SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and let me begin by saying what an absolute pleasure it is to be back in Turkey and especially in this absolutely glorious city of Istanbul. And I want to thank the Turkish Government for hosting today’s meeting of the Libya Contact Group, which was very productive.
Before I discuss today’s events, I want to express my sincere condolences for the soldiers killed in Southeast Turkey yesterday. As friends of Turkey, the United States grieves with the people of Turkey. As allies, we salute the resolve not to be intimidated by terrorists who threaten the stability of the entire region, and we will continue to stand with Turkey in its efforts to defeat this threat. This is a message that I will be conveying directly to President Gul when we meet later this evening.
We accomplished important things in today’s meeting of the Libya Contact Group. We heard from the TNC about its plans for setting Libya on a path toward security and progress in the post-Qadhafi era. The TNC gave us important assurances regarding its intention to pursue democratic reform that is inclusive geographically and politically, and to uphold Libya’s international obligations and to disburse funds in a transparent manner, to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people.
The United States is impressed by the progress the TNC has made in laying the groundwork for a successful transition to a unified democratic Libya which protects the rights of all of its citizens, including women and minority groups.
The assurances the TNC offered today reinforce our confidence that it is the appropriate interlocutor for the United States in dealing with Libya’s present and addressing Libya’s future. That is why I announced earlier that until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis. In contrast, the United States views the Qadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya.
We still have to work through various legal issues, but we expect this step on recognition will enable the TNC to access additional sources of funding. We will be consulting with the TNC and our international partners in the most effective and appropriate method of doing this. In the meantime, we are pleased that our partners have contributed money to the temporary financial mechanism or they have provided direct financial support to the TNC.
Today, I also had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Europe and the Gulf, across the region, on the full range of issues we are dealing with from Yemen to Syria to Egypt and Tunisia. So it’s been a full and very constructive day here in Istanbul, and I am very grateful that Turkey has hosted this important meeting and welcomed us to Istanbul so warmly. And I thank our partners in the Contact Group for another meeting that has advanced our shared goal of a peaceful, stable, democratic Libya.
Now I’d be glad to take your questions.
MS. NULAND: Time for two questions. First question, William Wan, Washington Post.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you talk a little bit about the process that led you here, why it took (inaudible) past five months to get to this point? And then secondly, can you talk more specifically about what in Mr. Jibril’s presentation or comments put your mind at ease enough to take this step? How will they open up the council to get at that geographic, political inclusiveness you mentioned?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. With our decision today, the U.S. does recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority of Libya. We did take time to analyze the situation, to watch developments, to both hear from and see evidence of actions taken by the TNC that accord with both their statements and their stated aspirations as well as our values. And we have also been encouraged by the outreach that has come from Benghazi throughout the country so that more and more areas of the country are being represented in the decision making of the TNC.
And ultimately and in keeping with the TNC’s own roadmap, we saw a way forward from the authority that we are recognizing being exercised by the TNC toward a Libyan-owned and Libyan-executed plan for a broad, inclusive interim body that will serve as the mechanism for a transition to elections and a full democracy. So we really acted in warp time in diplomatic terms, but we took our time to make sure that we were doing so based on the best possible assessments.
And today we heard again, as I have now heard in private and in public from Mr. Jibril and the other representatives of the TNC, what their plans are, how they are folding in to their governing mechanism local councils and their representatives. They are particularly focused on working with those in the West who are taking the fight to Qadhafi’s forces there. They’re continuing reassurance and recommitment to the kind of political process that we think will lead to a democracy. We believe them. We believe that’s what they intend to do. We are well aware of how difficult and challenging the road ahead of them is. We are a long way toward the kind of implementation that we all seek. We can watch what’s happening in their neighbors, which had strong institutions and long histories of those institutions working, how difficult it is to move from one kind of regime to a democracy. And here we have a country in Libya where it was part of Colonel Qadhafi’s modus operandi and modus vivendi, actually, to have no institutions. And so we think they have made great strides and are on the right path.
MS. NULAND: Last question, Michel Ghandour, Al Hurra.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, you discussed Syria with the EU and other foreign ministers. Have you asked them to increase pressure on Asad regime, and will you ask President Hu to do so?
Second, the new Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has said that – from Syria that nobody can withdraw the legitimacy of a leader because it’s up to the people to decide. What’s your reaction to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have had, as you might guess, a number of discussions today with our colleagues about Syria. I think we all share the same opinion, that what we are seeing from the Asad regime in its barrage of words, false promises, and accusations is not being translated into any path forward for the Syrian people. And it is ultimately the responsibility of the Syrian people to choose and chart their own course.
We have said that Syria can’t go back to the way it was before, that Asad has lost his legitimacy in the eyes of his people because of the brutality of their crackdown, including today. And we, along with many others in the region and beyond, have said we strongly support a democratic transition. But we also are well aware that the ultimate destiny of the Syrian regime and the Syrian people lies with the people themselves.
And I think this is still an unfolding situation. I don’t think we know how the opposition in Syria will be able to conduct itself or what kind of avenues for action are open to it. But I think we’ve made our views very clear, and the messages coming into Syria are remarkably similar, from everyone that I spoke with today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: (Via interpreter) Distinguished members of the press, today we have a very important friend with us, and we are hosting — and I’m very pleased to be hosting her in Istanbul and is Secretary of State of the U.S., Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Right after the fourth Contact Group meeting yesterday in order to complete our bilateral meeting, we worked together today. And I would like to welcome her again. And the United States and the Turkish relations are the best structures — are among the best structures, diplomatic relations of the world — of the modern world. After long years of war and after — before that as well, so the Turkish-U.S. relationships have always had their specific characteristics, and they have contributed to the global peace, and they have been very strategic. And over the recent times with esteemed Obama and Clinton, this tradition has continued in a strong way. And in the visit of the esteemed Obama, he — so we have gone beyond being strategic allies, and there is a modern partnership. Over the last two or three years, we have had very intense diplomatic contacts, and this has become obvious and important again.
In our relationships — relations with the United States not only in the field of security, but also in the economic and also diplomatic areas, we are determined to maximize them. And for this reason, over the recent months, my (inaudible), which I have talked to recently over the recent months has been Mrs. Clinton. We have talked on the phone very often. And so the previous telephone conversation transferred some of the items of the agenda to the next one. And on our latest phone call, we decided to meet in Istanbul and make a discussion and also an evaluation. And in the deliberations we had yesterday, it was impossible for us to talk about all the agenda — both Mr. Obama and also his Excellency, President Abdullah Gul. So we are trying to do what it takes to be model partners. In our today’s talks, we talked about regional issues and also developments in the Middle East and also the influences and impacts of these developments on the region. And also we shared — we exchanged information and also ideas about this and also some developments in the (inaudible) and following the (inaudible) meeting and also the latest point that reached in the relations of Armenia.
And so we also discussed very extensively and also in the Bosnia-Herzegovina as there is a functioning (inaudible). We also talked about the importance of a functioning state in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the Balkan world and between Serbia and Kosovo. We also reiterated and shared the support (inaudible) extent for these relationships. And also in the context of developments in the Middle East, and we have talked about the latest developments in our relationships between Turkey and Israel. In addition to this, the Turkey-EU relations and also the latest point reached in the negotiations about Cyprus. So we’ve had the potential to share — exchange information about this and all these very extensive (inaudible) and in this beautiful Istanbul air, I’m very pleased to have — we are very pleased to have discussed all these issues.
Due to the latest PKK attacks and as it is the case all the time, cooperation against terrorism has always been — has been one of the primary items of our agenda for this reason, and we talked about the need and we emphasized the need for the solidarity against terrorism and so the Turkish-EU — I’m sorry, U.S. relationship will be used in the best way — in the most effective way. I would like to welcome her once again, and I believe that we’ll be in contact from now on, and we’ll be having very often negotiations, and we are going to continue to manage all these issues again. So I would like to welcome Mrs. Clinton and her very esteemed — her distinguished delegation.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister. And let me say how much of a pleasure it is personally for me to be with you here in Istanbul and what a great honor it is to represent my country in these important discussions.
Let me begin by once again offering our condolences for the loss of Turkish soldiers in Southeast Turkey. As I told the foreign minister and as I told President Gul last night and as I will repeat to the prime minister when I shortly see him, the United States stands with our ally, Turkey, against terrorism and threats to internal and regional stability. Our commitments to Turkey and its security is rock solid and unwavering.
Two years ago in Ankara, President Obama pledged to renew the alliance between the United States and Turkey, and especially to focus on the friendship between the Turkish and American people. Today, we can say with confidence that our bonds are sound, our friendship is sure, and our alliance is strong. Our partnership is rooted in a long history and a very long list of mutual interests, but most importantly it is rooted in our common democratic values. It is through the lens of this shared democratic tradition that the United States welcomes Turkey’s rise as an economic power, as a leader in the region and beyond, and as a valued ally on the most pressing global challenges.
I’d like to say just a few words about the future of our relationship and why I believe it is so important to both our nations. First, on the economic front, because of the seriousness of the strategic issues we confront together, the economic dimensions of our relationship can too often be overlooked. But as President Gul and President Obama have affirmed, the growing economic cooperation between Turkey and America is providing new energy to us both. So far this year, trade between us is up more than 50 percent. That means more jobs and greater prosperity in both our countries. But we see even greater potential ahead and we are committed to furthering and expanding trade and investment. We are both entrepreneurial peoples, and the more we work together, the more creativity and talent we will unleash. So I am delighted that Turkey will host the second Global Entrepreneurship Summit here in Istanbul later this year, building on the progress that we made last year in Washington.
There’s also a chance to foster even closer ties between our people, our businesses, and our communities. For example, in the run-up to the summit, the public-private initiative called Partners for a New Beginning is working with the Coca-Cola Company, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, and other partners to offer Turkish women entrepreneurs new seed grants, training, and mentoring.
Through our Global Entrepreneurship Program and other initiatives, we are working with Turkish high schools and universities to link the next generation of Turkish business leaders with young counterparts in the United States.
Today, the foreign minister and I discussed additional ways we can further strengthen our ties. Turkey’s upcoming constitutional reform process presents an opportunity to address concerns about recent restrictions that I heard about today from young Turks about the freedom of expression and religion, to bolster protections for minority rights, and advance the prospects for EU membership, which we wholly and enthusiastically support.
