns about the current measures directly with Bahraini officials and will continue to do so.
With all of these partners, we have discussed the urgent humanitarian needs arising from the crisis in Libya. I thanked the Arab leaders for their generous contributions to aid refugees fleeing Qadhafi’s violence, and we agreed that this will be a critical concern in the days ahead. Egypt and Tunisia, in particular, will need all of our support. The United States has made significant pledges of assistance, and we look to all our allies and partners to join us in this work.
Now, this is a fluid and fast-moving situation, which may be the understatement of the time. And I know that there are lots of questions that people have about what next and what will we be doing. So let me just underscore the key point: This is a broad international effort; the world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed. The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce Resolution 1973. We are standing with the people of Libya and we will not waver in our efforts to protect them.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, will the U.S. military actively be engaged in actually (inaudible) sorties (inaudible)? Twice you said the U.S. will support our allies. And I’m just wondering how active will the military involvement be.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that I’ll stand by what I said. We will support the enforcement of 1973. We have unique capabilities to bring to the international efforts, and we intend to do so.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you mentioned twice here again that it’s important or crucial for Arab leadership and participation. Do you know exactly what that leadership and participation is now specifically and which countries are going to be doing it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, I think the fact that we had the representation around the table that we did today and the very strong statements that were made by Arab representatives is extraordinarily important. But I will leave it to them to announce their contributions. I think that’s the appropriate way for any further information to be made available.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. But you do expect something more than them just being at the table today; they have promised –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we do expect more.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you have – actually, the reports now coming in from Benghazi are that it is quiet and it appears that the (inaudible) have stopped. I know (inaudible) so I didn’t ask you earlier, but in general, President Sarkozy said that the doors of diplomacy will open when the aggression stops. Now, can you explain (inaudible) what that means? Is that the view of the entire coalition? Could it actually engage with Muamar Qadhafi after (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I will let President Sarkozy explain his own statement, but our assessment is that the aggressive actions by Qadhafi forces continue in many places in the country. We saw it over the last 24 hours and we have seen no real effort on the part of the Qadhafi forces to abide by a ceasefire, despite the rhetoric.
Several of the speakers around the table said forcefully that they’ve heard these words, they’ve heard them publicly, they were conveyed privately, and they are not true. So I think our assessment is that it’s time for the international community to take action to back up Resolution 1973.
QUESTION: In terms of the goal of this operation, is it to protect civilians or is it to remove Colonel Qadhafi from power?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is to protect civilians and it is to provide access for humanitarian assistance. If you read the very comprehensive resolution that the Security Council passed, it is focused on protecting civilians from their own government.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication – I know you said (inaudible) Bahrain or UAE (inaudible) fighter jets were (inaudible) at all?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Again, I’m going to let individual countries make their own announcements.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the President’s comments yesterday seemed to stop short of repeating his and your calls for Qadhafi to step down. I’m wondering if (inaudible) go back to that question, is there any way that the U.S. could see Libya’s situation resolving itself with Qadhafi somehow still in play? And what does this action with the UN resolution mean for Qadhafi’s survival in (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Those are all questions that standing here are difficult to answer. And certainly the conditions that will unfold as we begin to enforce this resolution will make a new environment in which people are going to act, including those around Colonel Qadhafi. So I think we should take stock of where we are and how we got here, and how many times the international community called on Qadhafi to end the violence against his own people and to take demonstrable steps to end the aggression and pull back; and time and time again, starting with the first resolution, 1970, through the succeeding time period, there was no evidence that he intended to do so, despite various claims that were made.
And if the international community is to have credibility in this show of unit that 1973 represents, then action must take place. And if you look at all the possible permutations of what could or could not happen once the international community begins to enforce the resolution, there are many different outcomes and I’m not going to speculate on what will occur.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I know you said you didn’t want to talk about what steps must come next, but what did the group of leaders today agree to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: They agreed to take all necessary measures, including military actions, to enforce 1973.
