News Archives

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.


Statement by Chargé d’Affaires Robbins on the Geneva Discussions on Georgia

Statement to the OSCE Permanent Council

The United States continues to support the Geneva Discussions as an important forum for improving security and humanitarian conditions in Georgia. We urge all of the parties to continue constructive engagement in the Geneva Discussions and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in order to foster agreement on international security arrangements, to enhance confidence-building measures, and to promote both strengthened humanitarian initiatives and a sustainable and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

We continue to call on Russia to abide by its commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreement and its September 2008 implementing measures, including the withdrawal of Russian troops to positions held prior to the start of hostilities and the facilitation of humanitarian access to the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia.

The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia is a crucial stabilizing factor, and plays a key role in the implementation of the IPRMs. The EUMM also is critical to the international community’s efforts to monitor compliance with the cease-fire and implementing measures. Unfortunately, these efforts cannot be fully realized as long as Russia denies international observers access to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia.

The United States continues to urge free and unhindered humanitarian access to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia, as agreed in the August 2008 cease-fire. We call for full respect of all individuals’ human rights in the conflict areas, and for the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of internally displaced persons.

In closing, let me reiterate that the United States remains committed to helping Russia and Georgia find a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Georgia, and we will continue to support Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Ambassador Kelly’s Statement on Elections in the Breakaway Region of Abkhazia in Georgia

Like the European Union and other participating states, the United States does not recognize the legitimacy or the results of the August 26th so-called “elections” in the Abkhazia region of Georgia. We reiterate our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

We again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict positions and free access for humanitarian assistance to the territories.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Special Envoy Rosenthal on Anti-Semitism in the Former Soviet Union

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, NCSJ Board of Governors and members – I thank you for the invitation to speak here today about anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union.

As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. My father was arrested – on Kristalnacht, the unofficial pogrom that many think started the Holocaust – and sent with many of his congregants to prison and then to Buchenwald. He was the lucky one – every other person in his family perished at Auschwitz. I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my father could give me.

I have seen six significant trends in anti-Semitism around the world:

First of all, anti-Semitism is not History, it is News. I run into people who think anti-Semitism ended when Hitler killed himself. More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry.

This stems from the fact that traditional forms of anti-Semitism are passed from one generation to the next, updated to reflect current events. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property and the desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti. For example, in May of this year, a synagogue in Barnaul, Russia was defaced with the phrases, “the Holocaust is a myth,” “Adolf was right,” and “Death to the Jews.” And in December 2010, neo-Nazi youths painted swastikas on 89 gravestones in the main Jewish cemetery in Riga, Latvia.

There are still accusations of blood libel, which are morphing from the centuries-old accusations by the Church that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for rituals, to accusations that Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jews were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.

This past year, the Russian Duma roundtable “On the Question of Recognizing the Genocide of the Russian People” issued a declaration which exemplifies the continued presence of traditional forms of anti-Semitism in Russia. The declaration blamed the “international Zionist financial mafia for genocide against the Russian people.”

In Belarus, President Lukashenka and other Belarusian government officials are known for making anti-Semitic statements. The government does not provide tolerance education and acts of vandalism go unpunished, while the state press and other government agencies continue to publish anti-Semitic literature.

A second phenomenon is Holocaust denial. It is being espoused by religious leaders, heads of State, such as in Iran, in academic institutions, and is a standard on hateful websites and other media outlets. As the generation of Holocaust survivors and death camp liberators reaches their eighties and nineties, the window is closing on those able to provide eyewitness accounts and thus we have a heightened sense of urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.

Ironically, we also see the antithesis of this as there is a third, disturbing, parallel trend of Holocaust glorification which can be seen in events that openly display Nazi symbols and in the growth of neo-Nazi groups. In Latvia recently, a notorious neo-Nazi made blatantly anti-Semitic statements, including incitements to violence against Jews, on a Latvian television talk show. Holocaust glorification and the growth of neo-Nazi groups is especially virulent in a variety of Middle Eastern media – some of which is state owned and operated – calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bone-chilling.

A fourth concern is Holocaust relativism – where some governments, museums, academic research and the like are conflating the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering, like the Dirty War or the Soviet regime.

For example, in December of last year, Foreign Ministers from Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic issued the Prague Declaration, calling on the European Commission to introduce a so-called double genocide law. This law would associate Nazi crimes with Soviet ones and would criminalize the denial of Soviet crimes in the same way as Holocaust denial. The European Commission rejected the proposal, recognizing that a double genocide law would trivialize the Holocaust.

No one, least of all myself, wants to weigh atrocities against each other, but to group these horrific chapters of history together is not only historically inaccurate, but also misses opportunities to learn important lessons from each of these historic events, even as we reflect on universal truths about the need to defend human rights and combat hatred in all of its forms.

The fifth trend is the increasing tendency of blurring the lines between opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. What I hear from our diplomatic missions, and from non-governmental organizations alike, is that this happens easily and often. I want to be clear – criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. But we record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there are hostilities in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify. But if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments like Venezuela call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. When individual Jews, such as academics or experts from Israel are effectively banned or their conferences boycotted, or are held responsible for Israeli policy – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.

Here are three easy ways to decide if it’s anti-Israel or anti-Semitism: “It is anti-Semitic when Israel is demonized, held to different standards or delegitimized.” This is more readily illustrated by the fact that the U.S. is often the only “no” vote in international bodies where countries seem to have an obsession with singling out Israel for disproportionate condemnation.

