FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: Thank you very much. First of all, could I say to both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State how terrific it’s been to have you here in Melbourne. Back in Washington, I said to both Hillary and Vira, a friend to Bob, we intended to show you a good time in Australia. I hope we’ve delivered on that. Neither had been to the great city of Melbourne before. They’ve had a bit of time to get out and about to see this town. And it’s been fantastic to be here and the weather gods have smiled on us miraculously for three days.
Also, the Secretary of State has been out and about with Australian students – the great forum yesterday at Melbourne University. Also, we had an opportunity, as four ministers yesterday, to pay our respects to Australians who are dead at the Shrine of Remembrance. And always a telling reminder of the ties that bind, and those ties have often been purchased with the ultimate sacrifice.
Beyond that, of course, our principal purpose in being here is for AUSMIN itself, the 25th occasion in which we have met in this forum. And as we approach our 60th anniversary of our alliance and this year celebrate the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relationship, we had plenty to talk about – not just a rehearsal of past values and continuing values and common values, but also the application of this alliance to our future challenges and opportunities in the region.
Together, we reaffirmed our commitment to the ongoing international effort in Afghanistan. This is a tough fight, but we are there as continuing and enduring and strong partners of the United States and our other NATO and ISAF allies. We affirmed our support for Pakistan and given the challenges that that country faces, but its critical relevance to what we are seeking to do together in Afghanistan itself. We have expressed our deep concern for Iran’s continuing nuclear program and we continue to monitor developments there closely.
Within our region, we’ve been reminded again today of some of the challenges which continue on the fundamental observance of human rights – the Burmese elections. We are waiting to see what precisely is produced by way of results there. These elections have been far from free and far from fair. A number of democratic parties have participated and we will be watching very closely what emerges from the Burmese political process. The people of Burma deserve much better than the regime they have got.
Of course, within our wider region, we are committed to building a strong, comprehensive, and positive relationship with the People’s Republic of China. And I was in China myself recently and I know our American partners have – counterparts have been there in recent times as well. Elsewhere within the region, we reaffirmed the importance and the strength of our continued security cooperation with Japan and the Republic of Korea and others in Southeast Asia. These democracies within our region, these countries who have many common security interests with us – we are pursuing those interests together and in tandem with our alliance with the United States.
Of course, within our wider region, what we have also discussed and affirmed in our communiqué together is how we now deploy the East Asian Summit, which now includes the United States and Russia, to further develop our region’s architecture. This is something which has been near and dear to Australia’s heart for some time and we welcome the decision by the Government of the United States to join this regional institution. It provides us an opportunity to develop a regional set of rules and norms for security and political and wider behavior within the East Asian region. The architectural question has, in many senses, been delivered. Our challenge now is one of the evolving agenda of this body and how we make it work for the future so that all the countries of our region share a common rules-based order and abide by those rules.
Finally, on the global front, we also discussed our continued challenges in the global economy, our continued cooperation as Australia and the United States through the G-20. The Secretary of State in her remarks the other day spoke about the three Ds of American foreign policy and broader security policy – defense, diplomacy, and development. And against each of those measures, we in Australia are seeking to work as closely as we can with our American allies. The security relationship, the defense relationship speaks for itself. Our significant foreign policy and diplomatic footprints around the world and in the region work together.
But on the development front, as Secretary Clinton reminded us the other day, we are people of good heart and good spirit who seek to make the lot of humankind within our neighborhood somewhat better. And that’s what we’re doing through our own increase and our own overseas development assistance program, but working increasingly in partnership with USAID. Getting these three things right is about how we actually shape the future together.
So Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, Stephen and I have been delighted to be able to host you to this 25th AUSMIN. You are, as you know, always welcome guests here in Australia, and we look forward to this relationship continuing into the future at our next AUSMIN to be held in the United States.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Kevin, and thanks to you and Stephen and your respective teams for all the work and planning that went into this AUSMIN. I think it is fair to say that both Secretary Gates and I deeply appreciate the warm welcome we have received and the continuing consultation and planning that is really at the core of our alliance.
As Kevin said, we covered a very broad agenda, as is the case when we have these annual meetings. A lot of work goes on between them, so we were able to catch each other up on our respective perspectives and experience in the region and globally on the range of issues that Kevin just mentioned. Our efforts to strengthen the regional architecture – the United States joining the East Asia Summit and other connections from ASEAN and the regional forum to APEC – are really, in large measure, a result of the excellent advice that we received from Kevin over the past 20 months.
