Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With British Foreign Secretary William Hague

London, England–(ENEWSPF)–May 23, 2011.  

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: (In progress.) — this time in foreign affairs. No one works more tirelessly for global security than Hillary Clinton, and she is a great colleague, as I have discovered over the last year, and a source of inspiration for many people around the world, including often for her fellow foreign ministers. So I thank her very much for that.

Our two countries have an extraordinarily close working partnership in foreign policy and a relationship in defense and intelligence that is without any parallel anywhere in the world. And for many years, we’ve confronted the menace from al-Qaida and other terrorist groups together. We will redouble these efforts following the death of Usama bin Ladin alongside our support for lasting political settlement in Afghanistan and for stability in Pakistan. And the Pakistani people have suffered another appalling terrorist attack in Karachi, which I condemn in the strongest terms.

I see every single day in my work as foreign secretary that our relationship with the United States is unique, that it is indispensible to both our countries, and this is on top of our ties in investment, trade, science, research, and education which support about a million jobs on each side of the Atlantic. So there is no doubt that the U.S-UK relationship is still special, it’s still fundamental to both our countries, it’s still thriving, it’s still a cornerstone of stability in our world.

The President’s visit coincides, as we know, with a period of immense change in the Middle East and North Africa. That has brought renewed hope of a better life to millions of people, but it’s also marked by violence and uncertainty, and the British Government is determined to work closely with the United States and our other allies to support democracy and human rights in that region, and to challenge those who take the path of violence and repression.

In Syria, the regime has chosen violence and the mass detention of protestors rather than reform. We believe that democratic nations can’t stand silent in the face of such acts, and that’s why the meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels, which I attended earlier, Europe joined the United States in adopting additional sanctions on those responsible for the continuing violence, including President Asad himself. Syria must change course, and until it does, Britain is committed to working with the United States to increase pressure on the regime, including at the United Nations.

In Libya, our two countries and our allies acted swiftly to prevent the massacre of civilians in Benghazi. Today, Secretary Clinton and I discussed our continuing commitment to implement the UN Security Council resolutions. Our action is protecting civilian life. It’s necessary, it’s legal, it’s right, and Britain is committed to intensifying military, diplomatic, and economic action against the Qadhafi regime in the coming weeks.

Secretary Clinton and I discussed President Obama’s very important speech on the Middle East, to which the British Government strongly welcomes and supports. Like the United States, we are ready to offer our assistance to governments that commit themselves to democratic reform. And we support the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region. Later this week, we will work together at the G-8 summit to support democratic transition in Egypt and Tunisia. And we’ve begun this work ourselves on a smaller scale here in the UK through our Arab Partnership Initiative, and the European Union this week will set out its vision for a revised neighborhood policy.

We believe that progress in the Middle East peace process is more urgent than ever. As a strong friend to Israelis and Palestinians, we say time is running out for a two-state solution, and the initiative must be seized now. And I particularly welcome President Obama’s clear message that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with agreed land swaps. We have called for such a commitment as part of the process and reestablishing negotiations on the basis of clear parameters, and this is, to us, a significant and valuable act of American leadership.

Iran’s nuclear program – just a couple of final subjects – and its refusal to enter constructively into negotiations remains a deep concern for both our countries. We have discussed that in our talks this afternoon. Iran should not doubt our resolve. And today, the European Union, with strong British urging, has imposed sanctions on more than 100 Iranian banks, individuals, and companies linked to Iran’s nuclear program. We’ve also discussed the situation in Yemen and Sudan.

And finally, Secretary Clinton and I discussed the worrying developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and our determination to support peace and stability in the Western Balkans. The referendum proposals passed by the Entity of Republika Srpska National Assembly are a very real threat to the rule of law, to the Dayton Agreement, and to Bosnia’s European future. And there’s no alternative to a swift and full repeal of the referendum.

Hillary, I’m delighted you’re here today and I know that we both look forward to President Obama’s state visit this week, and to further reinforcing the relationship between Britain and the United States, and over to you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, William, thank you very much, and I would love to be able to get away with just saying, “Ditto,” and leaving it at that, but I guess I’m compelled to add my voice to yours, and reiterating the indispensible, unique, and special relationship that exists between our two nations, our governments, and our peoples. And we are certainly looking forward to President Obama and Mrs. Obama’s state visit starting tomorrow. And thank you for welcoming us so warmly and thank you for the great working relationship that we have and the many areas where we consult closely and frequently on matters of mutual concern. And I was grateful again for the conversation we had which, as you have just summarized, covered quite a bit of ground. I will just highlight a few of the issues.