The sixth trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities — in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. Over the past two decades, anti-Semitism has continued to form the ideological basis of many right-wing ultra-nationalist organizations in the former Soviet Union. These racist “skinhead” groups promote anti-Semitic propaganda, use anti-Semitic rhetoric, and incite racial violence, as they did during an illegal rally in December 2010 in Moscow. According to the Russian Interior Ministry’s All-Russian Research Institute, racially and religiously intolerant groups are on the rise. Indeed, more than 150 radical neo-fascist groups are currently operating in Russia.

In Ukraine, nationalist organizations have spread hate through extremist and anti-Semitic statements, and in Belarus, neo-Nazi groups continue to import and distribute anti-Semitic and ultranationalist Russian newspapers, literature, and digital media.

When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews, or for that matter, other traditionally discriminated against minorities. The history of Europe, with Russian pogroms, Nazism, and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans provides sufficient evidence.

The State Department monitors these trends and activities and reports on them in all 194 countries – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom Report and the Human Rights Report. I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in their countries, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism. This will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism in all its forms. These reports tell us that many countries are pushing hard to advance human rights and fight discrimination. It also tells us that there is so much more work to do. If we don’t chronicle it, if we don’t name it, we can’t fight it.

Even though the news is grim, we have seen some improvement throughout the former Soviet Union.

Russia is moving in a positive direction. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has publicly criticized anti-Semitism and helped establish the Museum of Tolerance by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

Hate-motivated and anti-Semitic vandalism is generally decreasing in Russia. In 2010, neo-Nazi and racially motivated violence was at a six year low in Russia.

Prosecution of hate-crimes and vandalism is on the rise, though it remains inconsistent. While law enforcement agencies are pursuing these acts more aggressively and the court system increasingly acknowledges the racist motive behind these attacks, impunity remains common and many perpetrators receive suspended sentences. In Latvia, for example, the City of Riga responded quickly and appropriately to acts of vandalism and desecration which occurred last December.

Ukraine’s performance has also improved over the past five years. The number of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism has decreased by more than half in 2010. Moreover, due to joint pressure exerted by the Ukrainian government, NGOs and the Jewish community on the Interregional Academy of Human Resources, we have witnessed a sharp decline in the publication of anti-Semitic articles, proving that we can succeed if we work together.

Next year, Ukraine’s ability to combat anti-Semitism and extremism will be displayed for all to see when it co-hosts with Poland the UEFA European Football Championship, also known as the Euro 2012. To combat the anti-Semitism and racism prevalent in European football, the NEVER AGAIN Association helped launch a new program, Football Against Racism in Europe, or FARE, in June of this year.

As you can see, there is some good news throughout the former Soviet Union. More will come if we remain vigilant and continue to apply pressure and promote religious freedom there.

Last summer, Secretary Clinton launched an initiative to strengthen civil society across the globe and she instructed all of us in the State Department and all our overseas posts to treat civil society as strategic partners. Partnering with opinion leaders from civil society as well as government — as well as building bridges among ethnic and religious groups, is the way to change a culture – from fear and negative stereotyping to acceptance and understanding, from narrow mindedness to an embrace of diversity, from hate to tolerance.

So while I fight anti-Semitism, I am also aware that hate is hate. Nothing justifies it – not economic instability, not international events, not an isolated pastor burning a Koran.

Together, we must confront and combat the many forms of hatred in our world today. Where there is hatred born of ignorance, we must teach and inspire. Where there is hatred born of blindness, we must expose people to a larger world of ideas and reach out, especially to youth, so they can see beyond their immediate circumstances. Where there is hatred whipped up by irresponsible leaders, we must call them out and answer as strongly as we can – and make their message totally unacceptable to all people of conscience.


Remembering Nataliya Estemirova and Paul Klebnikov

The United States marks with sadness the second anniversary of the death of human rights defender and journalist Nataliya Estemirova, and the death of Forbes journalist and editor Paul Klebnikov, who died in Russia seven years ago on July 9. Both were killed promoting society’s right to know the truth. The United States supports the efforts of brave journalists across the globe, who like Nataliya and Paul, speak out against abuses and work to secure fundamental freedoms of expression and press.


Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov After their Meeting

Secretary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov hold a joint press availability and a signing ceremony, at the Department of State. State Department Photo by Michael Gross.

Secretary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov hold a joint press availability and a signing ceremony, at the Department of State. State Department Photo by Michael Gross.

PARTICIPANT: The Secretary and the foreign minister are today signing an agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation regarding cooperation in adoption of children.
(The document was signed.) (Applause.)

The Secretary and foreign minister are now signing the protocol to extend and amend the Agreement on Cooperation and Research on Radiation Effects for the Purpose of Minimizing the Consequences of Radioactive Contamination on Health and the Environment of January 14, 1994.

(The document was signed.) (Applause.)

The Secretary and foreign minister are now exchanging diplomatic notes to bring the Agreement Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation along with its 2006 and 2010 protocols into force.

(The document was signed.) (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. And again, it’s a pleasure for me to welcome the foreign minister back to Washington, and we’ve had a very constructive day of conversations. Before I begin on what we have discussed, I want to say a few words about today’s bombings in Mumbai, India. We condemn these despicable acts of violence designed to provoke fear and division. Those who perpetrated them must know they cannot succeed. The Indian people have suffered from acts of terrorism before, and we have seen them respond with courage and resilience. We are continuing to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of American citizens. Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we have reached out to the Indian Government to express our condolence and offer support.