Talking about individual situations from North Korea to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, talking about the very important relationship that we each have with China and how best to proceed to ensure that it is a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive one – talking too about the importance of the security issues here in the Pacific, especially as the relate to our Pacific Island nation neighbors and friends, this was a broad, far-reaching, and extremely valuable set of consultations.
We also were pleased, finally, to be able to tell our Australian friends that the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty finally passed in the United States Congress. That was a major accomplishment. And I can’t help but say we now wait for it to pass in the Australian parliament and – (laughter) – then we can get about the business of working even more closely together.
So again, thank you. We look forward to hosting you next year.
DEFENSE MINISTER SMITH: Well, thank you very much, Kevin, to Secretary of State Clinton, to Secretary of Defense. I join with Kevin in both welcoming you officially to this year’s AUSMIN consultations, but also to say that we’ve had a most productive conversation in the course of the day, traversing the array of strategic interests and challenges that Australia and the United States face now and include the future. Of course, the Australia-U.S. alliance remains the bedrock of our strategic, security, and defense arrangement.
We, of course, traversed Afghanistan, and I’ll simply say that we are very pleased with the way in which Australia and the United States are combining and operating very well on the ground in Uruzgan province. With the departure of the Dutch recently, the reconfigured ISAF arrangement in Uruzgan is now the so-called combined task force Uruzgan, jointly partnered by Australia and the United States, and we’re very pleased with that progress.
Kevin referred to the regional architecture and the future accession into the East Asia Summit of the United States and Russia. Bob and I were recently in Hanoi where, at defense ministers level, the same arrangement occurred for the first time, the so-called ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus, which saw the United States and Russia attending that meeting. So both in the economic and prosperity and in the defense base, the regional architecture is now, in Australia’s view, set up for the future.
In terms of alliance cooperation and defense matters, we spoke about the United States’ force posture review which has not yet been concluded. That is underway. We will continue to be in consultation with the United States in the course of that force posture review, and in due course, see what implications if any arise for Australia. Both the foreign minister and I have made it very clear over the last couple of days that, of course, we welcome very much the ongoing operational arrangement that we have with the United States, whether that is through our joint facilities or whether that is through visits and access to facilities. As for any future enhancement of that, we will make that judgment once the force posture review has itself been delivered, but we will continue to be in very close contact in that respect.
Having said that, we welcome very much – we welcome very much the United States’ enhanced engagement in the Asia Pacific region, and we see the force posture review as adding to that enhanced engagement. In the materials that you’ve been distributed, you also see that we have made progress in two of the challenges of this century, newly emerging challenges both in cooperation in space surveillance and space situational awareness and also in the area of cyber and cyber attacks.
We also, as Secretary of State Clinton has said, welcomed very much the fact that the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty has passed through the United States Congress. Our timetable is to endeavor to have legislation in the first parliamentary session of next year. We are very keen, urged on by Ambassador Beazley, to put ourselves in a legislative position to ratify the treaty. We are, of course, only the second nation after the United Kingdom in respect of which such a treaty will exist, and we welcome that very much.
Secretary of Defense Gates and I have also formally exchanged letters on the full knowledge and concurrence arrangements so far as to how (inaudible) communication station is concerned. There is no change in substance. These reflect for the future the arrangements that have been in place for some time, but we welcome that which reflects the ongoing nature of the joint facilities in Australia so far as Australia and the United States is concerned. Thank you.
SECRETARY GATES: First, I would like to join Secretary Clinton in thanking Foreign Minister Rudd and Defense Minister Smith for hosting us here today in Melbourne. This is the third opportunity I’ve had as Secretary of Defense to participate in the Australia-United States ministerial, and my second visit to Australia for AUSMIN. These gatherings, now in their 25th year, reflect the continued strength of our alliance and provide an important forum to advance our many shared interests.
In the defense arena, our ties are longstanding and deep. American and Australian forces have fought side by side in every major conflict over the past century, including the war in Afghanistan, a focus of our discussion today. Australia’s efforts in Uruzgan province, including taking full responsibility for training the Afghan force brigade, are making a real difference on the ground and helping put Afghanistan on a path to providing for its own security. The United States Government, and I would say the American people, are keenly aware of the price Australia has paid as the largest non-NATO contributor of combat troops.