First, on Libya, we reiterated our shared commitment to enforce the UN Security Council resolution and to protect Libyan civilians. I think both of us believe that we are making progress, but we know that our resolve must be firm and that we have to make it clear that time is running out for Colonel Qadhafi and those around him.

In Syria, the Asad government continues to respond to peaceful protests with brutal violence. By our best estimate, nearly 1,000 people have now been killed. And that is against the backdrop of President Asad talking about reform while his security forces fire bullets into crowds of marchers and mourners at funerals. This cruelty must end, and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people must be honored.

The U.S., the EU, and others have already imposed sanctions against senior Syrian officials, including new measures announced today targeting President Asad. Foreign Secretary Hague and I are both absolutely consistent with our message to the Asad government: Stop the killings, the beatings, the arrests; release all political prisoners and detainees; begin to respond to the demands that are upon you for a process of credible and inclusive democratic change.

President Asad faces a choice: He can lead the transition to democracy that the Syrian people have demanded; or he can, as President Obama said on Thursday, get out of the way. But there is no doubt that if he does not begin to lead that process, his regime will face continuing and increasing pressure and isolation.

I appreciated the foreign secretary’s positive words about President Obama’s speech concerning a comprehensive Middle East peace. The United States has outlined principles that we believe provide a foundation for negotiations to resolve core issues, end the conflict and all claims. Everyone knows what the results should be: two states for two people with secure and recognized borders, based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps and security arrangements that ensure Israel can effectively defend itself by itself.

As the President now has said twice in the last three days, this is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. Certainly, it is the formula that was used by two prior presidents – one Democratic, one Republican. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the demographic realities and the needs of both sides.

As the President also said, and I would underscore this, no country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. Any Palestinian government must accept the principles outlined by the Quartet, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements.

The foreign secretary and I also reviewed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, British and American troops continue to work side by side to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and its terrorist allies. Our military and civilian men and women have made great progress breaking the Taliban’s momentum, and we are determined to continue to press al-Qaida and its affiliates on all fronts, even after killing its leader, Usama bin Ladin.

We are going to be discussing and planning to start bringing troops home as part of a responsible transition to an Afghan lead for security, even as we maintain a long-term commitment to the Afghan people. And we are actively supporting an Afghan-led political process to broker reconciliation with members of the Taliban who renounce violence, cut ties to al-Qaida, and support the Afghan constitution.

With respect to Pakistan, Pakistan has hard choices to make. We know the facts. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state, home to nearly 180 million people, making it the world’s sixth largest nation. It needs international support to deal with political and economic problems and the threats it faces from internal violence. This latest attack on a Pakistani naval installation in Karachi is another reminder of the terrible price the Pakistani people have borne in their own struggle against violent extremism.

We have killed more terrorists on Pakistani soil than anywhere else in the world, and that could not have been done without the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan. But there is more work to be done and the work is urgent. Over the long haul, both the United Kingdom and the United States seek to support the Pakistani people as they chart their own destiny, away from political violence, toward greater stability, economic prosperity, and justice.

In Yemen, we are dismayed that President Saleh continues his refusal to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative which would help resolve the political challenges facing Yemen today. The international community, led by the GCC, has worked hard to build support for this initiative. President Saleh has agreed on multiple occasions to sign it. Once again, he is failing to live up to those promises. We urge President Saleh to immediately follow through on his repeated commitments to peacefully transfer power. This is critical for the peace and security that the Yemeni people are seeking.

Finally, we discussed events in Sudan, in particular in Abyei. The United States calls on the Sudanese armed forces to immediately cease all offensive operations in Abyei and withdraw. Both sides must follow through on implementing the agreements of January of 13th and 17th and chart a way forward that restores calm, upholds the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and advances a negotiated political settlement on the future status of the Abyei area.

There were other matters as well, but I think those were the highlights. But as always with the foreign secretary, we have much to discuss when we meet, because we have a similar perspective and shared values and a long history of facing foreign policy challenges together as partners and friends.

Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you. And now it’s time for a few questions, which Carl will call.

QUESTION: Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News. Secretary of State, the U.S. pulled back very shortly after the beginning the campaign in Libya, and it is taking a very long time. Is there any chance that the Americans will now become more active, sending out you’re A-10s and so on again?

And Foreign Secretary, are you concerned that Britain is running out of time, you need the Americans to do more on Libya, because basically Britain is going to run of money and run out of bombs?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Hillary, do you want to go first on that one?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Certainly. Well, let me begin by saying that together with our NATO allies and coalition partners, the United States and Britain have been united from the very beginning in responding to the crisis in Libya, and we are united today in our understanding and commitment about what needs to happen in order to end it. We do believe that time is working against Qadhafi, that he cannot reestablish control over the country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible interim council that is committed to democratic principles. Their military forces are improving. And when Qadhafi inevitably leaves, a new Libya stands ready to move forward.