I will be traveling to India next week as planned. I believe it is more important than ever that we stand with India, deepen our partnership, and reaffirm our commitment to the shared struggle against terrorism. Neither of our countries – the Russian Federation or the United States – unfortunately are strangers to terrorism. And it has been a mutual goal of both of our presidents to increase our cooperation in order to prevent terrorists from wreaking their violence on innocent Russians, Americans, and others, and to bring those who do so to justice.
I also would like to convey condolences on behalf of the American people, to those who suffered from the tragic sinking of the boat on the Volga River. I am particularly, as a mother, extending my thoughts and prayers to all those mothers and fathers who are suffering the terrible loss of children.

Let me begin by saying that the past two and a half years has been a time of great strides in the relationship between our countries. We have signed a historic arms control treaty and opened a vital new land and air supply route to Afghanistan. We are cooperating on addressing Iran’s nuclear threat, working to coordinate our diplomatic approach to Libya, consulting closely on the changes unfolding in the Middle East. Across the world, we are not only working bilaterally but multilaterally on so many important issues, from counterterrorism to nonproliferation.

Our challenge now is to continue and maintain the momentum in order to deliver more results for both of our people. To that end, Minister Lavrov and I discussed missile defense cooperation. I believe we do have an opportunity to address common challenges in a way that makes Russians, Europeans, and Americans safer, and we are committed to working with both Russia and our NATO allies to do so.

We also, of course, discussed the broader range of issues on which we are cooperating beyond security and arms control. For example, we strongly support Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Russia’s membership would allow us to increase trade and deepen our economic ties. Thi is a high priority, and a priority for President Obama and the Administration. It’s part of our broader global effort to promote a rules-based system of economic competition.

We also discussed the increasing emphasis within Russia on democracy, and we obviously, as I have said many times, as our two presidents have discussed, support the rights of Russian civil society to assemble and speak freely, of Russian journalists and bloggers to monitor and report on official actions, and of lawyers and judges to work independently to uphold the rule of law.

I am especially pleased that we were able to reach several new agreements. First, we are signing an agreement on inter-country adoptions. We take very seriously the safety and security of children that are adopted by American parents, and this agreement provides new, important safeguards to protect them. It also increases transparency for all parties involved in the adoption process. And I want to thank Senator Mary Landrieu, the leader of the adoption caucus in the Senate, as well as Congresswoman Karen Bass, who are present with us.

Second, our negotiators have now concluded a visa agreement. We think this is especially important for our businesses, so that business men and women can travel multiple times between our two countries over 36 months on a single visa. This is a big deal for those who are doing business, and we are laying the groundwork for even more trade and travel.

Third, we exchanged diplomatic notes on the U.S. Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. This brings into force a protocol that Sergey and I signed last year that commits both of our countries to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium on each side, the equivalent of some 17,000 nuclear weapons.

And fourth, we are renewing the protocol on the effects of radiation, which allows our scientists to collect and analyze epidemiological data together with the cancer risks that come with exposure to radiation.

Fifth, our national aviation agencies today signed an Air Navigation Services Agreement that will increase air traffic control cooperation, enhance information sharing, and ultimately make even more air traffic between our countries even safer.

This relationship, then, now involves cooperation in many different areas, and the Bilateral Presidential Commission that Presidents Obama and Medvedev began, that Minister Lavrov and I have the honor of co-chairing, has emerged as an important vehicle for pursuing our common interests. And we are very committed to continuing to move our relationship forward. And again, I thank the minister for the excellent work that we have done together.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to say that I fully support the words of Hillary Clinton about the shelling in Mumbai. We condemn the people who organized this act, and we extend our condolences to India and the Government of India.

Counterterrorism has a special place in our cooperation with the United States, and we will be building up this cooperation everywhere, including Afghanistan, Middle and Far East, and other regions in the world. Also, I would like to express my gratitude for the condolences that Madam Clinton has just pronounced about the tragic shipwreck on the Volga River. We appreciate these feelings of the American people towards us, and we are grateful for the warm reception to me and my delegation in the framework of this official visit.

This was a very useful visit and very busy visit. I met Mr. Obama in the White House, and I had negotiations with the State of Secretary yesterday. Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Senate of the United States of America, and yesterday, I also met Russian Americans who have a lot of interesting projects that aim to promote closer cooperation of our countries and also went to the broadcaster who is a Russian broadcaster, Voice of America, and they are starting broadcasting in English in Washington. So we thank you very much for all the cooperation.

And speaking about our talks, I fully agree with the assessment of presidential commission. This was a very effective tool created by the two presidents as being coordinated by the State Department and the foreign ministry. There are 18 working groups who are working to the fullest extent in cooperation – in cooperating. And they have created two additional groups, one for innovation, which is very important for the positive agenda and our cooperation, and the second one is for legal issues, which is also very important in our bilateral dialogue.

We have considered the current priority issues in our relationship, including the situation with – I hope that we will be concluding the process of Russia’s accession to the WTO. And just recently here in Washington, Minister of Economy of Russia Elvira Nabiullina, was here, and during her meeting with President Obama today in the White House, we have fully agreed on the necessity to conclude all the necessary formalities.

