Statement by Chargé d’Affaires Robbins on the Invitation by the Russian Federation for International Observers for the Duma Elections
The United States welcomes the timely invitation by the Russian Federation Central Election Commission for international observers, including an Election Observation Mission from OSCE/ODIHR and Parliamentary Assembly, for the December 4 State Duma elections.
Free and fair elections that adhere to international standards are a necessary part of a healthy democracy. OSCE’s participating States have an obligation to ensure that elections throughout the region meet these standards and that citizens have the freedom to cast their votes. We are committed to the support of free and fair electoral processes that allow political parties to operate freely, that allow citizens to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protest, that enshrine the importance of an independent media, and that enjoy the protections of an effective judicial system.
All OSCE participating States have committed themselves to the implementation of free and fair elections. As set forth in the 1990 Copenhagen Document—and reaffirmed at the Astana Summit—this includes universal and equal suffrage; secret ballots; and non-discriminatory access for parties to the media.
Domestic and foreign observers play a critical role in documenting that these principles are upheld during elections, and ODIHR has become the gold standard for election observation.
We urge all participating States to support the secondment of long-term observers to follow the elections process throughout Russia and to contribute to the provision of short-term observers to follow Election Day proceedings. We would also welcome robust participation by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. We urge the Russian Federation to facilitate timely visa issuance to all Mission members.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Media Note Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman today to convey that today’s violence was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations. The Secretary urged that the Government of Egypt hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts. Secretary Clinton also underscored the important role that the Egyptian Armed Forces have played in exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations and expressed concern that all parties recommit themselves to using only peaceful means of assembly.
Noting Vice President Soliman’s call for a broad dialogue with representatives of Egypt’s opposition parties, the Secretary expressed hope that both the government and the opposition would seize the opportunity, starting immediately, for serious, meaningful negotiations about Egypt’s transition to a more open, pluralistic, and democratic government. Lastly, the Secretary noted that the United States remains committed to working in partnership with Egypt in helping to achieve the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: So, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Do you think the Egyptian people can trust a transition process that is essentially in the hands of the military and former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the Egyptian people are looking for an orderly transition that can lead to free and fair elections. That’s what the United States has consistently supported. We are putting a lot of effort into making sure that the dialogue process that has begun is meaningful and transparent, and leads to concrete actions.
Now, the people themselves, and the leaders of various groups within Egyptian society, will ultimately determine whether it is or is not meeting their needs. Today we learned that the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to participate, which suggests that they, at least, are now involved in the dialogue that we have encouraged.
We are going to wait and see how this develops. But we have been very clear about what we expect.
QUESTION: But some people on the street are saying, you know, “Suleiman looks like Mubarak II,” keeping a lot of the old structures in place. Is he reassuring you that he is really doing things differently?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Look, we have had numerous conversations with him and others, both the Vice President and I have spoken with him in the last several days. We hear that they are committed to this, and when we press on concrete steps and timelines, we are given assurance that that will happen.
But ultimately, we are not the arbiters. It’s the people of Egypt who are the arbiters. And a number of voices that are now being heard recognize there has to be some process. And there is a desire to test this, to see how it unfolds, and we support that.
QUESTION: What about Hosni Mubarak, though? I mean is the U.S. encouraging him to leave the scene, or has the U.S. given up on that track?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, again, this is up to the Egyptian people. I want to make very clear that we have set forth the principles that we support. We are adamant about no violence, and have consistently reached out to the army and the government to reinforce that message. We want to see peaceful protests that are — so far, anyway — embodying the aspirations that are, in our view, very legitimate. And we want to see an orderly, expeditious transition.
But I think it’s important for us to recognize that American or any outside interest or nation has an obligation, in my view, to make absolutely clear what we want to see happen. But ultimately, the Egyptian people are going to have to make these decisions for themselves.