We also hope that a process will include civil society and parties from across the political spectrum. And of course, I hope that sometime soon we can see the reopening of the Halki Seminary that highlights Turkey’s strength of democracy and its leadership in a changing region.
I think across the region, people from the Middle East and North Africa particularly are seeking to draw lessons from Turkey’s experience. It is vital that they learn the lessons that Turkey has learned and is putting into practice every single day. Turkey’s history serves as a reminder that democratic development depends on responsible leadership, and it’s important that that responsible leadership help to mentor the next generation of leaders in these other countries.
So I am excited that we are here and we have talked about all the issues that the foreign minister has mentioned, from, of course, the successful meeting of the Contact Group yesterday about Libya, the situation in Syria, what is happening in Afghanistan, where Turkish troops are training Afghan forces to take on their own security, and of course, our mutual efforts against violent extremism, against terrorists, including the PKK.
So again, let me thank the foreign minister for his hospitality and for the breadth of our discussion. And it seems like our conversation never stops, Foreign Minister, so I look forward to the next chapter.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. This is for both of you. Madam, this is on the Syrian opposition.
Madam Secretary, there was a meeting of the Syrian opposition today. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what it’s going to take for the U.S. to show some support for the opposition, start dealing with them a little bit more. What would you like to see in terms of a viable opposition before you engage with them, and what do you think of this conference today?
And for the foreign minister, can you talk about Turkey’s contacts with the opposition and whether you think this is the type of opposition that could work towards a democratic transition in Syria? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me begin by saying that the foreign minister and I discussed our shared interest in seeing an end to the violence and a respect for the will of the Syrian people for political and economic reform. Yesterday, we witnessed the largest demonstrations to date in Syria, an effort to try to convey directly to the government the pent-up desire of the Syrian people for the kind of reforms that they have been promised. And at the same time, we saw continued brutality by the government against peaceful protest.
Now, Syria’s future is up to the Syrian people, but of course, the efforts by the opposition to come together, to organize, to be able to articulate an agenda, are an important part of political reform. And we believe that every country should permit such organizing and the support of opposition. We think that makes for more accountable, more effective government. So we’re encouraged by what we see of the Syrian people doing for themselves. This is not anything the United States or any other country is doing. It’s what the Syrians are doing, trying to form an opposition that can provide a pathway, hopefully in peaceful cooperation with the government, to a better future.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) including Syria, of course, our approach is really explicit within the region and it depends on some sort of principles. And we’ve got two basic principles. The first one is with our peaceful and brotherly countries within the region, we want to – we want them to continue the political will in a more democratic way. Of course, they have to (inaudible), they have to consider the demands of the society. If there is a political system which doesn’t consider the demand of the public, then it won’t be viable for that political system to survive. That’s why in Syria we feel the need to experience a reformation process which takes into account the demand of the public society. And of course, this transformation should not be (inaudible) in a ways that brings about conflict and also violence.
So we want the Syrian brotherly country to start the transformation process at once and we don’t want the Syrian Government to use excessive violence on the public. One of the most important principle of a political transformation is to have an opposition, of course, with (inaudible) negotiation with (inaudible). He had mentioned that they were going to have a multi-political group within the parliament. Of course, we want this to take place in Syria with a natural process. I hope that the Syrian country has got opposition parties, and we would like the opposition parties to raise their voice and to have a common point of view in the end. We want the Syrian sustainability to be strengthened and we want a more sound and viable political system within Syria.
And with the meeting that took place in Turkey, we, from the very beginning, have stated that Turkey is a democratic country (inaudible) meetings to take place in Istanbul in Turkey. This is a natural conclusion that is brought by the democratic environment in Turkey, and there in our country we also run meetings which criticizes the democratic aspects of Turkey as well. And we are not in a position – we don’t want to be commented as a country which interferes with the domestic affairs of Syria. I wish that in the Damascus, for instance, such meetings were to be held so as for those reformations to be concluded, as long as the meetings do not bring about any conflict, any violence. Of course, these meetings can take place. This isn’t a bad will that we show against Syria. All these meetings are for the sake of Syria to come up with a sound transformation, reformation. Of course, there are opposing ideas due to the political system of Syria. They also take place in Istanbul in Turkey. I hope that Syria is going to come more powerfully, more strongly, at the end of this process with a more sound democratic environment.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) I am sorry (inaudible), but I would like to ask my question to the guest (inaudible). Secretary, in Cyprus you want the negotiations to be sped up and you want it to be concluded by 2012. Mr. Davutoglu – if this happens, Davutoglu says that the relations can be frozen between the European Union and Cyprus. So what is your approach for a referendum that is going to take place in Cyprus in regard to speeding up negotiations of Cyprus? Do you want to take a more active role if such a referendum takes place? And do you see a risk between the relations between you and Turkey if this referendum were to take place?
SECRETARY CLINTON: First of all, as you probably know, the United States very actively promoted the referendum that was presented to the population of Cyprus back in 2005 – right, 2004. And we were disappointed by the outcome, because we thought that that would have resolved a lot of the issues that are still being very difficult to overcome. We don’t think the status quo on Cyprus benefits anyone. It’s gone on for far too long. We believe both sides would benefit from a settlement, and we strongly support the renewed, reenergized efforts that the United Nations is leading and that the Cypriots themselves are responsible for, because ultimately, they’re the ones who have to make the hard decisions about how to resolve all of the outstanding issues.
We want to see a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and we would like to see it as soon as possible. We would like to see it by 2012. And that is something that the UN has said. That’s something I know Turkey believes. It’s something we believe. And we’re going to do everything we can to support this process and finally try to see a resolution.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. (In Turkish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, we’re done. Oh, okay.
FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Do you want a couple more questions? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, no. (Laughter.)
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Madam, Secretary, thank you very much for joining us. It’s a great pleasure to have you here with us this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, truly thank you, and thanks to everyone who is here with us on such a beautiful day. I am very grateful to have this chance just to talk with you and to talk with the audience members.
MS. PAYZIN: By the way, what a beautiful color you have. Such a –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I just saw your ring. (Laughter.) It’s one of my favorite colors. Absolutely.
MS. PAYZIN: Exactly. It bring a great luck.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what I’m told. And I need all the luck I can get. So — (laughter).
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) We’re going to get some questions also from Peter and emails.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
MS. PAYZIN: So shall we begin?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we shall.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. We have many questions, of course about women issues and social issues and also maybe sports, but let’s begin with the politics.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
MS. PAYZIN: You came yesterday for serious talks about Libya and have to end the conflict in this country, and you conveyed very important messages, too. But the situation in Turkey is, at the same time, pretty tense because 13 Turkish soldiers have been killed near Diyarbakir, and there is a huge, very strong angry reaction from the public against PKK. On the other hand, elected Turkish parliamenters are still boycotting Turkish parliament, and they called for autonomy in this region.
So from your perspective, what is your reaction? How do you see the situation? How do you view the situation in Turkey?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how pleased I am to be back in Turkey. I have enjoyed coming here since the 1990s as a First Lady along with my husband and then as a senator and now as the Secretary of State. And I think the relationship between Turkey and the United States is so important because we have a lot of common concerns and also common shared values.
One of our shared concerns is about terrorism, and the United States has strongly supported Turkey in the efforts to try to eliminate terrorism, like the terrible attack on the soldiers the other day. I condemned it yesterday and I condemned it the day before when it happened. I think the key for both of our countries is to maintain our strong, vibrant, democratic institutions, our pluralist societies, our respect for the wonderful differences among us that make life interesting, but to give no quarter to terrorists. I mean, if people want to participate in the political system and they wish to put forth ideas that I may not agree with or you may not agree with, but they do it peacefully within a democratic process, that’s the way democracy should work. But they must give up violence and they must denounce it, and they cannot be associated with it if they expect to be part of the political system.
So certainly these are all decisions for the Turkish people to make, but I have been involved in many conflicts around the world in working for peace, in working to bring differences together over the divides that too often separate us. And I think we have to draw a very, very sharp line between peaceful protest, political participation, and use of violence and terrorism. And that is just absolutely something that has to be condemned and outlawed and punished very strongly.
MS. PAYZIN: Is there any official stand regarding this declaration of autonomy in this region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
MS. PAYZIN: United States has any reaction to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, that’s something that is certainly – that’s totally a Turkish domestic matter.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. So I’ve got many questions about, actually, U.S.-PKK relations. Somehow, even though you’ve made several declarations and remarks about the issue, Turkish public has still doubts about U.S. stands towards PKK. They believe that you are supporting or you are not doing enough — you are not putting enough efforts to stop PKK. What would you say that? How would you answer to those questions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s absolutely untrue. And perhaps we need to do a better job of describing the very close cooperation that exists between the United States military and intelligence services with the Turkish military and the Turkish intelligence services. We have cooperated very closely in Iraq. We continue to provide intelligence whenever we get it. We were very grateful that Turkish authorities broke up an al-Qaida plot that was aimed at American targets in Ankara just a few days ago. We are in constant communication, and the United States put the PKK on our terrorist list, which is the most public way we can condemn the PKK.
So I really hope to disabuse anyone of thinking that. It’s just absolutely not true. But Åžirin, you raise a question that I really want to address because I get the feeling sometimes that we don’t do a good enough job communicating between our two countries and that there are some beliefs or opinions that Turkish people have that are just not true. And so part of the reason I wanted to come here today and especially to address young people who are the future of Turkey and the future of our relationship is to get those questions so that I can do the best possible job in trying to respond to them. So I thank you for asking it because I want to make it absolutely clear we condemn PKK, we do not support PKK, and we’re working with Turkish authorities to prevent any violence that they might wish to inflict upon the Turkish people.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. Now questions. Who wants to start? Yes, the gentleman who is behind. Microphone. Your name and favorite question, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). Madam, do you have — does America have the solution to the matters like — solution proposal like Cyprus any plans, like a solution made by (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: For the Kurdish matter?
QUESTION: Like, do you have a solution for Kurdish matter, like put forth by (inaudible) for Cyprus?