We have all the opportunities to do so, and as far as I understood today, there is the political will from the United States, and now experts must be working and they must use the political impulse and translate it into practical agreements on paper. We have paid a lot of attention to strategic stability, and we see that the agreement is being followed closely, is being executed, and the mechanism is functioning quite effectively. This is a bilateral consultative committee which has made a number of practical steps that are being stipulated by the agreement. And we also discussed the importance of mutually acceptable solutions on missile defense. We have noted that President Obama has confirmed his readiness to reach understanding – together with Mr. Medvedev to reach an understanding of common policy and creating strong political framework that will let us to start practical cooperation in this important sphere.

And I would like to also highlight the fact that today, we have signed a number of very important agreements. First of all, I would like to note the agreement on adoption issues. Our negotiating teams have been working very effectively. This was the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Education and Science, and Ombudsman for the Rights of Children Mr. Astakhov, who is today present here. And I think that we will be going towards implementing this agreement, and this will help us get rid of the irritants that have been emerging quite rightfully in the public opinion connected to the destiny of Russian children who were adopted in America. We are very grateful to our American partners for helping us to reach this agreement.

And there are yet – there are two and other agreements that we have signed and prolonged. They have very long names, but they are all about very simple and necessary for everyone. Every person things – those are lowering, minimizing of risks that are connected with radioactive contamination, on health and environment. And the second thing – the second agreement concerns plutonium. It is a very real contribution to nonproliferation regime and enhancing nuclear security.

As the Secretary has just said, we have completed our work on visa regime. It will be formalized very soon. Everything is ready, everything has been agreed, and I may say even that this will open the way to developing our dialogue towards visa-free regime. This aim had been mentioned during Vice President’s – Biden visits to Moscow, and although two years ago probably this idea would have been deemed impossible, today we see that we have all the opportunities to have this kind of aim in our cooperation with the United States, which is being discussed by the European Union today. And about 100 states all over the world have visa-free regime with Russia, including Israel, and this is the precedent.

So concerning bilateral issues, we have made an important stride today towards exercising all those agreements and instructions by the presidents, made at their recent meetings about adoption and visa simplifications. The international part of our discussion concerned not only some specific questions, but systematic problems – the new situation in the international relations, the problems that emerge in different regions, and that are very much connected with the discussion of the way we can use the democratization and rule of law principles to our policies. And I believe it was a very useful conversation about what role of – the United Nations has in these processes. The United States and Russia have confirmed that the – as permanent members of the Security Council, we are very much interested in promoting peace and security globally.

We have discussed many other topics; for example, the situation of the Iranian nuclear threat and Korean Peninsula. This is very important for nonproliferation regime, and this will help us avoid other conflicts. And we also talked about Libya and situation in other eastern and African countries about the situation in Afghanistan. We have been operating – cooperating very closely in various areas. And in the light of Quartet’s meeting yesterday in Washington, which was very useful and it helped our experts to prepare specific documents. We have also discussed the topic of conventional arms in Europe. We are very much interested in finding mutually accepted framework to reach an agreement on the new control of conventional arms in this very important treaty and – which is crucial for Russia and the United States. And I would like to note that we had a very useful – we also talked about our cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, which is also very important. Also we identified that there is a possibility to bring our positions closer in the issues where we still have some misunderstandings like bilateral cooperation and international agenda. And in comparison to previous years, we see these problems as workable, and we understand that in some spheres we do not have converging interests, but we promote same aims, and we maintain dialogue about how to most effectively move to those aims.

And in the end, I would like to say about one symbolic thing. It is 13th of July today, and in 1728 this day, the first expedition of Vitus Bering to Kamchatka started, which proved that Eurasia and America are divided by a gulf. And these days, a group of Americans and Russians are going through the Bering Gulf in commemoration of this historic date. And the day after tomorrow, on the 15th of July, we will mark another memorable day. It’s 270 years since the second St. Paul ship crew headed to Kamchatka leaded by Aleksei Chirikov.

And we talked about Alaska a lot today, and we have a principled solution of presidents about the necessity to develop cooperation in our trips through Bering Gulf, and we spoke about specific projects and events that might be organized that would be very much interesting for people who live in Alaska and Chukotka, and we discussed this today. And also I think this means that we have a new quality to our cooperations. We not only think about strategic things; we also care about our citizens, and I think that this is a lesson for us – the lesson for our cooperation for many years ahead.

MS. NULAND: We have two questions on the American side and two questions on the Russian side. First on the American side, Kirit Radia please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. A question for the both of you. Your French counterpart has said that Colonel Qadhafi is looking for a way out of Libya. There are reports that he is running out of resources, out of fuel for his troops. Can you tell us if you know anything about him being on the ropes? Is there any diplomatic play that could get him out of the country?