QUESTION: But the Obama Administration did send a former ambassador, Frank Wisner, to Cairo to quietly tell Mubarak that it’s time. Wisner was just — told this Munich security conference last night that Mubarak’s role was utterly critical in this transition process. So it sounds like the U.S. has at least accepted the fact that Mubarak is not leaving the scene any time soon.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, we deeply respect the many years of service that Frank Wisner has provided to our country. And he was asked to go and assess the positions of President Mubarak and those around him, having known them all for many years. But he does not speak for the American Government, he does not reflect our policies. And we have been very clear, from the beginning, that we wanted to see an orderly transition.
There is a debate within Egypt itself, and not just in the government, but among the people of Egypt, as to how best to ensure that. For example, under the constitution, the argument has been made by many who are in opposition, as well as in support of the government, that there would be a 60-day period to prepare for elections if he were to resign — I am not an expert on the Egyptian constitution, I am not offering any opinion on it — and that that doesn’t give anybody enough time. I saw an interview reported this morning, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, saying it’s going to take time to prepare.
So, again, I want to stress our basic point, that we have set forth our expectations: no violence; peaceful protest; orderly transition; process that is transparent, expeditious, leading to free and fair elections. And yet we know that, ultimately, these decisions lie in the hands of the people of Egypt, themselves.
QUESTION: How are other Arab rulers viewing this situation? Are they coming to you and asking you, “Do you still support us?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: They are concerned, like everyone is, about what comes next. And we have said the same things to them that we are saying to you, that we think that this has to be viewed in light of the principles that we have set forth. Some are more concerned than others.
But, as you know, I gave a speech in Doha last month where I said, “The foundations are sinking into the sand. These governments, these leaders, have to recognize that they must respond to the legitimate needs for economic and political reform that the people have, particularly young people, who represent one-half to two-thirds of the population in many of these countries.”
QUESTION: And here in Munich you called it a Perfect Storm.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: So I wonder what sort of advice you give to Arab rulers to weather this storm.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we give the same advice we have given for years through Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We believe that democracies are more stable than authoritarian regimes. We believe that economic reform that spreads prosperity broadly among the population, that builds a middle class, that doesn’t just enrich the elite — we believe measures against corruption are necessary to avoid destroying trust between leaders and their citizens. We have a very consistent American view of this, in part based on our own history, but also in observing what has happened in other parts of the world. So our message, publicly and privately, has been the same.
Some leaders listen better than other leaders. But all leaders have to recognize now that the failure to reform, the failure to open up their economies and their political systems, is just not an option any longer.
QUESTION: But over the years the U.S. has relied on autocratic governments in the Middle East to support U.S. policies that are very unpopular in the region. So I wonder. You know, a lot of analysts are telling me now, regardless of how any of this plays out, you’re going to have Middle Eastern leaders that have to listen to their publics more. And that might be problematic for the U.S. on all sorts of policies. And I wonder if you are ready for that sort of new Middle East.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Michele, I think the forces that are at work, particularly because of the advances in communications technology, are not reversible. And the United States understands that. And we want to play a constructive role in helping countries move in the direction of more openness and more democracy and participation and market access, and the things that we stand for.
But it is the case that some countries will move at different paces. And we have historically had relations with a lot of countries whose governments we did not approve of. That is the case still today. There is no easy answer to how we pursue what’s in America’s interests. Because, ultimately, my job, the President’s job, is to protect the security and the interests of the United States.
And do we do business with, do we have relations with, do we support governments over the past 50 years that we do not always see eye to eye with? Of course. I mean that’s the world in which we live. But our messages are consistent about what we think is in the best interest of the United States, which is to have more democracy, more openness, more participation. And that is a consistent principle, and we then have to deal with what comes of that.
QUESTION: We are going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time, especially on a trip — I understand you’ve just broken a record of most traveled Secretary of State in your first two years.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s what I’m told. And many days I feel it. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thanks for taking time.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, first, thank you for your time. I don’t want to ask you about WikiLeaks. You’ve already answered so many questions. I’m going to stick to the peace process; a Palestinian official has said yesterday that American administration has informed the Palestinian Authority about its failure to secure a new settlement phase. Why you have failed, and what will be the next step?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Michel, we are not prepared to make any announcement about what we’re doing and what our next steps are until early next week. We’re going to have some additional consultations with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. But there are a number of ways that we’re going to move forward. So I’m not confirming or denying what any spokesman said, but I am reaffirming our commitment to find a way forward.