MS. PAYZIN: (Inaudible) plan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So do we have a solution for the Kurdish matter, like a proposal that was made for the Cyprus matter?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. First of all, I think it’s important for me to say that we respect and support the Turkish Government in how it deals with the internal matters related to the Kurdish people within Turkey, and we support the democratically elected Iraqi Government in dealing with Kurdish matters within Iraq. But I will make a general point about how to deal with these historical and seemingly intractable problems, because I know that there are people from all parts of Turkey here today. And I am a very strong believer in opening up the political process as widely as possible, in respecting the cultural differences that exist between us, but doing so in a way that promotes a strong, unified, democratic society.
Now, that’s perhaps because I come from a country where everybody comes from somewhere else, and I am privileged to work with people and have always been involved with people who come from all over the world who maintain their religion, maintain their cultural ties, maintain their often family ties with their homelands. So I think that moving toward the broadest possible democratic participation so that Kurdish Turks can feel fully a part of Turkey while still believing that they can maintain those aspects of their Kurdish identity that are important to them, and again, I would stress, drawing the line at any violence or terrorism, because that is not the way you make change in democratic societies.
I spent many years along with my husband working on the problems in Northern Ireland and how to get more participation and involvement in both the political process and the labor market for Catholics who lived in Northern Ireland. Now, it was not easy and it is still not done, but we’ve made progress. Similarly, as I look around the world, I see other countries that are struggling. So I don’t have any plan, because it’s really up to the Turkish people, but I think there are certain principles that can be the guiding lights that are rooted in democratic values and that draw the line at violence. And I would certainly urge that people here in Turkey look at that.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay, a very brief follow-up. Are you disappointed by this action government because they slow down towards democratization?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I mean, I’m not here to judge the Turkish Government. That’s up to the Turkish people. You just had a very vigorous election and the election was, from everything that I read about it and watched of it, a hard-fought election. And I think it was another strong validation of the vibrant democracy that Turkey has.
But I believe that any government has to be held accountable, has to be transparent. You need a strong opposition in any government. You need checks and balances. Those are the things that I believe in because that’s the way our American system has been successful. And yet I know people looking from the outside at our system sometimes don’t understand it and think, “What are they doing? Why are they so difficult in making decisions?” So every system is unique, but there are, again, certain values that we have learned over time are essential for a democracy. And I know you’re thinking about doing a constitutional reform process, and I strongly believe in protecting people’s rights in constitutions, because there is so much diversity in Turkey. It’s one of the things that is so attractive about Turkey, and you don’t want to do anything that undermines or denies that diversity.
So I think what Turkey has accomplished in the last several decades is remarkable, and I just want to see Turkey get stronger and more prosperous and have your democratic institutions be even more durable and be an example for so many of the countries that themselves are trying to figure out how to make political and economic reforms.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for being here with us. My name is (inaudible), expert from (inaudible) agency. I’ve got two short questions. First is Turkey have recorded an 11 percent of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2011 and have been enjoying an outstanding performance in economic and financial issues lately. Then what’s your estimation of Turkish economy in following 20 or 30 years? And the second is regarding foreign trade. Turkey’s main trading partner is the EU constituting almost 50 percent of our foreign trade. So on the other hand, the trade volume between Turkey and the U.S. is still very low. Why is it so? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it’s absolutely exciting the way Turkey has grown, and its 11 percent growth rate is phenomenal. It’s one of the highest in the world. It’s higher than what China has posted, as you know, for this similar period. And I imagine that Turkey will continue to grow, but I think the political environment in which Turkey’s growth has occurred has been absolutely critical. I mean, an open economy, a labor market that welcomes everybody into it, an effort to try to develop many parts of the country that historically have been poorer, so there’s a lot of inward investment as well as exporting that has gone into that 11 percent growth. And that is, to me, the right balance. I think Turkey’s combination of internal and external growth is a much stronger foundation than some other countries that are growing very fast but are largely export driven. You have a growing consumer base. You have a growing middle class. That’s what will enable Turkey to continue that growth over the next 20, 30, 50 years.
And what I hope is that Turkey will be an engine for economic growth in the region, particularly to the east and to the south. I am working hard to increase trade and investment between the United States and Turkey. I think there has been a natural relationship between Turkey and the European Union, and of course, the United States strongly supports Turkey’s accession and membership in the EU. But historically, there’s been all of those ties. What I would like is to see more business men and women from the United States seeking investment, seeking partnerships, seeking joint ventures here with Turkish businesses. I just came from a group that has started here in Turkey called Partnerships for a New Beginning, which the United States is working with in order to really create more linkages between American business and Turkish business, and we are very encouraging of Turkish investment in the Middle East, in North Africa, because we think Turkish businesses have a lot to teach as well as to contribute to the economic growth in other countries as well as your own.
MS. PAYZIN: Especially in the region.
SECRETARY CLINTON: In the region, absolutely.
MS. PAYZIN: Have you seen those changes? I mean, you said that you came before here with your –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I have.
MS. PAYZIN: Are you (inaudible) those changes around?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I find Turkey one of the most exciting places in the world.
MS. PAYZIN: (Inaudible) I don’t know. I mean –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, when I first came in the ‘90s, it was really at the beginning of the economic takeoff. And there were some businesses that had historically always done well. There were a group of wealthy Turks, like there are wealthy people anywhere in the world, but the base of economic growth has exploded in Turkey in the last 20 years. And I’ve seen that with my own eyes, and I’ve not only seen it in the statistics, which the young man just quoted, but I’ve seen it in the day-to-day life. And certainly, as I interact with Turkish business leaders, Turkish academics, Turkish media people, as well as Turkish Government officials, there is just a confidence about your future that I think is important, because that confidence should be a base for maybe some of the tough decisions about how you integrate Kurds, for example, how you develop other parts of the country. There is such a strong economic impetus to continue the political development that they really go hand in hand. So I’m excited by what I have seen.
MS. PAYZIN: We have one guest, actually, from Gaziantep, so –
QUESTION: From Karaman.
MS. PAYZIN: From Karaman. Sorry. (Laughter.) It’s about women issue, maybe — women matter.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I am (inaudible) from Karaman (inaudible). I am president of the woman commission in (inaudible) and the part of Turkish (inaudible). I have –
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: I have two short questions. (Inaudible) yesterday you made a statement about developing business between United States and Turkey. Does it have to increase women in entrepreneur in Turkey? As you know (inaudible) labor force is very low comparing with woman population, and (inaudible) on development of economic (inaudible) woman rights. Would you like to say something about this? And other one is we have heard from the President global entrepreneurship of the State Department has started in Turkey. Could you please tell us a bit more about this initiative? Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, and thank you for both of those questions. Well, first of all, I have spent most of my adult life working for women to have the equal opportunity to participate in societies based on their choice. And I am strongly in favor of women and men making responsible choices. And so for women who need or wish to participate in the labor market because they need to help support their families and their children, or because they want to pursue a career, I think the more open a society can be to that, the more successful the economic growth of that society will be. There is just so much evidence, from the World Bank and the IMF and the United Nations that where women are able to participate fully, to have access to credit, to start their own businesses, to be given the opportunity to not only get a full education all the way through university or even graduate programs, but then to be welcomed into the workforce, there’s just a higher rate of productivity for the entire society. And it is also very beneficial to the woman and her family. So I am a strong believer in that.
Now, how do we do that? Well, obviously, the first step is to make sure there are no laws that prohibit women from having access. And I think Turkey has made enormous amounts of changes in laws over the last 20 years, so I don’t know enough to have an opinion whether there are still some barriers that are legal barriers or not, but clearly it’s imperative that there be no barriers, that women who can compete in the economic arena be permitted to do so.
Secondly, there are also still attitude problems in my society and in any society, whether women are encouraged to participate in the economy or not. And that is something that needs to be approached in the informal society. It’s not something you can pass a law about, but you have to be encouraging of girls to get the best education that they can get and for them to be able to participate and to try to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination or stereotyping that still exist in, as I say, every society.
Part of what we’re trying to do with the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that is coming to Turkey this fall is to build on an initiative that President Obama started to encourage entrepreneurship for men and women, because we know that 60 percent of the population is under 30 in Turkey. Isn’t that right?
MS. PAYZIN: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And 60 percent of the population in the world is under 30, and some societies have an even higher percentage. So we have this enormous mass of young people, and we have to look at how we can create more economic ladders. There will not be enough gainful employment in government jobs. There will not be enough gainful employment in traditional corporations and businesses. There has to be an emphasis on creativity and innovation, and that means entrepreneurial energy. And we want to share ideas that we’ve learned over time in the United States by bringing entrepreneurs from the United States to meet with Turkish entrepreneurs, and to bring in young people, so that good ideas have somewhere to go, and they don’t just die or get shelved. So this Entrepreneurship Summit will be – I’m not – we don’t have the exact date yet, but it will be in fall. I will be sure – we’ll get the names of everybody here. We’ll be sure that you all are given notice of it through our Embassy.
But I think it’s important as I look out at all of you and I see a group of very energetic and affluent and educated young people here in Turkey to be thinking about what do we do with all these millions of young people who are not educated, young women who don’t feel confident enough or encouraged enough to get into the job market. That’s a ticking time bomb, as we say. If we don’t have jobs – you saw what happened in Egypt – that was as much an economic revolution as a political revolution. You saw what happened in Tunisia. Turkey is a great example, so the more Turkey can demonstrate entrepreneurial activity, the more others can learn from you. And I think that’s something that we want to work with you on behalf of that partnership.
MS. PAYZIN: Yes, yes. And there are many questions also from internet. Here’s the one. (Inaudible) and is asking you if you really believe that Turkey is the new leader of Middle East, and what do you think – do you really think that Turkey – there is a shift for Turkey from West to East?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think there’s any reason for Turkey to shift from West to East. Turkey is so strategically located between East and West; there isn’t a country in the world that literally straddles both continents the way Turkey does. So as an outsider, I’ve always thought that the debate, do you look East, do you look West, is kind of a – it’s a debate without real meaning to it, because why would you give up one for the other when you can do both? I mean, Turkey is so well positioned. Part of the reason you’ve got this 11 percent growth rate and more to come is because of your strategic geographic position, but more than that because of a mental mindset. You can look both ways, and to me, that is an incredible advantage in the world in which we find ourselves.