And a question for the minister on Syria. Could you explain why Russia has blocked action in the United Nations to condemn the Syrian Government for the crackdown on protestors in Syria? Is it now not time for international action with now more than 1,000 people killed? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: So instead of one, there are three questions.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, yeah. That’s the way it is. I know.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me take the one you directed at me about Libya. The foreign minister and I discussed at length and compared notes today on our respective diplomacy with the TNC, and we very much appreciate the diplomatic work that Russia is doing through its special envoy. We are still getting contradictory signals from Colonel Qadhafi’s camp. He has yet to meet the redlines that are set by the international community to cease violence against his people, withdraw his forces, and step down from power. So although neither of us can predict to you the exact day or hour that Qadhafi will leave power, we do understand and agree that his days are numbered. We will continue to work closely with our international partners, including Russia, to increase the pressure on him and his regime, and we will keep looking for a way to achieve a ceasefire, end the military action, give the Libyan people a chance to plot their own way forward, and I think both Sergey and I believe that the United Nations needs to be in the lead and needs to be helping to organize the international community so that we are ready when that does finally happen.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) And I would like add that for sure the situation around Libya is the case where our position is a bit diverging. This is all about the way the resolution of Security Council is being followed. But in the parentheses, I would like to say that on this topic, we have less misunderstandings with United States than with some European countries. We are unite in that we have to start political process as soon as possible, and we have different channels – official and not very official channels to work through to create conditions for this process. We have voiced out our position for many times, and there is a special presidential envoy, Mr. Margelov who is working actively in the region with both sides of the conflict, and I think that the whole set of the measures being taken by NATO members and Russia and the regional countries as well and also African Union, whose initiative we support, will lead to an agreement to reach a ceasefire and to start negotiations. There is no other way to solve this issue, as any other issue in the modern world.

And speaking about Syria, you are asking why Russia is blocking the resolution that would condemn Asad. Diplomacy does not exist to condemn and start putting on political scores; our goal is to solve problems, but just condemning people without any solution will not lead us to anything. So we believe that the example of approach is our common feeling toward Yemen and our actions with Yemen, we do not propose to condemn – we do not to take – do not want to take resolutions to support one or other country. Russia, European Union, and the Arab League and the Persian Gulf states insist that opposition and the other side would start negotiations and would start following the roadmap, and I’m sure that, for the destiny of the region, for all of our interests, it is absolutely important that we are responsible but not wishy-washy to this situation. And I just want you to understand our position on this.

MS. NULAND: Fayed Andrey Cherkovsky.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My question is to the leaders of the both delegations. You have just signed the adoption agreement; does that mean that the moratorium for adoption by the American families will be lifted soon? And why did it take so long to draw up this document? You even spent less time to work out the START agreement than this issue. Why does it happen so?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) First of all, statistically speaking, it’s not right to say that we worked longer than at the START agreement. I think we managed to do it a bit quicker. And speaking about the second thing, this is the first agreement of such nature that we agreed with Italy, and we prepared it for four years; and today we are going to sign such kind of agreement with Israel. And we reached agreement with the United States not overnight because we had to take into account the legal peculiarities of American legal system, because there are different states who have different legislations that, even for the beginning of the negotiations, we needed to take a very serious political will about American partners.

And that’s why this agreement has become equal, absolutely bilateral; it has guarantees and safeguards for the both sides that would allow people to make sure that an adoptive parent is psychologically stable, that the family has come through a special filter of authorized bodies authorized by the United States Government, and that the adoptive parents provide access of Russian diplomats to the children living in the United States. These are the most important components of this issue, and it is going to be in force very soon. It is now going to be ratified in U.S., but we will be ratifying it so we discussed some technical details that will allow us to speed this process up.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Interruption in audio) – is that I think it was a useful process to share (interruption in audio) common problems. We both want the same outcomes. We want all children – whether they be Russian children or American children – to be able to have loving homes with families that will take good care of them. And, of course, the United States wants to be sure that we meet all of the concerns that the Russian side raised, and we believe we have.

MS. NULAND: From the American side, Arshad Mohammed from Reuters. Please.

QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov – excuse me – yesterday at the Russian embassy you described an approach toward Iran on the nuclear issue, one of what you called a step-by-step process whereby the Iranians might take steps to address some of the IAEA’s concerns, and the P-5+1 in return would take steps to ease the pressure of sanctions. Can you shed – can you give us detail on the kinds of steps you would like to see the Iranians take under such an approach? And Secretary Clinton, can you address the possibility of easing sanctions early in the process? Historically, I think the Administration has been reluctant to do that, because of the feeling that to do so would be to give up your leverage at the start of a negotiation.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) This is yet another example of the fact that there are problems in our agenda. We have the same final aims; this aim is to avoid proliferation of nuclear arms, but, at the same time, we do have some individual approaches concerning the way we move to this goal. And we have some coinciding points here; we have a collective document of 5+1 or 3+3 – whatever you call it – which is supported by the Russian Federation, which contains the proposal of the six to Iran about how to settle all the issues that will allow all of us to see that the character of their nuclear program is absolutely civilian, and restore their rights to this activity. This document has been given to the Iranian side about two years ago as far as I remember, and it specifies everything that has to be done by the Iranian side. It is available for studying; there is nothing sensational about it.

Because everything Iran has to do is based on the requirements of the IAEA, and everything is well known, and these requirements were supposed by the Security Council of the UN. When we of Russia say about the necessity to follow a phased and mutual process, we do not doubt this mutual position of the 3+3 group; we propose, on each requirement of the IAEA, to create some kind of a roadmap, starting from the easiest questions and in the end there will be the most difficult ones that would require time. And we are sure that the response to each specific step of Iran would be followed by some reciprocal step, like freezing some sanctions and shortening the volume of sanctions. And we have formulated our proposals. It has been handed over to American and Chinese partners in the framework of 5+1. Today we discussed this, and we said that the experts will inquire into these things and make a decision.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think as the minster said, we both share the same goal and we have worked together with others to achieve that goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. And we will be sending a team of our experts to consult with Russian experts to discuss ways that we can move forward. I have told Minister Lavrov that we are concerned by the failure of the responses thus far, from Iran to High Representative Ashton, and the resistance of Iran to IAEA requests for further access regarding military-related activities. But nevertheless, we are committed to our dual track of both pressure and engagement, and we want to explore with the Russians ways that we can perhaps pursue more effective engagement strategies.