QUESTION: But in terms of the details of that –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are operational details, Steven. I think that it’s understandable that we’re not going to lay out every asset that’s been pledged and every action that’s been endorsed. But I think the coming together under President Sarkozy’s leadership today to reiterate that the words agreed to in the Security Council were more than just rhetorical commitments but are being translated into very specific actions. Some countries are more public with their specific pledges to what they are willing to do, and others are looking at how they can best contribute. But the conclusion of this meeting was for me very positive because it was an unmistakable commitment to enforcing the 1973 provisions.
QUESTION: What do today’s actions do to (inaudible)? How would they (inaudible) that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think as I said, French planes were in the air as we were meeting, and there will be other actions to follow. But there is no doubt that we’re going to begin to enforce the resolution.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, as you yourself have said, for much of the 40 years Colonel Qadhafi has run that country, it’s been (inaudible) an international outlaw. What is the compelling interest to the average American today to take this action?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think there are three very important interests. Number one, with all of the activities that Colonel Qadhafi engaged in the past, we in the United States had a very clear interest in trying to contain him and prevent him from taking both direct and indirect actions against us and our people as well as many others.
Following his decision to give up nuclear weapons in 2005, when it was finally resolved, it appeared that there might be a new opportunity from him to join the international community. But unfortunately, that has not borne to be true and we now have the very brutal crackdown that he is conducting, which reminds us all why he was considered an outlaw in the past. And it’s unfortunate, but it is a reality that we have to take into account.
Secondly, this has been a time of great ferment in the region, and you have two countries bordering Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, that are committed to a democratic transformation. And they have long borders with Libya and they are facing humanitarian crises on those borders. And there is a lot of concern about the people who are still inside Libya, both Libyans and third-party nationals that no one can get to and that are basically unaccounted for, and a very unfortunate surmise that Qadhafi does not approve of democracy and the actions being taken by his neighbors, which poses a lot of questions about what he might do in the future.
But thirdly, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council statements calling for actions by the United Nations were of historic importance. There was a recognition by the Arab countries that Qadhafi had to be suspended from the Arab League; but even beyond that, that a no-fly zone and related actions had to be taken.
I think it would be quite unfortunate if the international community were to have ignored those requests, and it is in America’s interests along with our European and Canadian allies to forge strategic partnerships with Arab nations as we move forward into this new era of change in the Arab world.
So there are very specific reasons, there are regional concerns, and then there are, in my view, very strong strategic rationales as to why the United States will support. We did not lead this, we did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Qadhafi is unfortunately doing so now. And we think an international order that can bring about this kind of unity is very much in America’s interest.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) as conditions are unfolding that will create a new environment in which people will act (inaudible) Colonel Qadhafi, is that – do you believe that (inaudible) in essence giving up on (inaudible) Colonel Qadhafi (inaudible) a lot of this (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we’re aiming the messages at all of the decision makers inside Libya. As you know, there have been quite a number of defections. The opposition is largely led by those who defected from the Qadhafi regime or who formerly served it. And it is certainly to be wished for that there will be even more such defections, that people will put the future of Libya and the interests of the Libyan people above their service to Colonel Qadhafi.
QUESTION: May I ask a non no-fly zone question, which is you met with Mr. Jabril here in Paris not that long ago.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Not that long ago.
QUESTION: Are you any closer to making a decision on whether to follow the French lead in recognizing (inaudible) opposition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are not ready to make a decision. We have increased our outreach and cooperation with members and leaders of the opposition. We are in almost hourly contact with someone. But we think that the most important step for us to take now is to assist in every way that is unique to American capabilities with the enforcement of 1973, which is, after all, the principal demand of the opposition. And that’s what we’re trying to meet.
SECRETARY CLINTON: What?
SECRETARY CLINTON: With a lot of people.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. Lot of people. Yeah.
QUESTION: On the Hill, Senator Lugar and others have repeatedly suggested that they thought the President should go to Congress to have a debate over whether a declaration of war (inaudible) involving the United States in actions in Libya. My question do you is do you think that those comments – do you think that those are – there’s merit to that? And would you describe what’s going on now as a war?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I think the President made that clear in a meeting with congressional leaders that he held in outlining all of the reasons why the United States was prepared to act in support of the international efforts on behalf of 1973. And of course, we would always welcome congressional support, but the President’s very clear that the United States is acting in a way that is within the existing authorities available to him.