QUESTION: But have you failed or not.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re not ready to say that.
QUESTION: You’ve talked with the Israeli prime minister about a proposal or offer for deadline. We didn’t hear anything (inaudible) offer. Is the offer still there or not?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have had intensive consultations, and, of course, I’m not going to disclose details of it, because those were part of the negotiations. But I think we’ve made progress, but it really depends upon the parties deciding that they’re willing to make the tough compromises on the key issues. And as I say, I will be making a very formal set of remarks about that next week, and I’m not prepared to get into details now. But we have been talking with both parties very substantively, and I think that the United States can play a role to help each make decisions about very difficult matters that then can be presented to the other side.
QUESTION: On Iran, Iran has blamed the CIA, MI-6, and the Mossad for the assassination of Iranian scientist in Tehran. What can you say about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have nothing to say. I know nothing about that. I don’t know what Iran is referring to, and I wish that the discussions which begin in Geneva on Monday will be fruitful ones, because everyone wants to find a way to work with Iran, and the door is open.
QUESTION: We go to Iraq. Are you satisfied from the political compromise that political blocs have achieved in the last months or last month?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am. I think that after some very hard and long bargaining, an inclusive government has been put into place, and now I want to see that government start to work and deliver results for the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. On Egypt, to what extent you are worried about the elections and the protests after the elections and some parties pulled out from the second –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve expressed our concerns continuously and frequently to the Egyptian Government and to the public. And we regret that the elections have been rejected by many participants inside Egypt, and we hope that there will be a better process going forward.
QUESTION: On Lebanon, Madam Secretary, are you aware of the Syrian/Saudi efforts to contain the security situation after the indictment that international tribunal will be issued soon, maybe this month. Are you aware about this effort?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are aware. We, of course, appreciate efforts to try to keep Lebanon calm, but we think it’s important for the special tribunal to do its work. We think it’s important for the indictments, if there are any, to be made public, and that it’s important for anyone accused of this terrible act of criminal violence to be brought to justice. So we have said we will support the tribunal. We have specifically told the prime minister and the president that they need to stand for the rule of law and accountability and justice, and that those who might be affected need to also follow a peaceful course. They are perfectly free to demonstrate, but not to take up weapons to try to influence or affect the Government of Lebanon.
QUESTION: Finally on Syria, how can you describe the relations between the U.S. and Syria after two years of engagement?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’ve had some candid, productive discussions at several levels, including my own with my counterpart, that it’s not only our Administration but leading members of Congress and other Americans who have reached out to the highest levels of the Syrian Government. We want to have a constructive relationship with Syria. We want to see Syria clearly end any support for terrorism or destabilizing Lebanon or in any way supplying arms to Hezbollah. So I think there has been some greater understanding, but we still have a lot of work to do.
QUESTION: Finally, what are your wishes for the next year and what are your goals?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, obviously we’re going to keep working on the broad range of responsibilities that the United States faces and that the State Department has to follow through on. We will be working probably, Michel, on Middle East Peace, on North Korea, on Iran, on the hot spots. But I also hope to continue to really deepen relations with a lot of the emerging powers from India, and China, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa. Because the United States bears a special responsibility because of our global reach to be engaged with every part of the world on the transnational problems, from climate change to human trafficking to terrorism. And we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.
QUESTION: Good talking to you, too.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: I appreciate your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: See you back in Washington.
QUESTION: Thanks so much.
The United States remains committed to supporting free and impartial elections in Egypt. We welcome the Government of Egypt’s stated commitment to expanding political participation and ensuring free and transparent elections, including facilitating domestic monitoring by civil society groups.
The candidate registration process for the November 28th People’s Assembly elections closed last week. In keeping with the Egyptian government’s commitment, fair and transparent elections would include peaceful political assemblies throughout the campaign, civil society organizations freely promoting voter education and participation, and an open media environment that offers balanced coverage for all candidates.
In addition, an open electoral process would include a credible and impartial mechanism for reviewing election-related complaints, a domestic election observation effort according to international standards, and the presence of international observers.