MS. NULAND: The last question from the Russian side for Maria Tabak of RIA Novosti.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Question is to the – both leaders. You said that you’re going to sign a new visa agreement. Would you please specify the terms of the signing? And what is your prognosis about some obstacles on the way to this agreement, knowing that businesspeople and citizens support the visa simplifications?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Well, the answer is simple. This will happen this year, this is for sure, and it will happen before Christmas, even Catholic Christmas. Speaking about obstacles, there are no such. As I have said, the agreement is absolutely ready. We just have to follow through some formalities, some technical issues. That’s it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s absolutely right, and we are very pleased about this step toward greater visa liberalization between our two countries, and look forward to all the Christmas travel that we’ll see. (Laughter.)

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)


Secretary Clinton on the Russian Ministry of Justice’s Refusal to Register the Party of People’s Freedom (PARNAS)

The United States is disappointed by the refusal of the Russian Ministry of Justice to register the Party of People’s Freedom (PARNAS) today, effectively barring it from legally participating in Russia’s upcoming Duma elections. We are troubled by reports of pressure from authorities in the regions designed to intimidate PARNAS supporters, prompting them to resign positions or disavow their signatures on required lists. The right to hold free, fair, competitive elections is a universal principle that the Russian Government has repeatedly endorsed.

It is hard to understand how this decision today by the Ministry of Justice is consistent with Russia’s international commitments and recent statements by Russia’s own leaders. We urge the authorities to investigate the reports of irregularities in the PARNAS registration process to ensure that the procedures used to deny registration of this party were consistent with Russian laws and international standards.


Assistant Secretary Posner’s Remarks to the U.S. – Russia Civil Society Working Group

Co-Chairman Surkov, Co-Chairman McFaul, distinguished fellow participants in the Civil Society Working Group (CSWG): Welcome to you all. It is a pleasure to see many of you again and to meet new colleagues. I hope our deliberations today will deepen and expand the discussions we held last year in Russia.

I would like especially to acknowledge Ombudsman Lukin and thank him for his principled and dedicated efforts on behalf of the rights of his countrymen and women. His valuable and constructive support of the role of Russian civil society is helping to establish the foundation for a democratic Russia in the 21st century.

The working group discussions last year included an exchange on experiences from both countries, set in the context of relevant international obligations and commitments. Today, I would like to build on those discussions and on the exchange of views that are taking place today and offer some thoughts on the way forward.

The working group best exemplifies what President Obama called for in his meeting with civil society activists at the parallel summit in July 2009—a reset not only between our two governments but between our two societies. He recognized that the reset needed to be broader than arms control and security, to focus on common opportunity and “the future of progress and prosperity that we build together.”

Each of the working group topics – child protection, corruption, migration and prison reform – is compelling and complex in its own way. None of these issues is unique to Russia or the United States; they are shared challenges. Yet, we know that every choice or model or measure that works for Russia is not going to work for the United States. But in the many meetings and discussions we have had over the last year on these subjects, we are demonstrating that we can learn from each other.

Moreover, by helping to facilitate partnerships between American NGOS and activists and their Russian peers, we are giving them the chance to show that the best ideas and solutions come from engaging at the grassroots level, with ordinary citizens who are involved in their communities and in their countries to mobilize change.

There are many other opportunities for partnerships and there are still many challenges that we should be meeting together.

Each of these topics is also relevant to the broader topic of security and human rights. We expect our governments and law enforcement to provide a basic level of security to our people – for example, to protect them from those who would do harm, such as terrorists or criminal elements. At the same time, many societies, including the United States and Russia, are grappling with the appropriate mechanisms and venues for detention, interrogation and prosecution of those suspected of national security violations.

In the United States, we have been engaged in a sometimes painful national debate about the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The Obama Administration remains committed to transferring or trying all suspects and eventually closing the facility at Guantanamo, but the process has proved much longer and difficult than we had anticipated.

In the post 9-11 world, we face other new challenges, as does every sovereign government. We seek to regulate migration into our country to ensure that it takes place legally, but also safely and in a manner that ensures the safety, dignity and human rights of migrants. That is a huge challenge for a country such as ours with long borders and one of the most open societies in the world. Our country has been enriched culturally and economically by migration. American families and businesses have extensive ties overseas. We strive to strike the right balance between security and our openness, which serves both our interests and reflects our values as nation.

As noted in President Obama’s National Security Strategy, we reject as false the choice between the pursuit of our security interests and our values. In all of the areas that our working groups are discussing today, we strongly believe human rights values and security interests are more likely to be effectively advanced when governments and civil society work together. Indeed, we believe that respecting and supporting human rights at home and abroad is integral to our domestic wellbeing and our national security.

Fundamental to our success will be sustaining vibrant and open civil societies. I believe the way forward — for Russia, the U.S. and other nations — lies in getting five crucial elements right:

First, consistent with our meetings here today, there must be an engaged and informed civil society. Governments must meet their responsibilities in each of these spheres, but governments alone cannot resolve all of these challenges. They must work in partnership with experts and advocates from civil society. Many of you here today can attest to the value of initiatives resulting from such interaction and partnership. We note with regret that even as U.S. and Russian activists are gathered in Washington to discuss these issues, a brutal attack took place in Moscow against Bakhrom Khamroyev, an activist of the highly-respected Memorial human rights enter. Mr. Khamroyev was badly beaten by unknown assailants in what appears to be a clear attack against him for the work he was doing on behalf of Memorial. We condemn this attack on Mr. Khamroyev. We call on the authorities to work quickly to bring the perpetrators to justice. Governments must take extra measures to protect human rights defenders when they come under attack.

Second, progress requires a free media. Media freedom is essential to raising public awareness, identifying problems, opening discussion, and bringing problems to light so that corrective action can be taken. The role of a free and independent media is especially crucial — and especially challenging — in combating corruption and other abuses of power, whether on the part of elements of government or powerful corporate interests. I came of age in the Watergate era, a tumultuous time both socially and politically in this country. Two tenacious and courageous journalists and their newspaper exposed abuses of power at the highest levels of our government. And, in the end, our constitutional system of checks and balances allowed us to address official misconduct. The role of media as watchdog is not always comfortable for me or other government officials and for powerful private interests, but an independent media is essential to the integrity of any democracy, U.S. democracy included. The state needs to be in the forefront of protecting freedom of the press, providing a secure environment that ensures the safety of journalists who investigate corruption or criticize government officials or policy. When journalists die in war zones, it is a tragedy, but in some ways understandable, as they are placing themselves in harm’s way to report the story. But when journalists in a country at peace are nonetheless the victims of violence because of their work, it should serve as an alarm bell to governments.

This year, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that Russia has made measurable progress in addressing serious problems of impunity for violence committed against journalists. Senior Russian investigative officials reopened several unsolved cases involving journalists who were murdered. Prosecutors won convictions in the 2009 murder of reporter Anastasiya Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov. And last week’s arrest in the case of Anna Politkovskaya was an important achievement. But as civil society activists are advocating, there also needs to be progress in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the remaining unsolved murder cases, such as those of journalists Paul Klebnikov and Natalia Estemirova.

Governments must also protect those journalists working in new media. In this regard, as our colleagues here in the anti-corruption field can attest, the growth of the Internet has brought tremendous opportunities for journalists and bloggers to shed light on corruption and for governments to become more transparent. Increasingly, these bloggers develop a following, like Alexei Navalny, who has captivated Russia with his innovative approaches to combating corruption. But they also have suffered physical attacks as a result of their work, and there are far too many efforts by the state to harass or bring charges against them in an attempt to pressure them to stop their inquiries. Both President Obama and President Medvedev have embraced the potential of the Internet in connecting government with the public and in combating corruption. We share the challenge and obligation of protecting those journalists who criticize us.

Third, an overarching climate of respect for the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly is fundamental to a robust civil society and a free media. These principles are also firmly rooted in international human rights instruments, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Here in the United States we have a long history of citizens who assemble, sometimes in the face of brutal resistance, to press for their rights. Peaceful demonstrations were instrumental in achieving women’s suffrage, labor rights, civil rights for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people with disabilities. And we have learned through our national experience — at times a painful experience — that our democracy is the better for it. Today, we have a vocal citizenry that consists of individuals who exercise their right to assemble and express their views, often in large numbers.

People in our country express passionate views on every conceivable issue, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to political figures and their agendas, to globalization, the environment, health care, migration reform, and tax policy. The overwhelming majority of these demonstrations take place without any significant incident or restriction. Police work to ensure that all demonstrators can exercise their rights in safety and that other citizens are able to proceed with their activities. In the relatively few cases where there are allegations that unreasonable restrictions have been imposed on demonstrators, or law enforcement has overstepped its authority, these charges are taken seriously and investigated.

Governments, including through law enforcement, must work to ensure an environment in which all citizens can exercise their fundamental freedoms. Our primary emphasis must be on the exercise of rights, not on the restriction of those rights. Of course, there are times when it is challenging for local governments to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly and make sure demonstrations can be held in a peaceful fashion. You may have read about the case of Terry Jones, a Christian pastor who has burned the Koran and who attempted to hold an anti-Sharia demonstration in front of a mosque in the city of Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large Muslim population. The city denied him permission to hold the demonstration in front of the mosque on the grounds that it could incite a riot, saying he could demonstrate elsewhere, and Jones is appealing a court decision requiring him to than pay a $1 peace bond. Civil society groups have held inter-faith demonstrations in support of the Muslim community of Dearborn, and civil liberties groups have defended Jones’ constitutional right to free speech even though many Americans deem what he is saying to be highly offensive. So Dearborn has been having a lively public debate and the media have been covering the story very closely.

And as the Dearborn example shows, in our country it seems that each generation rediscovers for itself the value of the freedom of assembly – the universal right of people to gather together, voice views, share ideas and urge change. And each generation learns that this freedom is essential to a strong society that taps the talent and creativity of its people. We have been following the Strategy 31 demonstrations held in various Russian cities, so named after Article 31 of the Russian Constitution which protects freedom of assembly. Like others in Russia and in the international community, we have observed that authorities in Moscow are allowing some Article 31 demonstrations, while disrupting others. Freedom of assembly takes on even greater significance in this pre-election season. We echo serious concerns expressed by many members of Russian civil society that last week’s demonstrations in St. Petersburg and Moscow were broken up by police. We also noted that last month, for the sixth year in a row, Moscow authorities refused permission for an NGO to hold a parade for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender pride. We believe these and all individuals have equal rights to hold peaceful protests and see no legal justification for denying such a request. We also share concerns about reports of and attacks by private security guards, police, and other parties on activists associated with the Khimki Forest environmental campaign. Whether in Dearborn or Khimki Forest, our governments have the obligation to protect peaceful demonstrators, even when they are critical of government or expressing unpopular views. Freedom of assembly is integral to freedom of religion. We share concerns about police raids on places of worship and subsequent detentions of minority religious groups.