So I think Turkey is a regional and global leader. Turkey is a member of the G-20. Turkey has made a very strong commitment to working with not only regional problems but even global problems. And that’s, to me, the direction Turkey should go. I think that there is no sense in saying it’s either/or; it should be both/and.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. We have two new guests. (Laughter and applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, hi. (Laughter.) So we have the kitty questions coming up.
MS. PAYZIN: Do you like cats?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. I do.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. So — they’re lovable. (Laughter.) Okay. Since we are talking about Middle East, maybe we can – I know that there are many questions about Arab things especially, so the gentleman behind in the white shirt.
QUESTION: I am okay?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) My name (inaudible) University, department of sociology (inaudible). My question will be about Arab Spring. First of all, I want to learn that — give the U.S. credit or (inaudible) this Arab Spring. If (inaudible) indicate this. And in this context, what do you think about alternative scenario if you think hypothetically? What will be the situation of Syria after Bashar Asad, and what – how do you think the Turkish role will be in this situation? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know anyone who predicted the exact events that happened during the Arab Spring, but many of us had predicted at some time the situation in a lot of the countries in North Africa and the Middle East were not sustainable. In fact, I gave a speech in Doha at a conference in early January this year in which I said that leaders had to be more accountable, they had to fight against corruption which we eroding the base of trust that people have to have with their government officials, and that there was going to be some kind of event, but I had no idea that it would be happening so quickly as it is now. So I don’t think that certainly the United States or any country that I’m aware of officially predicted this. It’s caught people by surprise in terms of the timing, but not in terms of the inevitability that there would have to be changes, either forced upon a society or made from within.
And what we are now all working on, and I’ll be meeting – I met, as I said, with the president last night, I’ll be seeing the foreign minister and prime minister today. What we are all working on is how we can be supportive as these countries make their democratic transitions. They have to do it themselves. People from the outside, whether American or Turkish, we can’t come in and tell people what to do. There has to be an internal process. But we have a lot of lessons to share. I mean, the Turkish economic success is something that would benefit all of these countries if they would come to you and say, “How did you do it?” The political and democratic progress that you’ve made would be another way to help.
So we are working with not only Turkey but other countries to try to be available to offer financial help, to offer technical expert help in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Jordan. And we’re working to try to get a peaceful transition in Yemen, which is difficult – the efforts being led by the Gulf Cooperation Council. We’re trying to encourage dialogue in Bahrain. So there’s a lot going on.
But certainly, what’s happening in Syria is very uncertain and troubling, because many of us had hoped that President Asad would make the reforms that were necessary without seeing what we’re now seeing in the streets of Syria, which are government tanks and soldiers shooting peaceful demonstrators. And I said — I know that the Turkish Government has also said — that the brutality has to stop. There must be a legitimate, sincere effort with the opposition to try to make changes. I don’t know whether that will happen or not.
And none of us really have influence other than to try to say what we believe and to encourage the changes that we hope for. I know that the Turkish Government is sheltering about 8,500 refugees from the violence across your border, and I know that the Turkish Government has tried to influence some of the decisions that were being made and encourage the government to stop the violence. But I think we don’t know how this is going to end yet, and it’s a very important outcome for Turkey because you share a 900-kilometer border with Syria. And stability inside Syria is important for Turkey, but the right kind of stability – a transition to democracy – is what would be best for Turkey and even more importantly what would be best for the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Very briefly, we know that Turkish Government and U.S., they were pretty much different when it comes to Middle East policies, especially about Syria and Iran. Now can you say that you are much more closer about Syrian issue and also Iran because Turkey basically didn’t give you enough support at the UN about nuclear issue? So what is the situation right now? How would you describe it? Closer, very close, or still distant?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, I think it’s very close and I think that I really believe that Turkey and the United States share a very similar strategic assessment about what we hope to see happening regionally and globally. We do not always agree on tactics. I don’t know two countries that always agree on tactics. I don’t know two people who always agree on tactics. And of course, we did have our differences over the vote in the United Nations, but our shared view that we want to do everything we can together to convince and prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, which would be very destabilizing in the region, there is no daylight at all between us. And we talk about it and we work on it every single week together.
I was saying, actually, to President Gul last night that we – I think in the last two and a half years we have proven, number one, that we weather our differences. We are friends, we are partners, we are NATO allies, and we recognize that we will not always decide to do things exactly the same, but we share this strategic vision about where we would like to see the world go. And we have built a lot of trust. I’ve spent a lot of my own time visiting with the high-level Turkish officials. President Obama has developed a very good relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan. They talk on the phone. They meet frequently. And they have the kind of talks that is not formalistic and is not just polite and diplomatic. They say, “Well, why do you think that,” or, “Why do you believe that,” or, “Why are you doing this?” They have a very open exchange. That is how people who are honest with each other, who value each other, who respect each other treat each other.
So I think we are very close, but that doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree and it doesn’t mean that the media won’t take one disagreement out of a hundred agreements and say, “Oh my gosh, they’ve disagreed.” But I think both of us understand over the long run we are on the same page moving toward the kind of world we want, which is more peaceful, more prosperous, more respectful, more enabling and empowering of people to make their own decisions within a democratic context.
MS. PAYZIN: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Secretary, my name is (inaudible) and I work for (inaudible) foundation in Turkey. I am also the vice chair of an organization I think you know well, ICNL that work on nonprofit law reform.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: And we commend your leadership on legal reform for civil society in the region and in the world, and I would like to ask you – you talked about Turkey being a good example. Turkey did undergo such reforms two years ago – I was honored to work on some of them – in which we now have much more democratic laws for civil society. And I wanted to know what’s the case that you could make to governments in the region and elsewhere in the world in which we could make the case for a more legally enabling environment for civil society. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for your work. And I view society as being like a three-legged stool, where you need an honest, effective, accountable, transparent government that delivers results for people within a democratic structure; where you need a free market economy that unleashes people’s entrepreneurial energies and provides enough of a protective framework so that people are not exploited when they deliver their labor for an honest day’s paycheck; but the third leg of that stool is civil society. It’s where we live most of our lives. It’s how we associate with each other. It’s volunteer activities. It’s religious and expressive activities. And so I believe strongly that as democracy develops, strengthening civil society is essential to protecting the other two legs of the stool. And what you’ve done with the changes you’ve made in Turkey is a very strong case for that.
I think we always have to be monitoring to assure that civil society is given the room, the space it needs, to operate. But I really respect the changes that you have made. Now I would like other countries, other societies, to look to see the importance of civil society, and for governments not to be afraid of civil society. I think that’s such an important lesson that we all have to learn. I’ve been in both sides. I’ve been in civil society for many years of my life as an advocate for women and children, and I’ve been in government. And when I’m in government, I sometimes get annoyed at my friends in civil society because they’re criticizing what I do or they’re publishing reports that say that we’re not doing enough. But then I remember I used to be there. And if I hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have made the changes that actually help the people that we care about.
So it has to be a partnership. And oftentimes, there’s tension in it because if you are in civil society, you’re going to be pushing the government to do more, and you’re going to be pushing the economy to do more. That’s the way it should be. That’s a good balance.
MS. PAYZIN: Madam Secretary, I have a bad news. Well, actually it’s a bad news for us because you have another seven minutes to go.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, dear.
MS. PAYZIN: So very brief questions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll try to give briefer answers, I promise.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Okay. (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible) law firm. My first question is notations on criminals of speech and freedom of press. I have debated in (inaudible) several columnists and writers are under arrest. In addition, as of August the law requires ultimate offense for internet users. What would you advise citizen living in such a country? Should we be quiet in silence or should we — I mean, even through big names are in prison, or should we raise our voice? Or what is your comment?
My second question is a personal question to you. Instead of being a member of U.S. Government, let’s assume that you are a member of Turkish Government. What would you change first in Turkey? (Laughter) And what would you highlight to attract U.S. investors into Turkey? Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, first of all, if there is an area that I am concerned about with recent actions in Turkey, it is this area that you have raised. It’s the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. I do not think it’s necessary or in Turkey’s interest to be cracking down on journalists and bloggers and the internet, because I think Turkey is strong enough and dynamic enough with enough voices that if there are differences of opinion, those will be drowned out by others who can debate it in the marketplace of ideas. So I do think this is an area that deserves attention from citizens, from lawyers – which you said you were – because it seems to me inconsistent with all the other advances that Turkey has made. And so therefore, as someone looking at it from the outside, I don’t understand it, because, of course, I come from a country that has very, very broad protections for the media. And I know that a lot of times people on the outside do not understand that, because people say or do things in my country that personally I find just offensive and unpatriotic and anti-American, and it makes my blood boil. But we know that over time that basically gets overwhelmed by other opinions, and so you then get to a point where you’ve got a much clearer idea of what the basis of opinion and change might be.
So I would, if I were in the Turkish Government, which I am not – and I say this very respectfully – I would be standing up for freedom of expression and freedom of journalism – (applause) – and freedom of bloggers and freedom of the internet, because I think in today’s world information is so broadly available that it’s going to get out there anyway. And –
MS. PAYZIN: Will you mention this to the prime minister this afternoon when you’re going to meet him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: He and I have talked about it before, and –
MS. PAYZIN: But any new — because more and more journalists right now and Kurdish Turkish vote.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
MS. PAYZIN: So will you again mention –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will, because I do think – I mean, as I say, this is an area where I don’t understand because I don’t think it’s necessary. I think Turkey is strong enough, I think the Turkish character, the Turkish people are strong enough that they can take whatever opinion is out there. But that’s my view of it.
MS. PAYZIN: I know there are many questions, but I have one picture to show you. This is important. This was a huge debate in Turkey, actually. I wish you could explain us — (laughter) — what you’re feeling –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I know.
MS. PAYZIN: — when you’re watching the operation against bin Ladin.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –
MS. PAYZIN: Could you share with us your feelings on how was –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you might guess, this was a very, very small group of us at the highest levels of our government who were aware of and planning this operation against bin Ladin. And it was a very tense time. It was also the height of the Washington allergy season. So I cannot tell you exactly what I was thinking at that moment, because there’s no way I can reconstruct it.