Now, with respect to the military operation, even today the United States continues to fly 25 percent of all sorties. We continue to provide the majority of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets. We continue to support all of our allies in their efforts. I think that what we have done is what we said we would do and we continue to do what we have said we would do. We have great confidence in our allies. We have enormous respect for the capacities of our British friends, and certainly their performance in Libya, as we have seen in prior areas of joint effort such as Afghanistan, has been exemplary. So have a lot of confidence in what our joint efforts are producing.

We would like to see some other of our NATO friends and allies join in with us in order to make sure that the pressure is maintained consistently. But I think if you look at the last two weeks, you will see an up tempo of military action; you will see a very concerted and effective campaign against targets both on land and now increasingly at sea. So I know that we all would like to see this draw to a close as soon as possible, but I would reiterate what I have on many occasions prior to this: We’re making progress. We have to be patient and persistent, and I have no doubt that we will.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And just to expound of that and answer the part of the question addressed to me, you should not underestimate in any way the huge contribution the United States has made to working with its allies on this. We could not have done what we did at the beginning of the military action in Libya to disable the static air defenses of the Qadhafi regime without the unique assets and involvement of the United States of America. As you just heard, about a quarter of all the sorties now that are flown in the NATO and allied operation are by United States aircraft, giving logistical and many other forms of support. So it’s not our business this week to criticize the role of the United States, which has clearly been crucial.

The military tempo has been increased in recent weeks, and indeed, in recent days. You’ve heard about the airstrikes against regime warships that have been engaged in laying mines of Misrata, about the airstrikes on the intelligence building of the regime in Tripoli. That increase tempo will continue. And it is important that nations across NATO, as well as our Arab allies, play their full part in doing that.

And on the question about time, I think it’s important to be clear that time is not on the side of Qadhafi. In so many conflicts, we’re told time is not on our side. Well, actually in this case, time is not on their side because the economic and military and diplomatic pressure on the regime will continue to be intensified in the days and weeks ahead.

Let’s have the next question.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, there was a lot, to use your (inaudible) policy. Is there areas where there’s less alignment with the UK and Europe in general where you’d like to see a lot more alignment? And do you agree with the foreign secretary when he says time is running out on the Middle East peace process?

And Foreign Secretary, did – in terms of is there areas where you’d like to see a bit more alignment when it comes to U.S. foreign policy and British foreign policy? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would begin by saying I think if there were any closer alignment, we would worry about each other because we have worked so closely together during my time as Secretary of State and certainly during the last year plus with William, and the President and prime minister, I think, feel the same way. They consult frequently and in depth about a full range of issues. And I think on many important matters, we find ourselves very much in alignment, and then we work to bring other communities together to support our particular perspective. And to that end, we are always very pleased to work with the UK as a partner in the United Nations, to work to support their views in the European Union on issues like the recent sanctioning of Syrian officials, including Asad. So we are very closely connected and working well together.

With respect to the Middle East process, I think, as the President made clear in his speech last week, we do not think that the status quo is sustainable, and therefore, we want to see a return to negotiations and a seriousness of effort on both sides so that both parties recognize that negotiating an end to the conflict and the resulting outcome of two states is in each of their interests. And the United States will continue to urge that and make our own views very clear, as the President has done.

We recognize that the United States cannot, the UK cannot, the international community cannot impose a solution, a lasting solution, on the parties. Ultimately, they have to negotiate a sustainable peace agreement that responds to their particular needs. And I hope that we will see a return to the negotiating table. We’ve also made it clear that we do not support unilateral action or the Palestinians going to the United Nations in the fall. We think that is a very bad idea, since it will not result in a state with the kind of future that the Palestinian people deserve.

So we’re going to continue to speak out. And I think it’s critical that others, and certainly the UK has done that with its strong statement in support of what the President said, send a clear, unmistakable message to both the Palestinians and the Israelis: Now is the time. In this period of great upheaval, there is an opportunity to come to a successful outcome. There are, yes, many obstacles in the way – I mentioned a few of them – Hamas being one of them that we are particularly focused on. But it is now clear that there is no path forward other than through negotiations. So let’s get about the business of hammering out that two-state solution that prior presidents, prior Israeli prime ministers have worked on but never finally gotten to the finish line with successive leaders of the Palestinians. So I can’t stress strongly enough how importantly the United States sees this as a priority.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And just to add a little to that, I suppose it shows something when the differences between us are not so apparent that the question has to be asking us to identify them – (laughter) – for the benefit of the press. But it is true that at the moment the foreign policies of the United Kingdom and the United States are very closely aligned. We shouldn’t be afraid of differences when they arise, and I’m sure we won’t be.

