Secretary Clinton and EU Representative Ashton *updated*
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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a very great pleasure for me to welcome Lady Ashton back to the State Department. Over the last year, we have had the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time together as we’ve traveled around the world. And I very much appreciate her leadership and the ability to discuss and work on a number of common concerns.
The post-Lisbon EU is expanding its role in world affairs, and the United States values our growing partnership with the EU and we see it as a cornerstone of global peace and security. It goes to the point of being self-evident that our ties with Europe are broad and deep, rooted in our common values and our shared history. And we have to look for opportunities to make the past not just a glorious time of close transatlantic cooperation, but as the prelude to a very smart, sustained involvement globally on the new threats and opportunities that confront us.
The United States and the EU are working together already in many important arenas. We are partners in the Quartet and we share a strong interest in direct negotiations continuing between the Israelis and Palestinians. And I want to thank Lady Ashton and the EU for the strong support that has been given to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build institutions and lay the foundation for a future state. We are working to continue these talks. Senator Mitchell is in the region today and will be meeting with Lady Ashton upon her arrival tomorrow.
We also discussed our continuing concerns about Iran’s nuclear programs and reaffirmed our commitment to seek a diplomatic solution. Of course, it requires Iran responding to the standing invitation that the High Representative has extended for the resumption of the P-5+1 discussions. And I want to also thank you for the many contributions to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is very impressive that the EU has recently committed to increase Pakistan’s access to EU markets.
We discussed at some length the Balkans, where we both remain fully engaged and committed to helping all the countries of the region realize their aspirations for full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. The United States welcomes the European Union’s efforts to help Serbia and Kosovo resolve the practical issues between them, and I will be going to the region in about ten days. And we discussed at some length how we will enhance our cooperation not only at this level but on the ground.
We are very much looking forward to the U.S.-EU summit – that’s what we call it, she calls it the EU-U.S. summit – (laughter) – in November in Lisbon, because we are stronger when we work together. And so, again, let me thank you for your leadership and partnership.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Thank you very much. It’s a great privilege to be back. And as you describe, we’ve spent a lot of time over these last months talking with each other and our teams talking, sometimes on an hourly basis, about all of the different issues that we face. For me, my focus for the rest of today and tomorrow is going to turn to the Middle East, Having been in discussion with the Secretary and with Senator Mitchell, I will travel overnight through Europe to the Middle East to have meetings with Senator Mitchell, President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Prime Minister Fayyad to see what we can do to support the efforts to keep the talks moving.
More than anything, we would like to see, of course, the moratorium on settlement building continue, but we are very keen to see the opportunity for President Abbas to stay in the talks and for them to move forward to a successful conclusion. So we’ll be doing what we can to do our part in that, and also talking about the work we’ve been doing to support the building of the Palestinian state, which is an imperative if we’re going to see success as the outcome of the talks.
As the Secretary says, we’ve talked about a number of different issues – Iran, very important to the moment, we have sent our messages very clearly that we are ready for dialogue with the aim of seeking a resolution to this. We await Iran formally coming back to us to say they would wish to start that dialogue, and we’re ready when they say so to do that. Everyone here knows how important it is to find a resolution to that problem, and I hope that we will see some movement as quickly as possible.
And too, of course, in the Balkans, a number of issues that concern us. We want to see the movement forward with Serbia and Kosovo, the importance of what President Tadic did with the resolution and what Prime Minister Thaci did to support that is well recognized by the USA and by the EU, and that’s very significant as a way through for the future. But more than anything, an opportunity for us to carry on collaborating to think about the big challenges of the future, of which Pakistan and a comprehensive approach to its problems will be perhaps one of the big focal points for both of us in the coming weeks and months.
MR. TONER: We have time for just a couple questions. Jill.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, on the Mideast, a couple of things. There is – there are some reports coming out of Israel right now that President Obama is offering new assurances on upgraded weapons systems should there be a final solution. Could you just enlighten us; is that correct?