Last night, Secretary Clinton and I were honored to participate with Kevin and Stephen in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance here in Melbourne, an enduring emblem of the sacrifices made by Australian troops and their families over the past century. Yet even as we reaffirm our strong shared commitment to Afghanistan, today, we also discussed our cooperation across a range of other issues to ensure that with our combined military capabilities, we’ll be ready to address the new security challenges in the years to come.
To this end, we discussed efforts to enhance our presence and posture in the Pacific and how we can work together to do this more effectively as the United States Department of Defense begins discussions with allies on our Global Posture Review. Today, we agreed to create a bilateral force posture working group to begin developing options for enhanced joint defense cooperation on Australian soil.
We’re also working hand-in-hand to enhance cooperation between our two nations in emerging domains such as space and cyberspace. The Space Situational Awareness Partnership Statement of Principle signed today, for example, will lead to greater cooperation between our militaries in the areas of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. This alliance has never been more important and the ties between our two nations and our two militaries, bonds of shared culture, interests and values give me great confidence that we stand ready to confront the challenges of this new century, as we have in the past. Thank you.
DEFENSE MINISTER SMITH: All right. (Inaudible) on the first question, can I add one personal note? And that is how delighted we were yesterday to participate at a ceremony here in Government House to have extended the Honorary Order of Australia in the Military Division to Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mike is an extraordinary leader in the U.S. military. He’s become an extraordinary friend of Australia. As we said to Mike last night, we don’t give these things out every day. We extend them to people whose contribution to our common cause, our common values, and to this nation is a decision which reflects the high regard with which the admiral is held.
Now, questions. I think, Heather, you have a question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Heather Youris, ABC Television, and my question is directed to Secretary of State. In the work that went on here this morning, have you been mapping out an exit strategy for Afghanistan? And what conditions would have to be set for this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, to the contrary. We are in agreement that the strategies that we are implementing together in Afghanistan is the right strategy, and that we are committed to pursuing that strategy and being very conscious of the challenges that it poses to us. We are, at this point in our analysis, satisfied with how it is proceeding.
We have said from the very beginning that the goal is to be able to transition security to the Afghans themselves, starting next year. But that transition will be conditions-based and will be determined as the analysis of our commanders in the field suggests to the civilian leadership in both of our countries. It is really important to underscore that the progress that we believe is occurring is very challenging, it takes patience, it requires all of us to understand that this is a tough fight that we’re in. But we’re convinced that starting next year, there will be parts of Afghanistan that will be under the control of the Afghan Government and its security forces. We can’t stand here today and tell you when or on what timetable or any of the details because we will be making those assessments based on the conditions as they occur.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. If I could have a question now from one of our American colleagues here.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. My question is for Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now saying only a credible military threat can deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Do you agree with him? How long can the United States expect Israel to wait for sanctions that have so far failed to stop Tehran’s nuclear program? And lastly, would you accept Iran’s request to hold nuclear talks this month in Turkey? Thank you.
SECRETARY GATES: Well, first of all, the President has said repeatedly that when it comes to Iran, all options are on the table. And we are doing what we need to do to ensure that he has those options. That said, we are convinced that nonmilitary actions, including, most significantly, the most recent UN Security Council resolution and the individual countries’ approval of even more rigorous sanctions including, I might say, Australia, is bringing pressure to bear on the Iranian Government that is getting their attention. We know that they are concerned about the impact of the sanctions. The sanctions are biting more deeply than they anticipated. And we are working very hard at this.
So I would say that I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to to end its nuclear weapons program. We are prepared to do what is necessary, but at this point, we are – we continue to believe that the political, economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact in Iran.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I agree with Bob’s description and I would only add that the so-called P-5+1 has offered to meet with Iran concerning its nuclear program. The Iranians have reached back out and said they would willing to meet, but so far as I know, there is not yet any date or time for that meeting. They know where they should be directing their response. That’s to Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union. But certainly, we’ve made it clear we would welcome a return to the negotiating table.
MODERATOR: Can I ask for a question, I think, from Sabra Lane, from the ABC.
QUESTION: Brendan Nicholson from The Australian, to Secretary Clinton and Secretary –
MODERATOR: Brendan, I’m sorry. I said I’m badly briefed. Over to you, Mate.
QUESTION: That’s good, thanks. To Secretary Clinton or Secretary Gates, China largely escaped the impact of the global financial crisis, and while many countries have been winding back on investment in their defense apparatus, China’s been investing heavily in its armed forces. To what extent is the United States’ consolidation of relationships in this region and your concerns about cyber security a consequence of these developments with China? And are you concerned about any backlash from China?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, the United States has a long presence in the Asia Pacific. We’ve been here for a hundred years. I think our fleet came in 1908, as I recall, at the direction of President Teddy Roosevelt –
PARTICIPANT: Had a good time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: — and had a good time. (Laughter.) And we –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. (Laughter.) And so we’ve been here, we are here, and we will be here. The United States is both a Pacific and an Atlantic power. And if there were any question or doubt about our intentions, I hope that the last 20 months of the Obama Administration has put those finally to rest. This is my sixth trip to the region. The President is on his second trip as we speak, currently in India. And just as with any alliance or any force posture, we have to be constantly evaluating, are we prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
And that is the process that we are going through along with our colleagues from Australia and others in the region. But we are determined to strengthen and deepen our already strong alliances with countries like Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand to build relationships bilaterally and multilaterally with other nations, to work through these regional organizations, to solve problems like maintaining the freedom of navigation and maritime security that is essential to trade and commerce throughout the region.
And we have a very robust dialogue with China where we discuss many of the matters that are of importance to both of us bilaterally and our position regionally and globally. And the United States has consistently said that we welcome the economic success of China, the positive effects that it is having on the Chinese people. As China becomes more of a player in regional and global affairs, then we expect that China will be a responsible player and will participate in the international framework of rules that govern the way nations behave and conduct themselves.
So we have – we’re not doing anything differently in any significant degree. We are merely taking stock of what we’re going to be needing to do in the future so that we are well-prepared and working closely with our friends and allies.
SECRETARY GATES: I haven’t got a thing to add to that.
MODERATOR: What’s that?
SECRETARY GATES: I haven’t got a thing to add to that. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: I thought that’s what you said, but I thought I should check. One further question from our American friends.
QUESTION: This is for Secretary Clinton. Is it your understanding that there is a power-sharing agreement in Iraq where Talibani would stay on as president, Maliki as prime minister, and the al-Iraqiya coalition would offer the post of – be offered the post of speaker? And does this mean that the Iraqis have finally found a way to manage their ethnic rivalries and produce a functioning government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Lachlan, until a deal on government formation is actually announced by the Iraqis themselves, I am not going to comment or respond. Probably over the course of the last eight months, we’ve had many indications that they were close to an agreement, they were on the brink of government formation, they had worked out their power-sharing arrangements only not to see that come to fruition.
But it is fair to say that we have been consistently urging the Iraqis to have an inclusive government that reflects the interests and needs of the various segments of the population, that there had to be legitimate power-sharing amongst different groups and individuals. And that is what we hope at the end of this process, and we hope we aren’t near the end of it, will be the result of all of their negotiation.
MODERATOR: This is yours. Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a question to you, Secretary Clinton, and also to Secretary Gates. Secretary Clinton, how would you characterize the significance of these talks that you have held today and in regards to the force posture review? You hinted at yesterday that you would like to pre-deploy equipment here in Australia. What kind of equipment are you talking about? How soon might that possibly happen? And does that involve a permanent presence of U.S. troops with that equipment?
And to Secretary Gates, about this space awareness program, obviously the preference, it sounds like, is to place something at (inaudible). How soon would you like to see those radars in place? And specifically, we’re not talking just about space junket satellites, but obviously keeping track of missiles and that some actions that might be mistaken as attempts by foes to – for exit at – seen in a good manner.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me answer the first part of your question, but the second part and this last question Bob should answer.
The first part is how would I characterize these talks? I would characterize them as extremely productive, constructive, very warm, and practical. We not only spoke about many of the issues we each see in the region as well as globally, but what we’re going to do about them, how we’re going to work together, what more we need to do in order to come to some recommendations about the way forward. And I have to commend both Kevin and Stephen because they think hard and very, very well about these difficult issues.