QUESTION: Thanks for your time this afternoon. In this whole debate about the Libyan no-fly zone and who participates, you several times expressed a sense of urgency, certainly about the international consultations. But you’re also waiting on this UN resolution at the Security Council that’s still being drafted, and which you’re pretty sure is going to be opposed by the Russians and the Chinese. So where’s the urgency?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Wyatt, first I think that there was a sea change in opinion when the Arab League issued its statement on Saturday. For the Arab League to call for military action to protect civilians in Libya against a member of the Arab League was an extraordinary statement of leadership and real conviction. That has changed the thinking of a lot of people. In fact, as we consult in New York on a UN resolution, there’s a much greater openness than there was a week ago.
And the answer to why a UN resolution is because we need to have international support for anything that anyone does on behalf of the opposition and the civilians in Libya. To go unilaterally, whether it was a European nation, the United States, or an Arab nation, would fly in the face of the international community. And it would also limit the kind of support that would be necessary. I think what you’re seeing today is a recognition that whatever is decided in the UN Security Council must include Arab leadership and Arab participation. So many different actions are being considered. Yes, a no-fly zone, but others as well, to enable the protection of Libyan citizens against their own leader, who seems to determined to turn the clock back and kill as many of them as possible.
So I think that it is certainly fair to say that it took a while for people to feel that there was going to be international support, including Arab support, for any action. But now that’s being considered.
QUESTION: But you’re saying something important here. Arab support – do you see a time where you might ask Arab air forces and Arab pilots to take on some of the risk that they were previously asking of the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’re going to take this one step at a time. We’re going to try to see what can be negotiated. And right now, that is ongoing as we speak. But certainly, we and others have made it clear that there must be Arab leadership and Arab participation. How that will be defined depends in large measure on what the Security Council decides to call for.
QUESTION: But I’m sure you remember that during the first Gulf War, Arab armies took the field against Saddam Hussein.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s possible that you will be asking for Arab air forces to be included in any action against Qadhafi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it is important to see what the Security Council will come up with, but I think the Arab League statement, their very courageous stance, suggests that they know that they have to step up and lead and participate in any action that would be internationally authorized. The details of that have not been in any way determined.
QUESTION: They have to step up. You want to leave it vague, but you believe they have to step up. Fair to say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Outside of the no-fly zone, there is pressure in Congress for the United States to help arm the Libyan resistance. Do you support that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I want to see what we can get out of the United Nations because there is no way that the United States will take unilateral action on any of these issues. We are not going to act alone. There would be unforeseen consequences to that that I believe would be detrimental. But as part of the international community, there will be a wide range of actions discussed. As you know, I met with one of the key leaders of the Libyan opposition. They had many requests for what they thought would help them. All of those are being considered by the Security Council. But I do think that it’s important to go back to the very basic point about why we are all discussing this. We want to do what we can to protect innocent Libyans against the marauders let loose by the Qadhafi regime.
And yes, time is fast upon us. There is an urgency to it, which is why I think that once the Arab League acted, there has been much more intensive consultations. And many of the countries on the Security Council that were reluctant or opposed are now willing to discuss what might be possible because of that Arab League statement.
QUESTION: Do you think the Arab League statement means that Russia and China are not quite as opposed as they used to be? Is that what you’re saying?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think they’re willing to talk about what’s at stake here. A regime that is acting as he is, with all of the consequences that that entails, not only for the Libyans but for the region and beyond, I think has been given new impetus because of the Arab League statement which made it clear that this is not something Europeans are concerned about or Americans are concerned about, but this hits very close to home right here in the region. And the Arab League taking that position has, I think, opened up some doors that were closed.
