Secretary Clinton Meets with Prime Minister of Iraq *UPDATED*
Secretary Clinton held a bilateral meeting with His Excellency Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq. Here is the video and transcript of their remarks:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Maliki. We are continuing our work together to meet our goal of building a stable, sovereign and self-reliant Iraq. Our countries are on a long journey together, and obstacles, of course, remain, but we are making significant progress.
Today’s meeting was the second of the Strategic Framework Agreement Higher Coordinating Committee. This agreement establishes the terms of our relationship beyond security cooperation. We are working to promote economic growth and human development and diplomatic efforts so that Iraq can play a very constructive role not only at home, but throughout the region.
We have had six months of work together, so today, we reported on that work. And I’d like to thank Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg and Ambassador Christopher Hill for their ongoing leadership of our Iraqi policy. Implementing the strategic framework agreement will be the focus of our work here at the State Department for months ahead.
I very much appreciate the positive contributions that the prime minister and his team made today. We will partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Summit in October. And we’re going to work to make sure that the investment and business climate is very attractive. There are many important issues, but let me just highlight our education exchange. I want to commend Iraq for the $2.5 million it has recently put into the Fulbright student exchange program. We’re also working on justice issues to enhance law enforcement and strengthen the judicial and corrections systems. And we are also working to assist the Iraqi Government with the return of Iraqis who left their country but now wish to return home and be part of a new Iraq.
I am pleased to announce that the United States is contributing more than $100 million in new assistance this year to support the return and reintegration of displaced Iraqis. Again, thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your leadership…
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. I would like – in the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to you, Secretary Clinton, for your interest and your commitment to convene the second meeting for the Higher Coordination Committee as a part of the strategic framework agreement between us. And I thank you very much for managing this meeting and convening this meeting. There were so many ideas, commitments, principles, joint work ahead of us. All of us gives – all of that gives us the hope to look forward to a future that is bright for both.
The meeting that was convened today was a very strong launching to broaden the relationship under the strategic framework agreement that was signed between the two nations. Through the review and through the briefings that we heard during the meetings, there is tangible progress that actually happened and took place. But we also said that this is not enough. We still have to work more for more success and more achievements and cooperation throughout the various spheres that are covered in the bilateral relationship.
Madame Secretary, today’s meeting, it was a declaration in itself that we’re going into a new phase, from a previous phase of cooperation that focused on security and confronting terror and various groups into a phase where we expand our cooperation and relationship to economics, to trade, to higher education, to tourism, to every other sphere.
And I here would like to express my gratitude and thanks for the $100 million from the United States to support the efforts of the return of the Iraqis who left their places. And I am delighted by the level of seriousness and our agreement that the next meeting will be convened in Baghdad. And at the meantime, between now and the next meeting, all the various subgroups will continue their meetings in order to accelerate, in order to activate the various lines of cooperation.
And today’s meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, where a number of American businessmen and corporations came, I believe that was a very strong prelude to the upcoming conference that will be convened in October here in the United States, which will be the launching pad for a massive work in order to reconstruct Iraq, in order to invite investments, and in order to rebuild the country.
And tomorrow, also, we will be signing an educational initiative agreement which would allow us to send the first group of Iraqi students to the United States. We hope that we will be able, through that program, to send 10,000 Iraqi students to receive their education here. And I would like to express our thanks and gratitude to your cooperation, Madame Secretary, in allowing that American visas will be issued out of the American Embassy in Baghdad.
Thank you so much…
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, first, have you provided the prime minister with any clarification regarding the meeting that been held in Istanbul between American officials and Iraqi insurgents? And have you signed any protocol with the insurgents during that meeting? (Speaking in Arabic.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that I –
INTERPRETER: Can I say to the prime minister in Arabic? Can I give him the question?
SECRETARY CLINTON: He was asked a question in Arabic.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, okay.
INTERPRETER: (Speaking Arabic.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have discussed this matter, which was only recently brought to my attention, with our Ambassador and with other officials. And we intend to make sure that the Iraqi Government is fully informed of any such activities, whether they are sponsored by another party or come from any other source. So we want to be sure that we have a very close working relationship and we have a very clear line of communication, and that’s what we intend to do going forward…
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Speaking Arabic.)
QUESTION: Have you signed any (inaudible), Madame Secretary?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, we have not authorized any to be signed.
INTERPRETER: One – just one second.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Via interpreter) In the spirit of bilateral cooperation and when the relationship between two parties who are equal and sovereign, I believe that constant dialogue – it’s very important in order to achieve the desirable outcome. I am quite satisfied on terms of what I heard on this issue. And I have been given a commitment that the Administration will not negotiate or reach any agreements with those who killed American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi people.
QUESTION: But let me – can I —
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. We have to move on. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, you came to Washington asking the Obama Administration for more political support in terms of helping Iraqis mediate over issues such as Kirkuk, between Arabs and Kurds, playing more of a mediative role on political reconciliation. Did you receive that political support? And are you satisfied that as the Obama Administration takes a military disengagement, that it will not undertake a political disengagement?
And Madame Secretary, if I might, on Honduras, President Zelaya is just feet from the Honduran border with Nicaragua. He seems to have a lot of cell phones in his hand, talking on the cell phone. Wondering if you had spoken to him and what you’re urging him in terms of his planned return into Honduras. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Via interpreter) First of all, I am very satisfied, because what happened between Iraq and the United States is that we achieved an agreement regarding security arrangements and not disengaging. And if what was intended here is the withdrawal of forces from cities and towns, I see this as a manifestation of success, where their work would not be needed.
My visit here to the United States came in order to meet with the leadership here and strengthening the relationship with them, and also to activate the strategic framework agreement through a relationship of mutual cooperation, covering all other issues on the economic front, commercial front, education front, tourism, and so on.
And of course, within the spirit of friendship and cooperation, a number of critical issues were discussed. One of them is Iraq’s, under Chapter 7 and the various sanctions that were imposed on Iraq over the years, in addition to other bilateral issues. But we did not come specifically for any issues such as Kirkuk or anything else. And the issue of Kirkuk is an Iraqi issue. It will be settled among the Iraqis through the constitutions, through negotiations, through contacts, through dialogue, and it’s inevitable that we will reach an Iraqi solution to it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to Honduras on the other side of the world, we support a negotiated, peaceful solution of the Honduran crisis. We have consistently urged all parties to avoid any provocative action that could lead to violence.
President Zelaya’s effort to reach the border is reckless. It does not contribute to the broader efforts to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis. So we urge President Zelaya and all other parties to reaffirm their commitment to a negotiated, peaceful solution to the integrity of Honduran democracy and the safety and well-being of the Honduran people. In fact, we urge both parties to accept the proposal put forth by President Arias. It is the basis for a peaceful solution, and that is what the United States supports.
QUESTION: Did you speak with him today?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not today.
Thank you all very much.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve been speaking to Prime Minister Maliki today.</strong