MS. PAYZIN: But it’s lovely because everybody says that this woman. She is expressing her feelings. That’s how women are in politics. Is that –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would hope you would have feelings, because I can’t imagine not having feelings about really everything we do. Because what we are trying to do has real impact on people’s lives. And this for me was a very intense experience, because I was a senator from New York on 9/11 so I knew many of the families who lost their loved ones in the attack on 9/11, and as you remember, nearly 3,000 people, but they were from all over the world. They weren’t just Americans. And so it was a – as I am sitting there and we’re watching what we could see of the operation, this was a very emotional experience. And it was also, as I’ve said, I had also been sucking on lozenges and taking all kinds of allergy medicine. So it was a combination of all kinds of feelings and activities going on at the same time.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) lawyer, me too. (Laughter.) And I want to follow up on his point. Unfortunately, you mentioned that you don’t understand the situation with respect to press freedom in Turkey, because I think you think it’s an aberration of the system; it’s the exception. But unfortunately, it is not, Madam, right now, just over five years in Turkey, the number of those who are detained without conviction has doubled in this country. We’ve got many people from a position who are detained on shaky evidence. We would like very much you to see — we would like to see you very much to raise these issues with our government. Maybe they will listen to you more than they listen to us, and we would very much like to see you mention –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
QUESTION: — especially, two names I would say, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik. These are two prominent journalists of this country, and they are in prison on very shaky evidence. This is unfortunately the situation of the Turkish democracy right now. We can give many more examples along these lines. And why when we’ve got such a record in human rights –
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: — how can you project Turkey an example of democracy in the region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. As I’ve said, I have raised this before. I will certainly be raising it again. But let me just say that I think it’s very important for citizens like yourself to raise it. I’m here for two days and then I’m gone, and I think it’s important that any imperfections in your democracy – and every democracy has imperfections – I mean, on balance, Turkish democracy is a model because of where you came from and where you are. That doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do. I mean, we still have work to do. We have problems that we have to continue to try to overcome.
So I would urge that people who have such a stake in the future of Turkey, as all of you do, raise this in a way that can get the attention of authorities without being immediately dismissed because, actually, this will strengthen Turkish democracy, in my opinion.
MS. PAYZIN: One question, one last question from the internet again (inaudible) is asking you if there will be a ground operation against PKK in coming days towards northern Iraq, what would be the reaction of Washington?
SECRETARY CLINTON: So we have supported the Turkish military and we will continue to support the Turkish military in going after PKK terrorists. And we are well aware of how dangerous terrorism is, and one of the issues we are discussing with the Turkish Government is, as you know, the United States has had military forces in Iraq – we are withdrawing those forces – whether or not there is some decision made for us to leave some forces. The fact is we are drawing down the vast majority of them, and those forces were in partnership with the Turkish Government to make sure we could do whatever possible to support the Turkish effort against the PKK. So we are working to see what else we can do once we withdraw from Iraq to provide that support.
MS. PAYZIN: Well, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, this is — oh, my goodness.
MS. PAYZIN: We have many, many questions, but unfortunately, I’m sure that you have a very –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I wish I could stay.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Last words? I mean, anything you (inaudible) this visit and –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like to continue this. I’m sorry that time doesn’t permit. But I would offer the invitation to those of you who had your hands up who didn’t get to ask questions to send me the questions to the American Embassy.
MS. PAYZIN: Yeah. Many questions about visas, especially, also possible investment possibilities, and social media, also women issues because –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will answer every question that you send to me. And I really have enjoyed this and I would love another chance to continue it, so maybe we’ll have chapter two sometime in the future.
MS PAYZIN: You are most welcome. Any time you like.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And finally, how many of you participated in the Turkish-American exchange program? Because – (laughter) — oh, because I announced that when I came in 2009, and now it’s really working and I can put real faces with the program. And we’re going to continue that. I would like to expand it even, if I can. But I really invite you to please give me your thoughts, your questions, your constructive criticism, because I want not only to represent my government but to represent my country, and to have not just government-to-government relations but people-to-people relations, which I will do everything I can to support.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay, very brief. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) is asking will you be the next and first female president of the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, no. I won’t. I won’t.
MS. PAYZIN: Any hope for women? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, look, I mean, I know that Turkey had a woman prime minister some years ago, so you’re ahead of us.
MS. PAYZIN: Not that (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t think so. I think, though, that I will support – hopefully in my lifetime, I will see a woman president, because I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities and equal responsibilities. So I think that would be something to look forward to.
MS. PAYZIN: Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you all.
MS. PAYZIN: Thank you. (In Turkish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
We solemnly remember the horrific events that took place ninety-six years ago, resulting in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.
I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken, while reckoning with the past lays a sturdy foundation for a peaceful and prosperous shared future. History teaches us that our nations are stronger and our cause is more just when we appropriately recognize painful pasts and work to rebuild bridges of understanding toward a better tomorrow. The United States knows this lesson well from the dark chapters in our own history. I support the courageous steps taken by individuals in Armenia and Turkey to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history. As we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and pay tribute to the memories of those who perished, we also recommit ourselves to ensuring that devastating events like these are never repeated. This is a contemporary cause that thousands of Armenian-Americans have made their own.
The legacy of the Armenian people is one of resiliency, determination, and triumph over those who sought to destroy them. The United States has deeply benefited from the significant contributions to our nation by Armenian Americans, many of whom are descended from the survivors of the Meds Yeghern. Americans of Armenian descent have strengthened our society and our communities with their rich culture and traditions. The spirit of the Armenian people in the face of this tragic history serves as an inspiration for all those who seek a more peaceful and just world.
Our hearts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere as we recall the horrors of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memories of those who suffered, and pledge our friendship and deep respect for the people of Armenia.
QUESTION: How would you evaluate the ongoing dialogue with Russia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, thank you. It is nice to speak to you. We always have a very long foreign policy agenda with Russia. And I want to cover the full range of topics. The specific focus of my visit this time is the upcoming European security agenda. Of course, President Medvedev has recently agreed to come and attend the NATO-Russia Council Summit in Lisbon in November and we also have an OSCE Summit in Astana the first of December. And it is a big agenda for these two meetings and so the focus of our discussions in Moscow over the past two days has been how to make the most productive use of those meetings.
QUESTION: How does the NATO proposal for an all-European missile defense system that could include Russia correspond with the idea of the American national missile defense system?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, broadly the Obama Administration certainly does not see Russia as a threat. And the agenda of the NATO-Russia Council Summit will be the practical areas in which we can cooperate jointly and work together. And certainly the missile defense that the United States has proposed has never been targeted at Russia or with Russia in mind. I think that we have made that very clear. There is a growing missile threat from the Middle East and we are interested in pursuing the technologies that will help defend our populations and troops and territories against that threat. And in that context we see Russia as a potential partner because Russia could potentially be threatened by the same missiles (inaudible). And that is why we have proposed cooperation with Russia both bilaterally and in the NATO-Russia context. So this will be one of the issues on the agenda for the NATO-Russia Council and we hope that Russia will look favorably on the idea of cooperation.
QUESTION: What would you say to Russians who say the results of the “reset” are favorable only to the U.S.? For example, the new START treaty, the Afghan transit agreement, and the S-300 issue with Iran.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I do not agree with that way of looking at things. You take even the examples that you have given – New START, Afghan transit, S300s. Russia benefits from our cooperation in all these areas. Russia, like the United States, has an interest in a stable Afghanistan. You could even argue more of an interest than the United States because Russia is closer in the way that the drug trade goes through Afghanistan. We absolutely believe that Russia has a common interest with us in stabilizing Afghanistan. And if allowing the United States to transit Russia makes the international coalition in Afghanistan more effective, it is absolutely in Russia’s interest to do so. And similarly the proliferation question in Iran. A nuclear Iran, we believe Russian officials have made clear is not in Russia’s interest. Containing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is in Russia’s interest just as much as in the United States’ interest. So, far from seeing this somehow as a gift from Russia to the United States, it is a common interest that we are pursuing together. And on New START, same thing. We both have an interest in reducing numbers of nuclear weapons and launchers, and thereby contributing to global stability and saving money. So none of these things are gifts from Russia to the United States but actions in our common interest. And finally, to the extent that these agreements contribute to a better overall relationship between Russia and the United States, they provide opportunities for us to move forward in different areas including economic cooperation and other bilateral questions. So it really is a two way street. That is the beauty of it, if you will, is that it is not zero sum – where I give and the other side gains and vice versa. But we are finding areas where mutual cooperation results in mutual benefit.
QUESTION: Can we agree that the Russian and American comprehension of Eurasian security is the same, given that both sides have completely different architectures for Eurasian security?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We have some differences on the overall European security architecture. It is true that the United States has been and remains of the view that a new treaty is not necessary or practical. We think there are already some pretty good European security institutions in place and some pretty good principles for European security in place, and that we do not need to invent new ones. What we need to do is make sure that the existing principles are implemented. And yes we have been skeptical that a new treaty would be possible to elaborate and ratify and that it could be workable. But we are open to a dialogue on all of these questions. We welcome input from Russia and from all parties to the European security situation. We have a good and strong ongoing dialogue. So we may have a difference on the specific idea of a treaty. But we the United States accept the European security situation as imperfect. There is always room for improvement. We are ready to talk about that.
QUESTION: Do both sides have to overcome the Georgian issue, leaving it in the status quo conditions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, we do have a real difference on Georgia. The United States continues to recognize Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I would add that so do the vast majority of countries in the world. Very, very few have joined Russia in recognizing and the United States will continue to support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have also been very clear that we don’t believe that there is a military solution to this conflict. And the only way to reestablish Georgia’s territorial integrity is through (inaudible) and patiently working with all of the people of Georgia to move forward. So it is a real difference between the United States and Russia. We try to manage it. We try to insure that it doesn’t interfere with the other areas of practical cooperation we have. But it is an important matter of principal of the United States and we will continue to stand by Georgia in that regard.
QUESTION: Is Georgia still a point of irritation in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship? Or have both sides decided to take it easy?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, I think that I have characterized it. It is a real difference and we talk about it, and we have not found an agreement on the right (inaudible). But we have also agreed not to let it stand in the way of the better relationship that we have a mutual interest in. So we have had a difference on Georgia ever since the start of the Obama administration but it hasn’t prevented us from pursuing our mutual interests in arms control, counterterrorism, potential missile defense cooperation, economic cooperation. So in that sense it is not standing in the way of the relationship we are trying to build but it is a real difference and one that we need to work on.
QUESTION: Is the United States concerned about France’s Mistral sale to Russia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, weapon sales decisions are sovereign decisions for countries to make. And if a NATO ally like France is considering such decisions, we can have our views but ultimately it is a national decision. That said, just as we the United States have refrained from introducing significant changes in military equipment into that potentially unstable part of the world, we would hope that other NATO allies would do the same and exercise judgment and restraint when it comes to selling military equipment that could significantly alter the security situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Could you please comment on Turkey’s recent refusal to participate in the proposed missile defense system? What about the Czech Republic and Poland?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Is the first thing that you said was about Turkey? Let me just clarify. It is not accurate to say that Turkey has refused to participate. There is (inaudible) at NATO. All NATO allies have recognized that there is a potential threat from ballistic missile proliferation and that missile defenses can contribute to the protection of our forces, of NATO forces in Europe. There is an ongoing discussion about whether to adopt territorial missile defense as a mission for NATO, and the United States has offered and made a specific offer of its phased adaptive approach, which would be the U.S. contribution to that European missile defense if allies so choose. Neither Turkey nor anyone else has rejected participation or support for that. It is a matter of discussion among allies that will be agreed we hope at the NATO Summit in Lisbon. And we are talking to Turkey as with our other allies about the adoption of a territorial missile defense for NATO. We are hopeful, I think, because Secretary General of NATO after the last ministerial, we are hopeful that all allies will agree to such a mission because we think that it is a real issue and that missile defense can contribute to our security. As for the rest of the other countries you named in the system, just to clarify, the previous administration, the Bush administration, was planning to build missile defense in Europe based on ground-based interceptors in Poland and expand radar in the Czech Republic. President Obama looks at the issue, looked at the evolving intelligence, at the evolving threat, at the evolving technology, and concluded that we would all be better off building a system based on a different kind of missile, the Standard Missile 3, and a different kind of radar. And so changed the approach from the deployment previously considered. And announcements have been made about locating SM3s in Poland and Romania, and that is the current U.S proposal for its contribution to a NATO missile defense.
QUESTION: Could you please comment on the ratification of the New START Treaty during the period between the November elections and the January inauguration of the new Senate?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I can only say we hope so. We would like to have seen it passed before the elections. That is not going to happen at this point. But there will be a short session of Congress called the lame duck session because it will happen after the election of the new Congress, where they will have the opportunity to pass New START and I can only say we hope they’ll do so. It passed by a large margin out of Committee. We think it makes sense for the United States and hope that the Senate will take it up as part of this lame duck session. Otherwise, it will have to be held over until the new Congress is in place after January.
QUESTION: Do you speak with your Russian counterparts regarding human rights?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Yes, we do speak to Russian officials and representatives about these issues all the time. President Obama has done so, Secretary Clinton has done so, and I and my colleagues do so as well. I have met with NGO groups on visits to Moscow and do pretty much every time I come to Moscow. It is important for the United States and it is our view that countries prosper when they have open and transparent societies like rule of law and democracy and human rights. And we make that clear in our dialogue with our Russian friends.
QUESTION: Could you please comment on the Khodorkovsky case?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, we follow that case very closely as we do all such cases. And again we can only reiterate in general terms the importance of ensuring fair prosecutions and respect for the rule of law.
QUESTION: A bill was recently proposed in the U.S. Congress concerning the Magnitsky case. The bill would deny entry visas to a number of Russian officials. What are your thoughts regarding this bill?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, I think the legislation that you are referring to underscores the seriousness with which Congress and indeed the Administration as well sees the issue of the Magnitsky case, and the importance of following up and investigating what happened and seeing the perpetrators brought to justice. So I think the legislation is a sign that Americans are following this very closely and take it very seriously.
QUESTION: Can you predict the outcome of this bill?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I cannot make predictions about the fate of bills in the Congress. You’ve seen the significant support for it but I cannot predict how it will come out.
Strengthening the Transatlantic Alliance: An Overview of the Obama Administration’s Policies in Europe
Chairman Wexler, Congressman Gallegly, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about Administration policies and priorities in Europe and strategies to further strengthen the transatlantic relationship.
President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and I are committed to reinvigorating and deepening the traditional relationships of confidence and trust we share with Europe. Europe is eager to reciprocate and increase the breadth of our close relationship, one that is based on shared values, including an enduring commitment to democracy, transparency, accountability, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Today, I will highlight some examples of what the United States and Europe have achieved and what our policy objectives are going forward. To do that, I will touch on three strategic priorities for the Administration in Europe: European engagement on global challenges; a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace; and a renewed relationship with Russia.
Many of our European partners are among the most prosperous, democratic, and militarily capable countries in the world. Working with our European allies both bilaterally and multilaterally will remain critical to success in tackling the many global challenges we face together. The United States cooperates with Europe on all of the most important global challenges, including restoring growth and confidence in the world financial system; fighting poverty and pandemic disease; countering terrorism and nuclear proliferation; advancing peace in the Middle East; promoting human rights; and combating trafficking in persons. Still, there are other areas where our cooperation with Europe needs to increase. We can and must do more to address challenges like ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; instability in Pakistan; Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs; energy security and climate change. As President Obama has said, “The United States is ready to lead, and we call upon our partners to join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose.”
One of the Administration’s most important priorities will be to continue the historic American project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity, and democracy to all of Europe and Eurasia. The objective of all Presidents since World War II, both Democratic and Republican, has been to work with Europe to realize a joint vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. One of the ways the United States seeks to further this goal is through our critical partnerships in Europe – which include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
In April, NATO, the most successful alliance in history, celebrated its 60th Anniversary. Allies initiated a discussion of the Alliance’s future and tasked the Secretary General to launch a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept to insure that NATO is both prepared and equipped to meet the new security challenges of the 21st Century, including extremism, terrorism, proliferation, insurgency, failed states, piracy, and cyber threats.
Also at the Summit, Allies welcomed Albania and Croatia as NATO’s newest members, reinforcing the message that NATO’s door remains open. The United States joined Allies in welcoming France’s return, after over 40 years, to the integrated NATO military command structure. France’s full participation in NATO is a symbol of a renewed European commitment to NATO. Finally, Allies selected former Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen as the next Secretary General of NATO, to lead the reform of the Alliance so that it retains the flexibility and resources required to meet the new challenges of our time.
The United States also remains unequivocally committed to our Article 5 commitment; we will not waiver from the enduring premise that an attack against one is an attack against all. As NATO Heads of State and Government reaffirmed at the Summit in Strasbourg-Kehl, “the strong collective defense of our populations, territory, and forces is the core purpose of the Alliance and remains our most important security task.” We will continue to support adequate planning, exercises, and training to ensure NATO has the capabilities to remain as relevant to the security of Allied populations in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century.
Some of the most pivotal outcomes of the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit dealt with Afghanistan. On March 27, the President announced a new strategy for ensuring vital U.S. national interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This strategy for the first time integrates our civilian and military efforts in both countries, with the goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda and eliminating its safe-havens. The Alliance unanimously endorsed this new strategy in Strasbourg. While the Summit was not a pledging conference, Allies and partners committed to provide 3000 new forces for Afghan election security and over a thousand new trainers, troops and civilians to support this new strategy. These new contributions will support political growth and security transformation in Afghanistan and contribute to regional stability.
Despite all of these positive developments, I do not wish to understate the enormity of the challenges we face – or the consequences of failure. Although Allies and Partners currently contribute over 32,000 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), we look forward to their additional contributions in the form of troops, civilian assistance or funds. The UK, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Turkey provide especially valuable support to the Afghanistan mission. Allied troops are deployed throughout Afghanistan, although some nations continue to impose “caveats” that restrict where their troops can go and what missions they can conduct. Our commanders in the field have asked for maximum flexibility in deploying Allied troops assigned to ISAF, and we continue to press Allies to eliminate caveats. The United States currently provides approximately 29,000 troops to ISAF. Most of our additional deployments will also come under ISAF.
We recognize that there is not a purely military solution to the conflict, and that we must complement the security NATO provides by increasing international civilian assistance to Afghanistan. In partnership with the NSC, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is leading the overall effort for the Administration and has assembled an interagency team in Washington to coordinate with our military and to implement the President’s new strategy more effectively.
Another increasingly important partnership for the United States is with the European Union, which has become one of our most crucial partners in addressing regional and global challenges in Europe and around the world. Our priorities for U.S.-EU cooperation cover almost all major U.S. foreign policy concerns including: energy security, climate change, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and the Middle East. The President raised each of these issues with his European counterparts at the April 5 EU Summit in Prague. He also assured them that the United States will be a ready partner on all these issues.
We are listening to our European partners and consulting with them closely, but also calling on them to bear their fair share of responsibilities for defending and promoting our common interests. During the Swedish EU Presidency that will begin on July 1, we look forward to continued close, results-oriented U.S.-EU cooperation. In July, I will meet with counterparts from the 27 EU member states, the European Commission, and the Council Secretariat.
The United States and the EU have the largest economic relationship in the world. Together, we generate 60 percent of world GDP. We will continue to work with the EU to promote the growth of our own market and support free trade and open investment around the world through the Transatlantic Economic Council. We will also cooperate with the EU to mitigate the effects of climate change, an issue that is now front and center in our foreign policy. The Department’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, will work with our partners in Europe and around the globe to craft environmentally sound, scientifically driven, and pragmatic solutions to the world’s toughest environmental challenges and to lay the foundation for a successful outcome at this December’s UN climate conference in Copenhagen.
The EU also shares our concerns on security issues, such as Iran, including its nuclear activities, support for terrorism, and the domestic human rights situation. The EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) have worked closely with us in the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), while EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana has served as the representative of the P5+1 in direct negotiations with the Iranians on the nuclear issue. In addition to UN Security Council resolutions, the EU has also implemented additional autonomous sanctions intended to press the Iranians to come to the negotiating table.