QUESTION: Let’s move to Bahrain, please. There was renewed violence in Bahrain today. Several pro-democracy demonstrators were killed. This comes on the heels, in just the last week where both Secretary Gates and you have asked the Bahraini leadership for restraint. So what is American policy now that the Bahraini leadership doesn’t seem to be listening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we find what’s happening in Bahrain alarming. We think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the demonstrators. We’ve made it very clear to the Bahraini Government at the highest levels that we expect them to exercise restraint. We would remind them of their humanitarian obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate the treatment of the injured, and to get back to the negotiating table. We have also made that very clear to our Gulf partners who are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, four of whose members have sent troops to support the Bahraini Government. They are on the wrong track. There is no security answer to this. And the sooner they get back to the negotiating table and start trying to answer the legitimate needs of the people, the sooner there can be a resolution that will be in the best interest of everyone.
QUESTION: But right now, Madam Secretary, does it make the United States look bad? Does it give the United States a black eye to be so allied with a monarchy that is now shooting its own people?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are absolutely opposed to the use of force, and we have said that repeatedly. Secretary Gates gave a very strong message to the Bahraini Government when he was there, and not only urging restraint but pointing out all of the problems if they were to pursue any other alternative. So we have been very clear about that, and we are going to continue to stress what we think is in the best interests not only of Bahrain and the people of Bahrain, but of the entire region. This kind of use of force against peaceful demonstrators, a refusal on all sides – because we want to make sure that no one is using force, whether they are in the security forces or in the demonstrators, everyone needs to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner and to look for a political solution. There is no long-term alternative other than that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I wanted to talk first about Japan. The scale of this catastrophe is so enormous, and it’s inevitably going to affect nuclear policy. It already is. Germany is shutting down plants. What does this mean for the future of the world in terms of nuclear energy, nuclear power, and increasing reliance on oil?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, that’s one of the questions that is obviously going to have to be examined. And right now we are focused on trying to deal with the immediate disaster – earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor problems. We’re doing everything we can to support Japan, and we’re doing everything we can to assist American citizens because their health and safety is obviously our highest concern. And we’re following this very fast-moving dynamic situation literally minute by minute.
So in the immediate short term, we have a lot that we have to handle. And in the longer term, you’re right. This raises questions that everybody in the world will have to answer. But for us right now, just trying to stay very connected with our Japanese friends. We have Nuclear Regulatory Commission experts, Department of Energy experts, others who are on the ground in Japan working with their counterparts to try to mitigate the effects of this particular disaster.
QUESTION: Some people have suggested that the Japanese were reluctant to take advice, nuclear advice, initially, and waited too long.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t comment on that because I’m not a nuclear expert. I know that our experts were immediately in communication with their Japanese counterparts. But the scale of this crisis was so immense and so unprecedented to have the earthquake followed by the tsunami, followed by the problems in the nuclear reactors, that our goal now is just to do everything we can to assist the Japanese to do the humanitarian work.
We have search and rescue teams on the ground from Los Angeles, from Fairfax, Virginia. Our naval assets, our brave Navy men and women, are doing a lot in the humanitarian relief delivery. So we’re just so busy trying to assist in every way possible, and so is the rest of the world. Because Japan is historically such a generous country, everyone is rushing to try to reciprocate.
And I know how hard it is to make decisions in the midst of fast-moving disastrous events. But we’re doing everything we can to help the Japanese as they struggle with these tough calls they’re making.
QUESTION: Do you have concerns about nuclear power in the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have concerns about a lot of our energy issues because clearly we’re talking here in Cairo, in the Middle East, in a region that supplies a lot of oil. We have oil dependence problems. We have nuclear power safety issues and waste disposal problems. We have the difficulties of getting a lot of the renewables like wind and solar and others up to scale. And we have a really hard challenge convincing people that energy efficiency is actually the most effective way to try to lower our energy costs and usage.
We need an energy policy. That’s something that President Obama has said repeatedly. And we need it to be yesterday, and it’s got to be comprehensive. I think what’s happening in Japan raises questions about the costs and the risks associated with nuclear power, but we have to answer those. We get 20 percent of our energy right now in the United States from nuclear power. So we’ve got to really get serious about an energy policy that is going to meet our needs in the future.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about Libya, because Qadhafi’s son says that within 48 hours it’s going to be over. The Libyan opposition asked for help, they asked for military help. You’re resisting that. You want Arab League leadership, you want a UN vote. It might be too late to save them. Do you have concerns about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, I’ve consulted with our European and Arab partners in the last two days. I’ve also met with the leader of the Libyan opposition. We are working very hard in New York with members of the Security Council and others because we believe that we have to take steps to try to protect innocent civilians, and we cannot do it without international authority.