But the President’s visit occurs at a time of strong agreement about these central challenges, about these immense events in the Middle East, the most important event of the 21st century so far in our view, and of the President’s speech last week, and what we’ve said in this country, what the prime minister and I have said, shows how similarly we view these things. And that is because in our daily work what we are doing is not coordinating the tactics of foreign policy; we are representing nations that have such strong shared values and that so often lead to the same overall strategy. And I think that will be very clear this week. So we haven’t gotten a list of all these differences to please you with.

A couple more questions.

QUESTION: James Robbins from the BBC. Madam Secretary, given this very close alignment between you, what is there left for the President and prime minister to talk about in London this week? (Laughter.) What, if you could will it, would be the most important, most useful decision they could make together?

And finally, on a point of detail perhaps, if the French are deploying attack helicopters to Libya, do you welcome that and how would it be useful? Would it be useful in getting closer to Colonel Qadhafi forces?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your first question, I’m not going to preempt the President and the prime minister. I will let them speak for themselves. But I think, as William just said, this visit comes at a particularly positive moment in our relations because of the close coordination and cooperation we have. It’s not only, as William said, because of our shared values and our historical relationship, but it’s also because we’re problem solvers. I mean, we like to see decisions made in the international community that will promote democracy, that will protect human rights, that will protect people from the scourge of terrorism, that will open up economic opportunities and markets. I mean, we have views based on what we see happening around the world as to what is more successful and what is not. And we will put forth those views. And they remarkably coincide because of our own experiences.

And with respect to any French offers to increase their contributions to the efforts in Libya to protect civilians, I’m sure that will be taken up through the NATO chain of command. But obviously, the French have been a very strong partner and a leader in these efforts, and we would welcome further commitments that they might make.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And while not commenting on – at the moment on any particular deployment, remember that the tactics of the Qadhafi regime in Libya have changed as the – over the weeks of this action. And so sometimes what we do in response, the assets we use in response, our own tactics in response, do also have to change.

While – on the broader question, while there are no fundamental differences, as you can gather, in foreign affairs and – that will be there for the talks between the President and the prime minister, there is a great deal to discuss, of course, in how we accomplish many of our shared objectives in the world, of how we promote reconciliation in Afghanistan, how we conduct relations with Pakistan – which Hillary was just addressing – how we make sure that the countries of the Middle East and North Africa can share with others the economic opportunities of the future, influencing their own behavior in a positive direction. So there is an enormous amount to discuss notwithstanding the strong level of agreement with which we begin this state visit.

And I think there’s just time for one more question. Carl.

MODERATOR: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Anna (inaudible) and I’m from the Croatia Daily. So my question is regarding Bosnia. I’m wondering how come it’s being discussed now, (inaudible), and whether now – this is being again, after the war. Do you have the impression that the international community has failed in setting a solution for Bosnia? Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, I don’t think the international community has failed, but it’s very important that the international community does not assume that everything was settled and can be left alone in the Western Balkans. This was just the problem of the 1990s. It’s something that we have to continue to work on. What was brought about in the 1990s in terms of the – of a settlement can slide back, and we have seen disturbing signs in Bosnia that it is sliding back.

It’s very, very important for the future stability and integrity of that country, for its aspirations, to join the European Union. And indeed, we want all of the Western Balkan states, including Croatia, to be able to – and Croatia is first in line – to be able to join the European Union. It’s very important for all of those things that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina are able to work together in a functioning state, with a functioning constitution, with politicians who work alongside each other. And so it’s – given the difficulties there, it is important we give renewed attention to the problems of that region. Those problems have been discussed in the European Foreign Affairs Council today, and we’ve discussed them today and on many other occasions. And I think it’s fair to say that in the coming weeks and months, the United Kingdom and the United States will be giving further increased attention to this region.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we believe that it’s imperative that we continue to work with the nations and the peoples of the Western Balkans. We don’t have a vote in the European Union. We’re strongly in support of Croatia’s membership. And we agree that we would like, eventually, to see other nations as well be admitted because it’s unfinished business in Europe. And we do not want to ignore any signs that could lead to division and potential conflict, so we’re going to stay very focused.

And we want to work with those leaders, not just in government but in other areas of life, who are looking at a different future, who are not mired in the past but can break loose and imagine a Bosnia-Herzegovina that is part of Europe, part of the transatlantic community. That’s what we would hope for the people and we’re going to continue to focus on what it will take to see that vision realized.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed.