Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton at the Munich Security Conference

Munich, Germanry–(ENEWSPF)–February 4, 2012. 

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s good to be back here in Munich for this important conference and the first time that the American delegation includes both the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, which I think speaks volumes about the importance of our transatlantic relationship.

As I said this morning, I have now traveled to Europe 27 times as Secretary of State. President Obama has visited ten times. So when President Obama says that Europe remains the cornerstone of our engagement with the world, those are not just reassuring words; that is the reality. Europe is our partner of first resort.

Here in Munich, I have had productive discussions with a number of my counterparts concerning a list of critical issues. One that kept coming up is the ongoing violence in Syria. As a bankrupt regime clings to power by shelling its own people in their homes, we have seen a living nightmare play out in the city of Homs. It’s a nightmare that has been repeated across Syria over these past many months. Almost 30 days – almost 30 years to the day after the infamous Hama massacre, the international community must send Assad a clear message: By repeating the horrors of Syria’s past, you have lost your place in Syria’s future.

As President Obama said today, we owe it to the victims of Hama and Homs to learn one lesson – that cruelty must be confronted for the sake of justice and human dignity. The United States and our partners have engaged in intensive diplomacy at the United Nations Security Council to put the world on record in support of an immediate halt to the violence; a negotiated, peaceful solution; and a responsible democratic transition.

It is difficult, however, to imagine that after the bloodiest day yet in Syria, there are those who would prevent the world community from condemning this violence. And I would ask them: What more do we need to know to act decisively in the Security Council? The Syrian Government has shown its contempt for the international community, for its Arab neighbors, and most of all for its own citizens. As I said at the United Nations on Tuesday, to block this resolution is to bear responsibility for the horrors that are occurring on the ground in Syria.

Now, no one should minimize the challenges Syrians will face after Assad. But the alternative is in no one’s interests. As the Security Council has debated, the killing has intensified. Each day of repression and violence makes it more difficult for Syrians to reconcile, rebuild, and chart that new future that they deserve. It also increases the risk of sectarian conflict and chaos in the heart of the Middle East. The Syrian people have asked the Security Council to act. The Arab League has asked the Security Council to act.

The draft on the table being considered as I speak gives full backing to a Syrian-led process that will benefit the region and the world, and give the Syrian people the chance they deserve. We should act now. And I’m grateful to say that on this issue, as on so many others in this fast-changing world we inhabit, America and Europe are standing shoulder to shoulder in confronting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century.

So let us hope that we will continue to work closely together to realize the benefits of that extraordinary Euro-Atlantic relationship and to help not only our own people, but the people of the world realize a better tomorrow.

I’ll be happy to take some questions.

MODERATOR: We have time for three tonight. First one, Reuters, Arshad Mohammed.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you didn’t mention Russia by name in your statement, though it is believed to be the only holdout at this point. Is there anything that you heard either in your meeting with Secretary – with Foreign Minister Lavrov or in the couple of hours since then that has given you any hope that Russia might support or might abstain on the resolution?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, I had a long meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov today. I reiterated our strong view that the Syrian people are counting on the Security Council to act, and act today. I pointed out that this resolution had been debated and discussed by our representatives in New York. It had taken into account some of the concerns that were raised by Russia and others, but that we needed to pass a resolution that laid out a clear path to end the violence, protect civilians and human rights, and chart a political, democratic transition.

There were questions that were raised by Minister Lavrov concerning amendments that Russia sought in the resolution that had been agreed to and had already moved into what’s called being in blue, which means it can be brought up at any time by any member of the Security Council. I thought that there might be some ways to bridge, even at this last moment, a few of the concerns that the Russians had. I offered to work in a constructive manner to do so. That has not been possible. And we are going forward, as we said we would, with the vote this afternoon.

And as members of the Security Council, we feel strongly it is time to declare ourselves. Are we for peace and security and a democratic future, or are we going to be complicit in the continuing violence and bloodshed? I know where the United States stands, and we will soon find out where every other member of the Security Council stands.

MODERATOR: Next question, Ralf Borchard, ARD.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, we could all hear your counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, ask a question about the endgame in Syria. What is the way ahead in case there is no President Assad stepping aside, even in case of a weakened resolution Russia agrees to? How does the endgame look like?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we don’t know what the endgame will be until we start the game, and that is what the Arab League has been working on and reaching consensus about and setting forth in a plan that they adopted to make clear that we need to have a transition process that begins. Now, standing here in Munich, I cannot predict to you every step along the way, but one thing I am sure of – if we do not begin the process, I know what will happen: more bloodshed, increasing resistance by those whose families are being killed and whose homes are being bombed, and a greater likelihood that Syria will descend into a civil war. That is the outcome every one of us must work to avoid.

So I know my friend Minister Lavrov says, “Well, what’s the endgame?” Well, the endgame, in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war. The potential endgames, if we are serious about putting this kind of international pressure on the Assad regime, making it clear to the opposition that they should pursue their changes in a peaceful manner, is the possibility of beginning a transition.

Similar to what we have seen now beginning in Yemen, it took a long time, it was a lot of false starts, but we just kept at it day after day. And they’re going to have an election; they’re going to have the chance to at least try to move forward. So I think that asking what the endgame is can’t be answered until we actually start to bring about the changes that we think will be beneficial.

QUESTION: Any possibility of (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: Les, I’m sorry.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, military intervention has been absolutely ruled out, and we’ve made that clear from the very beginning.

MODERATOR: Last question – a short one because the Secretary’s got to go – Matt Lee, AP.

QUESTION: I’ll try to – okay. I’ll try to make this as short as possible. Staying in the region, but not on Syria, it’s no secret that U.S. relations with Egypt have been strained for some time now, especially over the detention or the no-fly status of these NGO workers. You met with the Egyptian foreign minister a little earlier this afternoon. I’m wondering if anything has been resolved, what did you tell him, and have you renewed the warning that U.S. aid to Egypt might be at stake?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I did meet with Foreign Minister Amr today. I had a chance to once again express our deep concerns about what is happening to our NGOs, and Americans and others who work for them, as well as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation that is based here in Germany. We do not believe there is any basis for these investigations, these raids on the sites that the NGOs operate out of, the seizure of their equipment, and certainly no basis for prohibiting the exit from the country by individuals who have been working with our NGOs.

We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt. We do not want that. We have worked very hard the last year to put into place financial assistance and other support for the economic and political reforms that are occurring in Egypt, and we will have to closely review these matters as it comes time for us to certify whether or not any of these funds from our government can be made available under these circumstances.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.


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