The Arab countries, with their statement through the Arab League last Saturday, made it very clear that they wanted to see action, so we need Arab leadership and Arab participation in whatever the UN decides to do. So we’re working as we speak to try to get international support, which is very important, because unilateral action would not be the best approach. It would have all kinds of unintended consequences. International action with Arab leadership and participation, we think, is the way to go.
QUESTION: Your husband, the former president, last week said, “We’ve got the planes. We should do it.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do think that among the actions that have to be considered by the United Nations, the no-fly zone is one of them, but it’s not the only one. There are other actions that need to be also evaluated. And we are putting everything on the table. Our UN team is working very closely with other members of the Security Council, and we hope to be able to move forward in a way that does respond to some of the requests by the Libyan opposition.
QUESTION: What if it’s too late?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, we’re very aware of the actions of the Qadhafi regime. We deeply regret his callous disregard of human life, his absolute willingness to slaughter his own people. But we think that there is a lot that can be done if we can reach international agreement on what should be done.
QUESTION: There are more casualties in Bahrain. The Saudis intervened. The other – the UAE and others moved in, even after you had appealed for calm and expressed your deep concern. What does this say about the U.S.-Saudi relationship? Defense Secretary Gates was in Bahrain only last Friday and had no heads-up that this was going to happen.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. I think it’s fair to say from everything we are seeing that the situation in Bahrain is alarming. We are in touch with the highest levels of the Bahraini Government today, as we have been for the last – a period of time. And our message is consistent and strong: There is no way to resolve the concerns of the Bahraini people through the use of excessive force or security crackdowns. There have to be political negotiations that lead to a political resolution. We have urged all the parties, including the Gulf countries, to pursue a political resolution. That is what we are pushing, along with others who are concerned by what they see happening. We would remind the Bahraini Government of their obligation to protect medical facilities and to facilitate the treatment of those who might be injured in any of the demonstrations and to exercise the greatest restraint. Get to the negotiating table and resolve the differences in Bahrain peacefully, politically.
QUESTION: They’re ignoring us so far. Is there anything more that you can do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very concerned and have reached out to a lot of different partners. There’s a lot of the same messages coming in from across Europe and the region to the Bahraini Government. And in fact, one of our assistant secretaries for the region is actually there working on a – literally hour-by-hour basis. We do not think this is in the best interest of Bahrain. We consider Bahrain a partner. We have worked with them. We think they’re on the wrong track, and we think that the wrong track is going to really affect adversely the ability of the Bahraini Government to bring about the political reform that everyone says is needed.
QUESTION: And you went to Tahrir Square.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: An emotional experience to walk in that square. At the same time, women have been kept out of the new government, and there are some concerns that they are moving too quickly here in Egypt to create a new constitution without developing political parties and being more thoughtful about what it requires to create a democracy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, going to Tahrir Square was exhilarating. It was a tremendous personal experience to be there and to see Egyptians with smiles on their faces saying hello, welcoming me to the new Egypt. That was an extraordinary uplifting experience.
I know and the Egyptian people know – because I’ve been talking with a broad cross-section of Egyptians – that translating the enthusiasm and the energy of Tahrir Square into the political and economic reforms necessary to establish a strong, functioning democracy, more jobs for people, a real sense of a positive future, is going to be challenging. But they’re up for that challenge. I feel very good about what the Egyptians are doing. It is an Egyptian project, an Egyptian story. They are making their own history. The United States stands ready to assist in any way that is appropriate. But this is being molded by Egyptians themselves, as is only proper. I told them that they have a 7,000 year old civilization; we’re a young country, but we’re the oldest democracy, so we stand ready to help them as they navigate into this very exciting period of their long and storied history.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur. We express our condolences to the family and friends of those who have been killed during the demonstrations. Wherever they are, people have certain universal rights including the right to peaceful assembly. The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests, and to respect the rights of their people.