The United States and the EU are coordinating closely on providing significant financial, political, and military support for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Among other priorities, we are working to alleviate the refugee situation in Pakistan, and to monitor upcoming elections and train police in Afghanistan.
The EU is also a crucial partner in our efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. As the largest donor to the Palestinian people, the EU worked closely with us earlier this year on the resolution of the conflict in Gaza, and it has consistently been a strong partner for us within the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the EU, and the UN). The EU has offered to reactivate and expand its dormant Gaza border monitoring mission while maintaining an ongoing police and rule of law training mission in the West Bank designed to complement our own efforts to improve the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces.
Energy is increasingly at the heart of U.S. and European security concerns. The mutual focus on energy independence and new energy technologies – combined with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine gas issues, energy price volatility, the financial crisis and ongoing climate negotiations – necessitates deeper transatlantic energy cooperation. We are committed to working with the EU to develop access to alternative sources of gas, such as the Southern Corridor, which could tap into Caspian and Middle Eastern supplies, delivering gas to many of Europe’s most vulnerable markets. European energy security is strengthened when prices for natural gas, a key strategic commodity, are determined by market rather than monopoly forces. Increasing such market efficiencies requires greater competition in European gas markets through increased diversified supplies of gas from the Caspian region and Iraq, as well as via liquefied natural gas; interconnections of European natural gas networks; and application of European competition policy to prevent manipulation of gas prices. The President appointed Ambassador Richard Morningstar to be Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy and has asked him to take the lead in coordinating our work with Europe to enhance and strengthen our cooperation to address European energy security.
The OSCE is an important regional organization for promoting security defending human rights, and supporting democratic development throughout Europe and Eurasia. Our challenge is to reinvigorate the OSCE as a key promoter of fundamental freedoms, human rights, and civil society as necessary components of security in the region. The Secretary will initiate a structured dialogue on priority security issues when she attends the informal OSCE ministerial in Corfu later this month.
We also continue to work closely with our European partners through the G-20. At the April G-20 London Summit, the United States and the EU committed to steps that will address the global financial crisis. We are now following through on those commitments, which include strengthening international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the Multilateral Development Banks, in preparation for the next meeting of G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh this September. Together with the other G-20 participants, we are resisting protectionism and promoting global trade and investment.
Europe: Whole, Free, and at Peace
Over two decades ago, the United States set out a vision for working with our European allies and partners on a Europe whole, free, and at peace, extending the zone of peace and prosperity throughout all of Europe. Many Central and Eastern European countries are now full members of NATO and the EU – this reality is one of Europe’s most significant post-Cold War accomplishments. Yet we still have unfinished business in extending that vision and prosperity to Europe’s south and east. Critical challenges remain, and only through collective action will we continue to make progress.
The global economic crisis has created additional pressures on our European friends and Allies and particular challenges for accomplishing our shared objectives in Europe and around the world. Europe’s stability and prosperity affect its strength as a global partner of the United States. Economic uncertainty may also aggravate Europe’s internal questions of identity, including those related to immigration, race, globalization, and trade. The economic crisis has hit certain parts of Europe especially hard, and we may very well see conditions get worse before they get better. Still, we must not allow this crisis to derail the critical work of pursuing a Europe whole, free, and at peace. Our collective security objectives will not be reached by decreasing capacities or turning increasingly inward. On the contrary, we must continue to make the case to our friends and Allies that, despite the devastating effects of the economic crisis, the many global and security challenges we face are too critical to ignore.
Turkey is crucial to success in many of our most important foreign policy priorities, including stability and prosperity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East, securing European energy diversity and resolving frozen conflicts and regional disputes. We support Turkey’s aspirations for eventual membership in the EU as Turkey advances reforms that will make it an even stronger partner. We encourage the EU to reach out to Turkey to demonstrate real prospects for membership. Doing so will serve as a catalyst for additional internal reforms. We are also encouraging Turkey to make additional needed reforms required to meet membership criteria, reforms that will strengthen Turkey’s democracy and economy. We encourage Turkey to take steps that will bolster its relations with its neighbors by re-opening the Halki Seminary and normalizing relations with Armenia, including a candid exploration of the two countries’ sometimes tragic history. We must also work to resolve outstanding disputes in the Aegean, to reduce prospects for heightened military tensions in a strategic area. Turkey is also at the center of U.S. and European Union efforts to diversify European gas supplies by expanding a “Southern Corridor” of energy infrastructure to transport Caspian (and eventually Iraqi) gas to Europe.
The United States seeks to help Armenia strengthen its security and prosperity by settling Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and by encouraging Turkey and Armenia to normalize their relations. We believe these two processes should proceed separately, but in parallel, and at different speeds. Armenia and Turkey announced in their April 22 joint statement they had “agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations.” This represents an historic opportunity as Turkey and Armenia are closer than ever before to normalizing relations and re-opening their border. Meanwhile, the United States has helped invigorate progress towards a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement through its mediation as a Co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group. The meetings of Armenian President Sargsian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev on May 7 in Prague and June 4 in St. Petersburg cleared the way to accelerate efforts to finalize a framework agreement by the end of 2009. We also seek to advance democratic and market economic reform in Armenia, including through the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact with Armenia.
Azerbaijan is an important partner of the United States on regional security (especially counterterrorism) and on helping our European allies diversify their supplies of natural gas. Azerbaijan also exports nearly one million barrels of oil per day to global markets via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, free from geographic chokepoints (such as the Turkish Straits and the Straits of Hormuz) and from monopolistic pressures. As noted above, the United States has helped generate new progress toward a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Our U.S. Co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza, joined his Russian and French colleagues in facilitating five meetings between Presidents Sargsian and Aliyev over the past year. Secretary Clinton has been personally engaged in a series of discussions with Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, including meetings with Foreign Ministers Mammadyarov and Nalbandian in Washington on May 5. I made my first trip to the Caucasus last week, where I visited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to pursue our objectives in the region.
We will also continue to support the current negotiations in Cyprus – led by the two Cypriot communities under the auspices of the UN Good Offices Mission. Resolution of the Cyprus problem will have a tremendous impact on the region by strengthening peace, justice and prosperity on the island, advancing Turkey’s EU accession, improving NATO-EU cooperation and removing a source of friction between two NATO Allies, Greece and Turkey. As President Obama said, we are “willing to offer all the help sought by the parties as they work toward a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bizonal and bicommunal federation.”
Greece is an important NATO Ally and the people-to-people ties between our countries run deep, sentiments the President reiterated to Prime Minister Karamanlis when they met in April. We look forward to working with Greece on a host of global challenges ranging from piracy to non proliferation. We also recognize the role Greece plays in important regional issues, including in the Balkans, the Aegean and Cyprus, and through its current chairmanship of the OSCE. We support Greece’s application for the Visa Waiver Program, and together, we are moving the process forward.
We are showing renewed leadership in the Balkans where more than a decade after Western interventions, the forces of democracy, openness, and modernity still struggle against backward-looking ethnic nationalism and intolerance. In concert with our European partners, we are intensifying our engagement with the region’s leaders and pressing for reforms that will advance their states toward the European mainstream. The Administration places great importance on completing the task of fully integrating the Balkan region into the Euro-Atlantic community. However, much work remains to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for the region.
Supporting Macedonia’s integration into NATO and the EU remains a vital element in our efforts to promote peace and stability in the Balkans. As Allies reaffirmed at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit, Macedonia will join NATO as soon the name issue is resolved. We would like to see this issue resolved soon. To that end, and in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy, we support a mutually acceptable solution to Macedonia’s name through the ongoing UN process led by Ambassador Nimetz. Deputy Secretary Steinberg delivered that message personally during his visits to Athens and Skopje in May.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In his recent trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vice President Biden made clear our continuing commitment to help the country overcome its wartime legacy and transition to a modern state that can join NATO and the EU. To do so, Bosnia’s leaders must abandon divisive rhetoric and actions that threaten or violate the Dayton Peace Agreement, which remains the foundation for stability. Reforms that have been achieved must be protected, state-level institutions must be strengthened, and attempts to undermine them must stop.
Bosnia’s leaders must work across ethnic lines to reach compromises on governmental reforms that will enable the country to meet its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Recently, while in Bosnia, Vice President Biden and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana stressed that Bosnia’s future is in Europe, and it is natural that the EU will take on a greater role in guiding the reform process consistent with EU accession requirements. But before the Office of the High Representative can transition to an EU Special Representative, the so called “five plus two” reform agenda of outstanding Dayton implementation and state building objectives and conditions must be completed.
The Vice President also met with Serbian President Tadic, Prime Minister Cvetkovic, and Defense Minister Sutanovac to stress the Administration’s intent to reinvigorate the relationship. He made clear that, despite our differences over Kosovo, we have extensive common interests, and the United States stands ready to support Serbia as it moves towards full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. This includes strengthened ties and membership in the European Union and closer cooperation with NATO, including eventual membership when Serbia is ready. The Vice President stressed that Serbia must uphold its commitment to work with the international community on practical humanitarian matters in Kosovo that will help improve the lives of all of Kosovo’s citizens, including ethnic Serbs. Belgrade’s full cooperation with the EU rule of law mission remains a key element in this. Vice President Biden also emphasized that we expect Serbia to continue its efforts to capture and extradite to The Hague the remaining war crimes fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.
Montenegro is a new democracy, strongly committed to integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, including NATO and the EU. In his May trip to Montenegro, Deputy Secretary Steinberg reaffirmed our strong support for Montenegro’s NATO and EU aspirations and encouraged the government to continue to play a stabilizing role in the region. He also stressed the need to step up efforts to strengthen rule of law, as well as transparency and accountability in government.
Kosovo’s success as an independent state within its current borders remains a critically important factor for stability in the Balkans. Yesterday (June 15th), Kosovo celebrated the one-year anniversary of the establishment of its constitution, and it has made tremendous progress during the sixteen months since its independence. Kosovo’s independence is irreversible. To date, sixty countries from around the world have formally recognized Kosovo. The shareholders of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also recently voted to admit Kosovo as a member. Membership in these international financial institutions will help Kosovo’s efforts to achieve economic stability and prosperity for the benefit of all its citizens.