The fourth essential ingredient for progress is adherence to the rule of law. Within our society, we frequently see that the rule of law, including an independent judiciary, is a powerful recourse for the most vulnerable, including the people that many of you work with — children, migrants, persons in confinement and minorities of all stripes. The rule of law and an independent judiciary help protect their human rights, obtain justice, and redress grievances.

For example, a few weeks ago the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a court order mandating a state prison population reduction in California. This was necessary to remedy violations of persons’ constitutional rights resulting from overcrowding in California’s state prison system. The court ordered the prison system to reduce the number of prisoners held by 55,000 within three years. This court decision made the front pages of our major newspapers and headlined newscasts on our leading television networks. It underscores the fact that an independent judiciary can and does protect the human rights of all individuals. This is an important corrective mechanism.

We applaud President Medvedev for speaking out in support of the rule of law and judicial reforms and for creating an atmosphere that has permitted progress in some areas. We hope the Russian media and Russian organizations and institutions, like their American counterparts, will continue to scrutinize the justice system, support improvements and speak out about challenges. For example, we continue to be concerned by the lack of progress in the investigation into Sergei Magnitsky’s 2009 death of deliberate medical neglect in a Moscow prison. We join President Medvedev’s in calling for justice in Magnitsky’s death, when he said last month that there “should be an objective, thorough and comprehensive investigation conducted quickly and its findings must be presented to the public.”

The fifth requirement for countries to succeed in a 21st century world is transparent, accountable, responsive government. By this I mean governmental systems with built-in checks on abuse of governmental power, independent oversight structures, and free and fair contested election processes that permit a free airing of issues of concern. The run-up to elections is always a season of heightened civic awareness and activism. Media and public interest in social and political issues intensifies. This is a good thing – it connects people to their governments and prompts politicians to respond to the issues their voters care about, and that is precisely what makes democracies work better for their citizens. Free and fair elections renew and reinvigorate the compact between citizens and their government. In this country, we already see the parties, the political hopefuls, the public and the press organizing themselves for our Presidential elections in November, 2012. We welcome international attention to our elections and international monitoring of them.

When the five elements that I have just described are present – a robust civil society, media freedom, respect for fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and accountable government – we are convinced countries tend to be more resilient, adaptive and capable of addressing tough issues, including the challenging ones on which all of you are working. Citizens feel the system will treat them fairly, and that gives them a stake in its success. Investors feel the legal system will treat them fairly, and they are more inclined to invest and reinvest. But where civil society is weak, government is unresponsive, corruption corrodes the rule of law and undermines citizens’ trust in authorities and institutions, and marginalized populations have little expectation that they will be treated fairly, citizen have less stake in the success of their own societies. And these countries tend to be less able to cope with change, less stable and ultimately, less successful.

Of course these five elements of sustainable democracy are much easier to describe than to put into practice. Even under the best of circumstances, progress on these complicated issues will take years of concerted effort by governments and citizens alike. But as Secretary Clinton has said: “Democracies demonstrate their greatness not by insisting they are perfect, but by using their institutions and their principles to make themselves… more perfect.”

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton all have expressed their strong support for a democratic, modern and successful Russia governed by the rule of law. Expanding the ability of Russian individuals and groups to exercise their basic rights will help Russia become the strong, rules-based, peaceful and prosperous democracy we all desire.

And now, I look forward to hearing from you.


Charge d’Affaires Fuller’s Statement on Concern about Freedom of Assembly in Russia

We note with continued concern that in Moscow on Saturday, May 28, a peaceful demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counter-protesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups, including American citizens. Some protestors were seriously injured according to media reports and participants’ statements.

This is now the sixth year in a row that peaceful assembly by an LBGT group wishing to hold a pride parade has been banned. In two separate judgments, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against unlawful restrictions or bans against the exercise of freedom of assembly by LGBT persons in the context of the organization of Pride parades.

While we acknowledge improvements made earlier this year in Moscow allowing certain rallies highlighting the right to peacefully assembly, we note with concern that detentions and dispersals of other right-to-assembly protesters still regularly occur. We are troubled by the detention of dozens of peaceful demonstrators in Moscow and St. Petersburg during the Strategy 31 protest on May 31.

Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right to which all participating States of the OSCE are committed, as enshrined in Copenhagen and Paris in 1990, in Helsinki in 2008, and reaffirmed at the Astana Summit. As nationwide parliamentary and presidential elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens to gather peacefully and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process. We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Deputy Spokesman Toner on U.S. Concern About Freedom of Assembly in Russia

We note with concern that in Moscow on Saturday, May 28, a peaceable demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counter-protesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups, including American citizens. Some protestors were seriously injured according to media reports.

Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right all members of the OSCE committed to, including in the Moscow declaration and as recently as the Astana summit. As nationwide legislative elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens peacefully to gather and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process. We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms.


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