But in a broader sense, when the President was at the United Nations, he really put a lot of political capital on the line, making a major speech and urging Benjamin Netanyahu to extend that moratorium. It didn’t happen. In fact, you could say that Mr. Netanyahu blatantly disregarded what the President wanted. Will there be consequences for that?
And then in another sense, was it the wrong strategy to try to push him into the corner? It doesn’t seem to be working at this point. And with George Mitchell, now you have Mr. Netanyahu saying that there will be restraint in the settlements. What does that mean? Was that enough to keep people at the table?
And if I could, because you know we always like to add one other thing —
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m up to four or five now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I know, I know. But this is the fifth, only the fifth.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Intelligence services reportedly disrupted plans for a Pakistan militants’ attack on London, France, and Germany. Are those reports credible? Are those threats credible?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first as to the multiple questions about the Middle East and the peace process, we are committed to working with the parties so that they will remain in negotiations. We think that is in the best interests not only of the Israelis and the Palestinians, but indeed of the region and beyond, including the national security interests of the United States. There is a great deal of intense discussions occurring between here and Israel and in Israel, as well as with our Palestinian and Arab partners.
I’m not going to comment on any specifics. I think that as the President eloquently said at the United Nations, the United States believes in a two-state solution, and the only way that that can be achieved is through negotiations. Therefore, we are committed to negotiations. We understand the difficulty and the obstacles that this path holds for us, but for the same reason that Lady Ashton will get on a plane and make a long journey to meet with the leadership of the Israelis and the Palestinians, the United States will continue to push forward on a return to the negotiations and, more importantly, within those negotiations, the substantive discussion and resolution of the core issues.
Now with regard to the intelligence reports of threats, we are not going to comment on specific intelligence, as doing so threatens to undermine intelligence operations that are critical in protecting the United States and our allies. As we have repeatedly said, we know that al-Qaida and its network of terrorists wishes to attack both European and U.S. targets. We continue to work very closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including the role that al-Qaida continues to play. And information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, strengthen our defenses against potential threats.
This is, as you might very well conclude, one of the principal objectives and certainly one of the most time-consuming efforts that any of us in this Administration are engaged in on an hourly basis. And I want Americans to know how focused we all are in the government and how committed we are not only in protecting our own country, but in protecting our friends and allies.
MR. TONER: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible). My question is for both of you. Have you agreed on the EU and the U.S. role in the forthcoming talks between Belgrade and Pristina? And Secretary Clinton, what’s the main agenda for your just-announced visit to the region to Belgrade and Sarajevo?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m going to let Lady Ashton start and then I will finish.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: It’s incredibly important in moving forward with Belgrade and Pristina that we are working together, and that is a message that we have said to President Tadic, Prime Minister Thaci, when I met with them last week, that we need to all engage in this process and to be, as we are, constructive in our dialogue to try and find the way forward, which, as you know, I believe for both, is a European future.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We support that completely. The U.S. and the EU have worked together and we will continue to do so. I am very much looking forward to my visit to both Belgrade and Pristina and the opportunity not only to speak with leaders, but also with citizens, because it’s important that we keep the goal of that future in the minds of both Serbs and Kosovars, because there are difficult issues that they will have to resolve. The European Union and the United States stand ready to assist and facilitate, to support and cajole that the parties do reach these agreements with each other. But ultimately, it is up to the leaders and the people that will have to come to a decision about their future.
I personally am very hopeful and even excited about the possibilities that would come to the people that are out there just waiting to be realized if these obstacles can be overcome.
Thank you all.[emphasis added]
Interesting question about Israel’s refusal to extend the moratorium in the highlighted portion above. I think I can answer the question about whether there will be consequences for Israel: No, there won’t be. In fact, it seems that we may be offering Israel all kinds of goodies (more weapons systems, perhaps?) just to get them to do what is in their long-term security interest. Interesting, that.