And so for Bob and me, this is an ongoing conversation. We just hold a public event like this once a year, but we’re in constant contact back and forth all the time about what we see happening and the progress that we’re making on the various issues that we’re addressing. So I have a very high regard for both ministers, a deep appreciation for Australia’s strong, diplomatic defense and development capacity and feel extremely satisfied at the outcome of this particular meeting.
SECRETARY GATES: With respect to force posture, first of all, we have, as a result of this meeting, established this force posture working group that will address the very issues you’ve asked about, and to look at the array of enhanced joint activities we might be able to undertake.
Beyond that, I would say speculation is way premature because I have not even made decisions within the Department of Defense on what I’m going to recommend to our own National Security Council and the President that we do in Asia, except to say that the one thing I believe we all agree on is we are looking at an enhanced presence in – for the United States in Asia, and not some kind of cutback. We – as Secretary Clinton said, we are a Pacific power. We have reengaged in a major way. And now, we are looking at the next steps in that.
With respect to the radars, we will begin discussions on this. It clearly does cover space debris in low and middle earth orbit space junk as well as satellites and so on, and we will be exploring what’s of mutual benefit. And those discussions won’t even begin until, I think, January.
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: (Inaudible) folks, for those in the broader community who ask questions about what an alliance is, I think from our point of view in Australia, it’s pretty simple. An alliance is a relationship between friends who share common values, who stand by each other through thick and thin. That’s the history of this alliance and that’s the future of this alliance.
To Hillary and to Bob, safe travels. Hillary is going back stateside, Bob to Western Australia with Stephen, I think. Is that right?
SECRETARY GATES: I wish. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible) stateside as well.
DEFENSE MINISTER SMITH: Misrepresentation.
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: He’s heading back as well. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, my fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honor to address this Assembly for the second time, nearly two years after my election as President of the United States.
We know this is no ordinary time for our people. Each of us comes here with our own problems and priorities. But there are also challenges that we share in common as leaders and as nations.
We meet within an institution built from the rubble of war, designed to unite the world in pursuit of peace. And we meet within a city that for centuries has welcomed people from across the globe, demonstrating that individuals of every color, faith and station can come together to pursue opportunity, build a community, and live with the blessing of human liberty.
Outside the doors of this hall, the blocks and neighborhoods of this great city tell the story of a difficult decade. Nine years ago, the destruction of the World Trade Center signaled a threat that respected no boundary of dignity or decency. Two years ago this month, a financial crisis on Wall Street devastated American families on Main Street. These separate challenges have affected people around the globe. Men and women and children have been murdered by extremists from Casablanca to London; from Jalalabad to Jakarta. The global economy suffered an enormous blow during the financial crisis, crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent. Underneath these challenges to our security and prosperity lie deeper fears: that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.
These are some of the challenges that my administration has confronted since we came into office. And today, I’d like to talk to you about what we’ve done over the last 20 months to meet these challenges; what our responsibility is to pursue peace in the Middle East; and what kind of world we are trying to build in this 21st century.
Let me begin with what we have done. I have had no greater focus as President than rescuing our economy from potential catastrophe. And in an age when prosperity is shared, we could not do this alone. So America has joined with nations around the world to spur growth, and the renewed demand that could restart job creation.
We are reforming our system of global finance, beginning with Wall Street reform here at home, so that a crisis like this never happens again. And we made the G20 the focal point for international coordination, because in a world where prosperity is more diffuse, we must broaden our circle of cooperation to include emerging economies — economies from every corner of the globe.
There is much to show for our efforts, even as there is much work to be done. The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression, and is growing once more. We have resisted protectionism, and are exploring ways to expand trade and commerce among nations. But we cannot — and will not — rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.
As for our common security, America is waging a more effective fight against al Qaeda, while winding down the war in Iraq. Since I took office, the United States has removed nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq. We have done so responsibly, as Iraqis have transitioned to lead responsibility for the security of their country.
We are now focused on building a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while keeping our commitment to remove the rest of our troops by the end of next year.
While drawing down in Iraq, we have refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven. In Afghanistan, the United States and our allies are pursuing a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces, so that a transition to Afghan responsibility can begin next July. And from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach — one that strengthens our partners and dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies.
As we pursue the world’s most dangerous extremists, we’re also denying them the world’s most dangerous weapons, and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
Earlier this year, 47 nations embraced a work-plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. We have joined with Russia to sign the most comprehensive arms control treaty in decades. We have reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy. And here, at the United Nations, we came together to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities. And that is what we have done.
Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.
Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.
As we combat the spread of deadly weapons, we’re also confronting the specter of climate change. After making historic investments in clean energy and efficiency at home, we helped forge an accord in Copenhagen that — for the first time — commits all major economies to reduce their emissions. We are keenly aware this is just a first step. And going forward, we will support a process in which all major economies meet our responsibilities to protect the planet while unleashing the power of clean energy to serve as an engine of growth and development.
America has also embraced unique responsibilities with come — that come with our power. Since the rains came and the floodwaters rose in Pakistan, we have pledged our assistance, and we should all support the Pakistani people as they recover and rebuild. And when the earth shook and Haiti was devastated by loss, we joined a coalition of nations in response. Today, we honor those from the U.N. family who lost their lives in the earthquake, and commit ourselves to stand with the people of Haiti until they can stand on their own two feet.
Amidst this upheaval, we have also been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Last year, I pledged my best efforts to support the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, as part of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors. We have travelled a winding road over the last 12 months, with few peaks and many valleys. But this month, I am pleased that we have pursued direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, Sharm el Sheikh and Jerusalem.
Now I recognize many are pessimistic about this process. The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace. Rejectionists on both sides will try to disrupt the process, with bitter words and with bombs and with gunfire. Some say that the gaps between the parties are too big; the potential for talks to break down is too great; and that after decades of failure, peace is simply not possible.
I hear those voices of skepticism. But I ask you to consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.
I refuse to accept that future. And we all have a choice to make. Each of us must choose the path of peace. Of course, that responsibility begins with the parties themselves, who must answer the call of history. Earlier this month at the White House, I was struck by the words of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I came here today to find a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity.” And President Abbas said, “We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause.”
These words must now be followed by action and I believe that both leaders have the courage to do so. But the road that they have to travel is exceedingly difficult, which is why I call upon Israelis and Palestinians — and the world — to rally behind the goal that these leaders now share. We know that there will be tests along the way and that one test is fast approaching. Israel’s settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground and improved the atmosphere for talks.
And our position on this issue is well known. We believe that the moratorium should be extended. We also believe that talks should press on until completed. Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle. Now is the time to build the trust — and provide the time — for substantial progress to be made. Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it does not slip away.
Now, peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well. Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.
I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds. Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps towards the normalization that it promises Israel.
And those who speak on behalf of Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority politically and financially, and in doing so help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state.
Those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel. After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land. After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.
Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States. And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice. And make no mistake: The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.
The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution. And we can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that.
Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.
This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel. (Applause.)
It is our destiny to bear the burdens of the challenges that I’ve addressed — recession and war and conflict. And there is always a sense of urgency — even emergency — that drives most of our foreign policies. Indeed, after millennia marked by wars, this very institution reflects the desire of human beings to create a forum to deal with emergencies that will inevitably come.
But even as we confront immediate challenges, we must also summon the foresight to look beyond them, and consider what we are trying to build over the long term? What is the world that awaits us when today’s battles are brought to an end? And that is what I would like to talk about with the remainder of my time today.
One of the first actions of this General Assembly was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration begins by stating that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”
The idea is a simple one — that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings. And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity. As Robert Kennedy said, “the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit.” So we stand up for universal values because it’s the right thing to do. But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights — whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments — have chosen to be our adversaries.
Human rights have never gone unchallenged — not in any of our nations, and not in our world. Tyranny is still with us — whether it manifests itself in the Taliban killing girls who try to go to school, a North Korean regime that enslaves its own people, or an armed group in Congo-Kinshasa that use rape as a weapon of war.
In times of economic unease, there can also be an anxiety about human rights. Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short term stability or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom. We see leaders abolishing term limits. We see crackdowns on civil society. We see corruption smothering entrepreneurship and good governance. We see democratic reforms deferred indefinitely.
As I said last year, each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people. Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty; that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments. To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens. And I believe that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred.
America is working to shape a world that fosters this openness, for the rot of a closed or corrupt economy must never eclipse the energy and innovation of human beings. All of us want the right to educate our children, to make a decent wage, to care for the sick, and to be carried as far as our dreams and our deeds will take us. But that depends upon economies that tap the power of our people, including the potential of women and girls. That means letting entrepreneurs start a business without paying a bribe and governments that support opportunity instead of stealing from their people. And that means rewarding hard work, instead of reckless risk-taking.