Kosovo’s leadership is upholding its commitments to build a multiethnic democracy, with far-reaching protections for Kosovo Serb and other minority communities. The government has demonstrated Kosovo is willing and able to play a constructive role as a responsible member of the international community. Of course, much work remains as Kosovo’s leaders build for the future. The United States will support Kosovo as it re-doubles efforts to build governing capacity, develop a sound economy and environment for investment, and maintain momentum in creation of a robust, multi-ethnic democracy.
Furthermore, in promoting a peaceful, united, and democratic Europe and Eurasia, we must strongly support the sovereignty and independence of all European states, including those that emerged out of the former Soviet Union.
The United States strongly supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its commitment to further democratic reform. We must work with our international partners, including the UN, OSCE and EU, to improve the security and humanitarian situation throughout Georgia and to increase international access to the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We will maintain solidarity with the international community in refusing to recognize the independence of these separatist regions of Georgia. We regret that Russia blocked the extension of the OSCE and UN missions in Georgia. EU monitors play a crucial role in defusing tension along the administrative border between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia. On June 22, 2009, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Vashadze will chair the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Council, based on the charter our two countries concluded in January 2009, which reaffirms our commitment to deepen cooperation with Georgia.
The United States is committed to insuring a prosperous, democratic, and independent Ukraine by helping consolidate its democratic institutions and continue reforms. It is important for Ukraine’s leaders to work together to address its serious economic crisis as well, including taking all necessary steps to implement the $16.4 billion IMF Standby Program.
The United States strongly supports the right of both Ukraine and Georgia to pursue their membership aspirations in NATO. To achieve NATO membership, both countries must complete rigorous reforms to meet NATO’s performance-based standards. Under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions, Allies, including the United States, are working with both countries to provide concrete advice, assistance, and practical support to help guide these efforts.
A country that has been a concern recently is Moldova, where repeat parliamentary elections will take place after the parliament failed to elect a president. We will urge the Government of Moldova to conduct the elections in a fair and transparent manner, seriously addressing concerns raised about the conduct of the previous parliamentary elections, including accurate voter lists and a free and independent media. This would increase confidence in Moldova’s democratic institutions and demonstrate that Moldova remains on a path of reform and democratic development. We will continue to work for a negotiated settlement of the separatist conflict in the Transnistria region that provides for a whole and democratic Moldova and the withdrawal of Russian forces.
In Belarus, we will encourage the regime to emerge from isolation and to respect the Belarusian people’s basic rights and democratic aspirations through undertaking genuine political and economic reform. Our assistance program in Belarus complements these goals.
As we work to promote security, prosperity and democracy across Eurasia, the Obama Administration is committed to reinvigorating our relations with Russia and looks forward to building a relationship based on respect and mutual cooperation. President Obama and President Medvedev met in London on April 1, where they reaffirmed that Washington and Moscow share common visions of many of the threats and opportunities in the world today. The two presidents’ joint declaration recognized that more unites us than divides us. The task is now to translate that sentiment into actual achievements as we look ahead to a July summit in Moscow.
We also share major common interests and will work together on these important areas. In this regard, Presidents Obama and Medvedev agreed to develop a robust agenda for bilateral cooperation, agreeing to work together on a variety of issues, including reducing strategic nuclear weapons and enhancing nuclear security, and to cooperate on such issues as counterterrorism, counternarcotics, Iran, North Korea, the environment, strengthening civil society, and the global economic crisis. We also appreciate the Russian decision to allow non-lethal transit through their territory to assist international efforts in Afghanistan, a mission that has clear security implications for Russia and an area that offers the United States and Russia more common ground on which to constructively work together in the future.
Another part of that agenda will be the negotiation of a follow-on agreement to the START treaty, which is set to expire on December 5, 2009. So far, there have been two rounds of productive meetings in May and June. The negotiators are charged with reporting their progress to the Presidents during their meeting in Moscow in July.
Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility for the future safety of the world. We are working very hard together to find practical solutions, including through the UN Conference on Disarmament, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
One of the outstanding issues we face is the drift in relations between Russia and the NATO alliance, as well as the weakening of European security structures triggered by Russia’s suspension of its implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. At the OSCE ministerial in Corfu, we will discuss ways to strengthen European security. We are pleased that the NATO-Russia Council will also meet at the ministerial level on the margins to resume dialogue and refocus on areas of shared interest. The Secretary spoke about an “all weather” forum for dialogue where areas of common interest and grave importance to our shared and global security can always be discussed. We welcome a dialogue with Russia in the OSCE about its ideas for a new European security architecture. We remain committed to working through and improving existing structures and mechanisms for joint cooperation on European security. The OSCE will serve as an important forum for such a discussion, as the sole multilateral organization in Europe that brings us all together on equal terms.
At the same time that we reinvigorate our relations with Russia, we will not abandon our principles or ignore concerns about democracy and human rights. While we look forward to forming a more cooperative partnership with Russia, we have no illusions that this will be easy or that we will not continue to have differences. The United States will not recognize a Russian sphere of influence. The United States will also continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia’s neighbors. They have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. The United States and Russia can still work together where our interests coincide while seeking to narrow our differences in an open and mutually respectful way.
As we recognize the many challenges that we face in spreading security, prosperity, and democracy to South and Eastern Europe, it is also important that we recognize and continue to work with our traditional friends and allies in Europe’s West.
The United States enjoys some of its closest and most productive partnerships with the countries in this region. President Obama made two visits to reinforce these relationships in the first five months of his presidency. Our Allies throughout Europe share an enduring set of common interests and values with us and they also possess the ability to bring real assets to the table – diplomatic, financial, and military – for joint action to promote and defend those interests. The United States is grateful to all of these countries and our NATO partners in other regions such as Australia for their significant contributions to the joint mission in Afghanistan, and looks forward to continuing our close cooperation as we begin implementing the new strategy there. Sixty years ago, our nations came together to fight a common enemy that threatened the freedom of the citizens of Europe. Today, we continue to work together with these important Allies on many new and emerging threats.
Finally, let me address several specific issues, some old and others very new, which pose significant challenges to the United States and our transatlantic friends. As President Obama said on his first trip to Europe, “America can’t meet our global challenges alone; nor can Europe meet them without America.”
An integral part of working with our European partners on global issues is being a good partner ourselves. Specifically this involves making good on our foreign assistance commitments and maintaining them in the years to come. The job we started after the fall of the Berlin Wall – to help nurture democratic and economic reform among the states of the former Soviet Union — is far from over. Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe have been phased out of foreign assistance, primarily because of their membership in the EU or NATO. Countries that are still receiving our help in making the democratic transition arguably present an even tougher challenge today, especially during a global economic downturn. U.S. foreign assistance invests in American security by contributing to European security and helping build stable and full participants in the transatlantic community.
Our assistance is essential to bolstering the efforts of still-fragile reformers like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions. In the Balkans, our Fiscal Year 2010 request to Congress represents a re-balancing of aid levels to maintain robust funding for Kosovo, to increase aid to consolidate progress in Albania and Macedonia, to strengthen reforms in Serbia, and to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina gets back on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration. We are seeking additional resources to prevent or reverse further democratic backsliding in places like Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. In Russia, we focus on programs to promote democratic development and human rights to enhance cooperation with Moscow to counter nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and global health scourges.
Our military assistance to Europe and Eurasia, for which we seek to restore funding following sharp cuts in 2008 and 2009, pays us dividends by building new capabilities in countries that support our security operations abroad, including Afghanistan, and by improving the professionalism of European forces, and developing their interoperability with NATO.
One of the most important components of global cooperation in the 21st century is our Public Diplomacy strategy. That involves being able to effectively communicate with European governments and publics in a way that creates an understanding of our policy objectives, lays the groundwork for concerted action with European partners beyond Europe’s borders, and engages Europe’s young generation of “first time voters” to create a sense of common values and purpose with the United States. To do this, the Department is engaged in rapid and targeted delivery of policy messages to meet ever-shorter news cycles; developing innovative uses of new media to engage youth audiences; expanding programs that invite dialogue – listening as well as talking; and creating new exchange programs that allow us to engage Europe’s future leaders, and in expanding our use of our soft power tools, like culture and sports, to open doors and begin dialogue.
Engagement with Muslims in Europe
Another crucial aspect of our strategy is to engage constructively with Muslim populations in Europe. As President Obama said during his trip to Turkey in April and in his Cairo speech earlier this month, the United States seeks a new beginning with Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest, mutual respect, and the principles of justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. The Department’s engagement efforts in Europe seek to capitalize on these interests by improving understanding of the United States, helping to build networks of European and American Muslims, facilitating improved inter-community relations, and supporting peaceful grassroots organizations, with a particular focus on youth outreach. Our approaches are tailored to the different contexts and the variety of Muslim communities in different countries, and include engagement with students and community groups, internships, mentoring, exchanges and many others.
Yet another aspect of our global cooperation involves engaging the countries of Europe to help those still-living survivors of one of the worst genocides in the history of the world, the Holocaust, achieve some belated justice. The upcoming Conference on Holocaust Era Assets offers us that opportunity. Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat will head the U.S. delegation to the Prague Conference which will address five main themes: immovable (real) property restitution and compensation, Nazi-confiscated art, Holocaust education and remembrance, recovery of Judaica, and social welfare needs of Holocaust survivors.
Another critically important area where the United States and Europe work increasingly well together is counterterrorism. Steps taken by European governments, often in concert with us, and ongoing counterterrorism relationships with European countries have had a direct and positive impact on the security of the continental United States and our interests overseas. We cooperate closely on law enforcement, cyber security, intelligence gathering and information exchange, as well as on international transport security and border control, and on dealing with the consequence of terrorist attacks. We also work closely with European governments to freeze assets and designate individuals and organizations with financial links to terrorists.
The United States and Europe share the important responsibility of leading the international effort to address our most pressing global challenges. We also share core values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – a strong foundation as we work together on our global agenda of advancing these core values as well as security, prosperity, and stability to the entire European continent and around the world. We must continue to embrace this responsibility to lead and recognize that our results are best, and our partnership strongest, when we work together.
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Gallegly, members of the Committee, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak before you today, and I welcome the opportunity to respond to your questions.