Yesterday, I put forward a new development policy that will pursue these goals, recognizing that dignity is a human right and global development is in our common interest. America will partner with nations that offer their people a path out of poverty. And together, we must unleash growth that powers by individuals and emerging markets in all parts of the globe.
There is no reason why Africa should not be an exporter of agriculture, which is why our food security initiative is empowering farmers. There is no reason why entrepreneurs shouldn’t be able to build new markets in every society, which is why I hosted a summit on entrepreneurship earlier this spring, because the obligation of government is to empower individuals, not to impede them.
The same holds true for civil society. The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble and by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change and by free media that held the powerful accountable. We have seen that from the South Africans who stood up to apartheid, to the Poles of Solidarity, to the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War, to Americans who marched for the rights of all races, including my own.
Civil society is the conscience of our communities and America will always extend our engagement abroad with citizens beyond the halls of government. And we will call out those who suppress ideas and serve as a voice for those who are voiceless. We will promote new tools of communication so people are empowered to connect with one another and, in repressive societies, to do so with security. We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds. And it is time to embrace and effectively monitor norms that advance the rights of civil society and guarantee its expansion within and across borders.
Open society supports open government, but it cannot substitute for it. There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders and determine your destiny. Now, make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed.
There is no soil where this notion cannot take root, just as every democracy reflects the uniqueness of a nation. Later this fall, I will travel to Asia. And I will visit India, which peacefully threw off colonialism and established a thriving democracy of over a billion people.
I’ll continue to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, which binds together thousands of islands through the glue of representative government and civil society. I’ll join the G20 meeting on the Korean Peninsula, which provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is dynamic and open and free, and one that is imprisoned and closed. And I will conclude my trip in Japan, an ancient culture that found peace and extraordinary development through democracy.
Each of these countries gives life to democratic principles in their own way. And even as some governments roll back reform, we also celebrate the courage of a President in Colombia who willingly stepped aside, or the promise of a new constitution in Kenya.
The common thread of progress is the principle that government is accountable to its citizens. And the diversity in this room makes clear — no one country has all the answers, but all of us must answer to our own people.
In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.
This institution can still play an indispensable role in the advance of human rights. It’s time to welcome the efforts of U.N. Women to protect the rights of women around the globe. (Applause.)
It’s time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors and increase the U.N. Democracy Fund. It’s time to reinvigorate U.N. peacekeeping, so that missions have the resources necessary to succeed, and so atrocities like sexual violence are prevented and justice is enforced — because neither dignity nor democracy can thrive without basic security.
And it’s time to make this institution more accountable as well, because the challenges of a new century demand new ways of serving our common interests.
The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own. For human rights to reach those who suffer the boot of oppression, we need your voices to speak out. In particular, I appeal to those nations who emerged from tyranny and inspired the world in the second half of the last century — from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to South America. Don’t stand idly by, don’t be silent, when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten. Recall your own history. Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.
That belief will guide America’s leadership in this 21st century. It is a belief that has seen us through more than two centuries of trial, and it will see us through the challenges we face today — be it war or recession; conflict or division.
So even as we have come through a difficult decade, I stand here before you confident in the future — a future where Iraq is governed by neither tyrant nor a foreign power, and Afghanistan is freed from the turmoil of war; a future where the children of Israel and Palestine can build the peace that was not possible for their parents; a world where the promise of development reaches into the prisons of poverty and disease; a future where the cloud of recession gives way to the light of renewal and the dream of opportunity is available to all.
This future will not be easy to reach. It will not come without setbacks, nor will it be quickly claimed. But the founding of the United Nations itself is a testament to human progress. Remember, in times that were far more trying than our own, our predecessors chose the hope of unity over the ease of division and made a promise to future generations that the dignity and equality of human beings would be our common cause.
It falls to us to fulfill that promise. And though we will be met by dark forces that will test our resolve, Americans have always had cause to believe that we can choose a better history; that we need only to look outside the walls around us. For through the citizens of every conceivable ancestry who make this city their own, we see living proof that opportunity can be accessed by all, that what unites us as human beings is far greater than what divides us, and that people from every part of this world can live together in peace.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)